Thursday, March 23, 2006

Working Girl

There's a scene in Mike Nichol's 1988 Working Girl that sums up one of my bigger questions of life: can we really make that leap into the life we want?

While I assume that you all are as familiar with the movie, (I won't embarrass myself with the number of times I've seen it over the years) I'll remind you that it's basically about this secretary (Melanie Griffith) who has been working her ass off to get into the business world by going to night school and temping near/around Wall Street. She temps for a bitchy, old-money matron (Sigourney Weaver) who she ends up impersonating in order to land a big business deal. She breaks up with current boyfriend (a young Alec Baldwin) and begins a business/love relationship with new guy (Harrison Ford) who just happens to be her new business partner and who is dating the boss that Griffith's character is pretending to be. Are you following? Just rent the movie- it's worth it, even if it's a re-rent.

In the middle of her charade, Griffith's character (Tess) is sitting in Weaver's character's (Katharine) office with good friend, Joan Cusack's character (Cyn). Tess has left bad cheating boyfriend and is staying at Katharine's home while she (Katharine) is laid up in the hospital with a broken leg. Tess is attempting to set up a major deal while balancing all of her ongoing identity lies. Cyn reminds her that she's out of her home and will soon be out of her job.

Tess says something like, "I can't get to where I want without breaking the rules, but I'm not allowed to break the rules until you get there." There being the proverbial place we all hope to get to in our professional and personal lives.

Considering that Tess is "breaking the rules" all over the place, she's a bit stressed out. Good friend Cyn, leaves her with this line while Tess has to take a phone call with Katharine (who, as you remember, does not know that Tess is pretending to be her): "Sometimes I dress up and dance around my room like Madonna. It doesn't mean I'll ever be Madonna" (or something like that).

Lately, I've been trying to figure out how to be "Madonna" - not literally, of course, but wondering if it is indeed possible to break through into the kind of world I want. It's why we're here in Boston- Ed's seems to be making the transition well enough- the folks at BU love him and he's constantly getting feedback from important people like "you're a natural" or "you have tremendous potential in this field." Until he actually makes it there (sports physch guy with real income), I'm doing my damnest to figure out a way to make some consistent money doing something I enjoy. And while I'm grateful for the freelance work I have and the two classes I teach -- both that are 20 times more enjoyable than work I did before getting my Master's degree -- I still can't ignore the fact that we have $12.80 in checking and I work a gazillion hours a week to barely make ends meet.

It may seem like I'm not staying on point. The thing is, I am about to apply for some full time teaching jobs at some community colleges around here and I am faced with this sense of doom- I've applied and applied and applied for full time gigs, but haven't even got an interview. I don't have time to publish or present at conferences (they don't add to the $12.80), so I have to think of some other WAY to get that interview (Like Tess, I am unable to play by 'the rules'). The thing is: I'm a good teacher. That's not being conceited; it's a fact; I enjoy teaching, I always see success from at least 1/2 my class (that's saying a lot) and I’m not burned out like so many adjuncts I see who just put in the bare minimum effort (not yet anyway). With a full time teaching job, we’d have regular income and (brace yourself): health insurance for Jack AND me (Jack has insurance now, but we have to come up with $1200 all at once by September).

But, I apparently don’t have what ever it is I need in my resume and cover letter to get to that interview. Smoozing only gets me so far – and I’ve been unable to do that as much as I did in Seattle when *all* I did was teach. So, lately, I’ve been thinking about putting on some black lace, a bra outside my top, and coloring the ends of my hair dirty blond and dancing around the dean’s office at Bunker Hill in the hopes of getting that interview.

I’ve read somewhere that evolution occurs two ways: long, gradual change; and then, boom! A huge leap. It makes sense to me- learning seems to happen the same way: we try and try to understand what it takes to be healthy, spend our 20s (and maybe 30s) reading all about nutrition and exercise, and then one day, it hits: we just need to eat less and exercise more. We’ve known it all along, but then, suddenly we KNOW it and our daily actions change accordingly (we’ve evolved from the sugar crazed addict into a person with a healthy appetite).

I’m waiting for my leap, folks. I’m waiting for the inspiration to hit – the one thing that I can do to get to that next step, that step being a full time teaching job. How do I let THE MAN know I can do it, and do it well? I can’t pretend to teach- I’m already adjuncting. So, tell me, what kind of dance should I do and where can I do it?


  1. Anonymous11:44 AM

    i hope that you get your interview. Just know that only you can make yourself happy. Not a job or where your at. Tess also realized that when she risked it all and stood up to her boss. She had to do what was right so she could feel good about herself. Not what others wanted her to do.

  2. Anonymous6:40 AM

    If you Master's Degree is in art...become a writer or sit for your bar exam - at least you'll then increase your $$ checking account.