At my last job I was known for two things: shoes and cupcakes.
If I had a meeting at the Regional office, Mae would always find me and request a close up of my shoes of the day. My volunteers would comment, “She’s always got on the BEST shoes” – high praise from impossible to please divas. (Some of them divas in the best possible way, of course!) If I couldn’t flat iron my hair every morning, make sure my makeup was impeccable (read: on my face!), or always have a purse that matched, I sure as hell could have rockin’ shoes.
At least, that was my justification for indulging in my addiction every now and then.
Then there were the cupcakes.
Before I arrived at my previous job, there had once upon a time been a party committee. It was a fledgling group when I arrived and I was tasked with joining. Breathing new life into an office with low morale was a daunting task, but I knew one thing for sure: Everyone liked cupcakes. And so it began that we morphed the party committee into the Cupcake Committee. We had the President, the Social Chair, even the Commissioner of Sprinkles!
I often volunteered to bake.
The baking I don’t mind, but the decorating I love. I made flashy cupcakes with snazzy slogans for campaigns we were running. I made holiday cupcakes to add a little something festive to an often dreary office. I even once made cupcakes with little fondant seagulls and lighthouses to fall in line with a birthday theme once (don’t ask!)
When an event would pass without cupcakes, people would turn to me and ask, “why????”
So I became the Cupcake Girl.
The Shoe Girl.
As I got closer to my start date at my new job, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of “girl” I would be there….Would they already have a shoe girl? What’s the protocol for bringing cupcakes to an office that houses 60 staff as opposed to my previous office of 10?
But the other thing that I kept rolling around in my mind was the other Cupcake. My Cupcake.
Was I going to display Cupcake’s picture at work?
As I was leaving my last job, I gingerly packed the picture that I’d displayed there. It’s perfect striped pink frame, with a face much younger than Cupcake is now staring back at me with huge inquisitive eyes…
I had a bit of a fantasy at that time. I would come into the office, an armful of trinkets to make my desk home-y. I would set everything up on my first morning, while getting to know my co-workers. My counterpart that sits next to me would exclaim, “who’s that? She’s adorable!” And I would respond, without faltering, “That’s my daughter.”
But that fantasy was just a fantasy. Nothing like that has happened. My desk is bare. My secret remains a secret. And I’ve spent some time the last two weeks thinking about why that is.
And part of it is because I don’t want to be The Girl that Gave Her Kid Away.
Someone once told me the story of someone that they worked with that was completely dysfunctional. After providing a couple examples, he put his finger on the kicker, “She gave away her kid a few years ago, so you know she’s a trainwreck.”
I don’t want a co-worker, a boss, a volunteer that hears from a gossipy co-worker, to assign my faults – that I’m sure to have at some point – to my first Mother status. I don’t’ want to be looked at with suspicion at my job, as people frantically look for ways that I fit into whatever stereotype of a first Mom that they might have.
I don’t want to be The Trainwreck Girl.
So I didn’t unpack the picture (something I feel less badly about now as I get accustomed to the culture, which isn’t exactly a “splatter-your-cubicle-with-photos” kind of a place anyway).
I didn’t proudly divulge my status showing off pictures of my beautiful daughter.
I’ll let them get to know the whole me, before they can just write me off for one part of me. And maybe then I’ll let someone in on my story.
But until then, I have been wearing some fierce shoes.