The pussycat with 'belittling' smile
She smiled at you, friendly, easy eyes, soft facial features, lips pretty, slant, almost bearable. Her hair down, fair skin. Pleasing to look at. There was nothing hard or harsh about her, she was nice, vivacious and even colorful.
She would listen, take in what you say, write down your suggestions, and be pleased you had given her all you had. Her eyes would sparkle at new ideas, wanting all of creative side of you.
I was glad, she came to me for assignments, for features and interview questions. Without belittling her, I had my fingers and hands all over her work, and in the end it makes you feel good.
I understood later, silly me, why she wanted the advice, and was prepared to bat her eyelids. I didn't know that's what people do, you know, put on a show of niceties, whereas inside themselves they are as hard as nails, a side peppered in flowers and perfume, smiles, jeans and cut blouses.
Men do that as well, it is not a female affair, but in this case it was a she.
She was in too much of a hurry to get it right to the top, and if all was required was to put on a charade, so be it. In front of people, she put on the caring look, as if there is no real ulterior motive except for the good of the company, good of the profession and work. If there was a slimy side to her at first, she didn't show it.
Days past, and the shoes was placed on the other foot with her big toes screaming from down under. She couldn't wait to slice to the top. Because of some stupid bureaucratic hiccup it was her turn to be boss. Ours is not a system based on merit but inadequacy.
For a while she thought I was now answering to her commands and wishes, and when she thought it was not the case, she turned sour with strokes of meanness across her face, the ones that come with false pretentions.
Of course, these changed quickly if she wanted something from me, some writing or editing. She was nice for a while, but nice in the way she could bring herself to be, just to get something she thought would ultimately serve her interests.
Immediately after I emailed her what turned out to be effectively an assignment, she would turn back to her cold self. This was I thought a very clever way of letting me know who's boss.
It was schizophrenic, bordering on paranoia, switching personalities from one hour to the next, it was draining. Apparently this is something many do to their colleagues, and even friends. This is more than politics from beneath. How do you deal with such personalities is difficult to answer, you need a psychologist I suppose.
My boss, or attempt at being boss, was my student. I told her one day to sit down and edit, at a time when we took in linguistic stray cats. Our weekly, now defunct, provided windows of opportunities and trained those with the modicum of English in the art of writing.
She came to me fresh out of college while I was sitting half-dozing on the computer screen and said she wanted to work. Between you and me, I liked the way she look, slick and ready to go, young with vitality, still fresh to go into the cauldron of journalism.
It was not a dirty-old man thing at all. Ours was a newspaper for stray cats, we were an outfit, and I let anybody and everybody write who had an inclination and something worthwhile to say.
But having said that it was a paper of professionalism and had a message and a purpose without sounding too highbrow.
But that's history. The girl, student, worker, journalist long talked to me even after I left the newspaper, phoning me, asking about different things, joking with me, not so much as flirting but there was one, or two saucy things said.
I didn't think there was a purpose in being nice, although she complained to me time and again about how her boss reduced her 'air of professionalism' to writing letters and emails, which she never accepted.
Nevertheless, ours was a working relationship, she wanted good stuff, and I was a mug, a nice mug. And this become the background to us working together. The funny thing is I hired her the second time around, not realizing she was a pussycat with vicious claws who waited for the prey.
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