Sandra's Self Help

by Elizabeth Gotthelf

Sandra smiled warmly at the bus driver as she threw her change into the slot. She had read the day before in Ladies Home Journal that a positive disposition caused people to wrinkle less. She found her favorite seat, fourth row, by the window, and settled in for the ride to work. She was careful not to wrinkle her suit as she sat; a poll in Cosmo said women were taken more seriously if they had freshly pressed clothes. Besides, she was wearing beige, which according to the quiz she took in Glamour was her color, and she didnít want to ruin the effect.

Knowledge to Sandra came in 45-minute periods. No, she wasnít attending college classes; instead, she was educating herself. Sandra was a self-made woman. On her 45-minute commute, she read womenís magazines, popular self-help books, and occasionally Readerís Digest. She knew the answer to every problem life threw at her, and if she didnít, she could just visit the newsstand.

She rummaged though her bag, which was basic black, always a good choice, the magazines told her, past her lunch (carefully packed after consultation with both Dr. Atkinsí and Suzanne Summerís books) and got todayís reading material.

Sandra used to get carsick when she read on the bus, but hadnít since she took the advice of Womenís World, where she was advised to cut down on her morning coffee. This pleased her because she figured it gave her an extra seven and a half hours a week, and time management was the key to the modern womanís success. At least, thatís what Oprah Winphreyís new magazine said.

Today Sandra was researching inter-office dating. There was a new man, Steve, at her job. Sex and the Single Girl, though a classic, was rather outdated. It said that sleeping your way to the top was the key to a womanís success. The Rules had all the rules about the waiting game. "Donít call him." "Donít say yes right away." "Make him want to chase you."

She didnít have time to wait. A guy like this could get snatched up before you know it. So she thumbed through O!, Cosmo, Vogue, Redbook, Ladies Home Journal, Glamour, and Womenís World until she found a headline, "Inter-Office Dating? What to do when you hanker for the hunk in the next cubicle." Sandra stretched, "Donít cross your legs she thought, Readerís Digest says that causes varicose veins," and began to read. The key points were highlighted next to bullets: Invite him to group activities, like lunch or happy hour; Find out what time he gets his coffee and take your coffee break at the same time; Sit next to him at meetings; Keep it quietóthe grapevine could kill you.

She read intently until the bus lurched to a halt outside her office building. She put her magazines in her bag and got up slowly (getting up too fast causes dizzy spells, warned Redbook). As she stepped off the bus, she saw him. She mentally searched the files in her brain. What should she do? She breathed evenly and looked straight ahead, without quickening her pace or showing the slightest hint of excitement. "Good morning, Steve," she said, being careful not to seem too eager.

"Oh, hello Sandra." He walked up the stairs beside her, looking handsome in a crisp suit. "I wonder if he reads GQ," Sandra thought.

"Good weather," Sandra smiled.

"Yes, it is," he replied. "Oh Sandra," he coughed, "I was wondering..."

"Yes?" Sandra looked over and caught his eye, then quickly turned away. Womenís World would think that too forward.

"You seem to have good fashion sense. I was wondering if you could tell me where to buy a nice watch. Iím shopping for a present for my wife, and..."

Sandraís throat went dry. She didnít quite know how to react. Sheíd have to make a trip to the bookstore on her lunch break and find out how she should be feeling on the ride home tonight.

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