"Never commit yourself to a cheese without first examining it." T. S. Eliot
I first met Richard in Thailand. He seemed normal but what I perceived as normal then has now changed. He was tall, handsome, and reeked with class, not the book-learned kind...genetic.
On the opposite end of our corporate food chain, there was Bud, my husband's co-worker and the other man in our traveling group. He was one of those slimy business travelers always looking for anyone or anything to fuck. A "he would screw a snake, if someone held its head" kinda guy whose only contribution to our dinner conversations was his fondness for various cheeseballs. His class-less-ness gagged me but as the dependent tag-along wife, I just ignored him and his lack of manners, although I did have empathy for those women he lusted after in his typical crude manner. After six long weeks of plastic smiles, we all returned home and I didn't see Richard again until he became my husband's boss.
That was ten years ago. Since then, I have learned much about the business world and the animal instincts controlling it. It is not only the male species competing in this arena...some women practice this behavior with uncanny skill.
Several weeks later, Richard became CEO of the company and that's when the gossip began. The Personnel Director-or as they refer to it now, Human Resources, was an attractive thirty-something-trinket whose promotion oozed with unusual circumstances.
I found that most women working in a male dominated society have few choices. So did Sharee.
I first met her at one of those company cocktail parties, or 'grin-n-bare-its' as I refer to them. She was charming, dripping with personality, only semi-showing her tits. I liked her right away. My husband introduced us, "Sharee', this is my little woman," he chirped.
Using all my manners I held out my hand and purred, "So nice to meet you, Sharee'. I have heard so many wonderful things about you."
I lied. The things I heard couldn't be repeated in mixed company. Still can't.
That night I observed this modernistic female displaying her special charms to almost everyone there, knowing just how much was required. It was poetry in motion.
After years in this political arena, this was the first time pure lust was so easily recognized. The animal instincts of the corporate world, God I love it. It has taken me twenty-five years of somewhat self-inflicted pain to admire some of the strategies in this arena. Although being married to a corporate gypsy sometimes stole my incentive to breathe and the essence of my spirit, we have survived that part of our marriage. The employment struggle is behind us, the political pitfalls leaving only a few casualties, my husband's self-esteem.
I felt wounded from time to time, my patience drifting, always wondering if this was the position that I really wanted. That same year at the first company picnic of 'The-Restructured-Organization,' I met Richard's wife, Elizabeth. She was a mousy thing, looking as though surgically attached to his arm as he dragged her among his smiling employees.
I was amused. She had been playing this part longer than I. You would think she would have learned.
It was almost sad; a grown woman's debut as one of those wives whose dress size fluctuates with the fullness of the moon. That day she was a size sixteen.
Corporate wives seem to have numerous closets to house all of their moods. When I was a younger, I too thought money for clothes was the road to happy.
I didn't know Richard and Sharee' were this year's hot topic but by this time, I just figured at work someone was fucking somebody, I preferred to ignore names.
The same used subject just different players.
I soon comprehended who was doing whom from their flirtatious winks. Sharee', dressed in skin-tight-shorter-than-short-shorts and bra-less halter-top, managed to keep Dick's saliva glands active, even with his conjoined wife.
I've always enjoyed the entertainment at the company picnic.
Liz, the dear wife, was oblivious to the whole thing, or so I thought. In retrospect, she may have known, but also elected to ignore. The next function was the Christmas gathering.
Oh Holy Night!
Black tie and tails, just as the Wise Men would have wanted. I never minded purchasing yearly formal clothes. In fact, I enjoyed locating a semi-evil production with some real class. The brilliant inherited diamonds came out of the closet shoebox, the graying hair colored, glowing make-up applied to highlight the genetic flawless skin, and 'oh-that-wonderful' push-up bra completed the wisdom of this experienced corporate wife. Such fun.
Why have an education, without using it?
As expected the function at a very exclusive country club proved to be interesting. I had selected a little black and white beaded number, displaying just the perfect amount of cleavage. My honey had his, just-for-this-occasion-tuxedo, shiny shoes and red bow tie. We were ready for another gathering, our twentieth.
I had learned so much.
Liz and Dick were the official greeters, being top dogs and all. Liz, in her size eighteen.
Must be a full moon,
Dick looking as handsome as ever, his "Latino-ish eyes" peering through curly dreamy lashes, always smiling while displaying marvelous manners but always keeping an eye on everything Sharee' did and who she flirted with. The corporate umbilical cord slackened as the wife was a bit more content to roam about on her own, even speaking as though she really had a true interest in the whole affair. I took the opportunity to approach her, "Liz, you look lovely. That shade of crimson looks good on you."
"Thank you, Margaret," she cooed. "So how have you been?"
"Just fine, and you?"
This kind of exchange in most corporate circles is known as small talk, meaning that no one ever really gives a shit how or what you are doing, it only matters that you are all employed at that moment. Surviving.
Later that evening during Bud's favorite portion of the evening,' the grope and feel' or dance, Liz seemed distracted as she watched her husband snuggle-in-motion with 'Miss Personnel' but when she finally had her chance with him, she giggled.
I would have giggled too if I thought I could have gotten away with it, continuing to observe the game, too old to keep score.
Several parties later at a summer corporate retreat, the mistress got drunk, too drunk. It was ugly. Before this, I had managed this relationship with both the wife and the girlfriend by learning to play the odds.
This had always been somewhat of a talent.
So when the drunken mistress began swearing, I wanted to dissolve into the lush carpet.
I don't get paid enough for this!
"I hate these fuckin' people!" She slurred.
"Now Sharee', you don't mean that," I whispered, trying to sound calm.
"I will never be one of them! Those fuckin' idiots! Not me! I could never just sit home, doing nothing, living off some man."
"Shit Sharee'! Is that what you think I do?" I watched the petite form sway back and forth in the hotel hallway. "Damn girl, I thought you were smarter than that!"
She gave me a glassy-eyed smirk, "What the fuck do you do, anyway?"
"I put up with this bullshit!" was my reply while motioning to her semi-attached assistant to tighten her grip keeping her from falling on her arrogant ass.
"She is way too drunk! Get her the hell outa here! Now!" Liu did just that, her eyes rounding with fear as she slipped her arm around her boss slowly guiding her toward the lobby.
The next day Sharee telephoned me, "Margaret, thank you," was all she said.
I knew what she meant.
We were almost good friends after that although I don't think she respected my profession but at least she understood it. She didn't know how to be a corporate wife or if she did, that alone scared the shit out of her. For the next five-years the affair sizzled through the company. I continued a distant relationship with both women.
This year, "Liz-the-Wife" made Cheeseballs for holiday gifts...ours was bacon/dill, such a strange combination of flavors. I just finished sending her a thank you note. Last time I saw her, she appeared so thin. I made sure to mention how happy she seemed. Maybe she has or will survive this phase of corporate life. We wives are such a strange array of seasonings. Maybe it only took a good Cheeseball.
Harrytru is an enigma of your conscience with a published novel, "Icing on Cornbread" and other fiction. Two-time fiction winner in The National League of American PEN Women, She has also been published in The Rockford Review; Lynx Eye; The Journal of the Blue Planet.
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