My attempt to reinvent myself as a non-lawyer had resulted in a job interview (a.k.a. the “prom” job interview) for a big, real job as a contracts officer. This job interview made me feel like a teenager again (and not in a good, rose-colored glasses kind of way). To give you a visual, I’ll rewind 22 years for you. I was pimply, scared, and very young for my grade. Why, oh why, had my parents let me “skip” a grade when I was younger? I know I was really ahead of the eight ball scholastically, but was so very young socially and was so very far from being the “popular” girl (you know, the girls that we grown women now still dislike so much and avoid like the Plague). I felt so alone in a sea of “prom” queens (does the movie “Mean Girls,” or John Hughes’ "Pretty in Pink," “Breakfast Club,” and “Sixteen Candles” for my generation, give you better perspective?). Prom was coming up in a nanosecond, I had absolutely no date. Shoot, I did not even have anything resembling a date. No one even approached me to say “hi” unless I was standing next to one of my best friends who happened to be one of the cutest, most popular girls (note, no pimples, adorable hair, skinny [hate that I cared, but I did], excellent clothes, and, of course, smart). I never got an invitation to the prom. With hindsight, I now know that I probably had a better time going out with my oldest sister, Alex, who let me have a beer and made me feel cool at least for that night. But hindsight is just that, and I felt pretty darned sad and alone on that prom night.
Fast forward 22 years. I felt that I finally got invited to the prom. That is, I got an invitation to interview for the contracts officer job after almost a year of fruitless, really frustrating job searching. So, I scheduled the “prom” job interview. A few days later, I received a confirming phone call from the H.R. rep., who asked me to arrive 15 minutes early to the interview “to prepare”. “To prepare,” I wondered. To prepare for what? Then, the H.R. rep advised that I would need to review a list of questions for 15 minutes (officially timed) before the panelists (yes, in the plural) would proceed with my interview. She also said that she would be the “moderator” in the panel interview and would be presenting the questions while I responded directly to the panelists. Holy moly. How did I get myself into this mess? I suddenly got the familiar sick stomach feeling I had gotten so long ago while participating in moot court competitions during law school. Gosh, I just wanted to make a little money to add something to our savings account, and get a Starbucks coffee (maybe even a venti) every so often without feeling guilty (note to self…. fight against the Starbucks’ urge that is far too engrained in our existence these days, whether you see that green and white sign screaming out to you on the way to school or work, at the airport while waiting for a flight, or at the gas station while filling your tank). The “prom” job interview began to make me panic.
Why, oh why, had I lost all confidence, feeling of self-worth, and the “I’m in the game” mentality? For six years, my mornings had gone as many of ours do: wake up at 6:00 a.m. (if I’m lucky, I don’t hear the gentle, sweet voice of one of my children screaming “GET UP ALREADY, MOM!”), quickly brush my teeth, run into the kitchen to start the coffee (I’ve given up trying to kick that habit), walk the dog, empty the dishwasher, get the kids dressed and fed (o.k., Pop Tarts will have to do today as long as they are “organic” ones and one or two slices of fruit are forced down), and run to get the kids to school or bring them with me if school’s out to go to the grocery store, the bank, the dry cleaners (it’s never mine since all of my clothing off of the dryer is “wash and wear”), Target, and finally to the park or some kid-related place to reward them for running all of the errands with me.
As you can tell, there is not much intellectual work going on in my kid-centric life. I’ve had no time to read The New York Times, my “smart” subscriptions to The Atlantic Monthly or The New Yorker, or even Vanity Fair, for that matter (those articles are so decadently long, it takes me a week to read one of them). My brain feels a bit dull and mushy (maybe I lost some brain cells during childbirth) and I don’t feel anywhere near my professional best. Why exactly does anyone want to interview me?
Oh, and in addition to my mental lack of preparedness, I also had absolutely nothing to wear. That is, I have nothing to wear except for the suit I bought in the ‘90s that is a size too small, has that high waistband (you know, the ones before the ever so low-waisted, “muffin-top” pants that we are all secretly hoping and praying will go out of style already like the shoulder pads of the 80s), and looks like the navy blue suits that the airlines used to make flight attendants (“stewardesses” in past tense) wear in the old days.
Yes, I need to go shopping and update my interview-wear, but the concept of shopping is absolutely overwhelming, especially since my kids are usually in tow at the mall. Does the following dialogue sound familiar? “Mom, do we have to go shopping? Can’t we go play?” To my typical response, “I’ll be quick and, if you’re good, we’ll get you a little thing at the toy store (let’s hope it’s not too cheap and recalled because it contains lead paint... where again is that list of recalled toys made in China? ). You get it. I am just going to have to “work with” the old wardrobe I have.
I have much bigger fish to fry than my wardrobe dilemma. I actually have to appear that I know what I am doing, understand my descriptions of the jobs stated in my resume, and arrive at the “prom” interview ready to rumble. I had so much to do, but I had so little time. The outfit and the corsage would have to wait. I only had one week until the “prom.” Tick tock.