Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The working life with engineers: What you wear to work

It doesn't matter. It does not matter at all what you wear to work if you work with male engineers. Where I used to work, it mattered. I mean, it didn't matter, but I cared because co-workers - women - noticed. Indeed, one co-worker complimented me frequently on my outfits, which pleased me to no end because I feel like I have no sense of style whatsoever and any sense of it that I do have is hampered by my desire to stay warm above all, which requires that I wear fleece-lined tights and other such monstrosities in the winter.

I had worried about wearing clothes that were rolled up and stuffed into a backpack for an hour while I rode my bike to work, but

1. I no longer buy things that wrinkle and
2. Men don't look. Men especially don't look at women my age, alas. Not that I am in the market to be looked at, but it's always nice to be looked at, isn't it? It's always a little bit nice to get that second look, that up and down look. I am not in the market for another husband or for a boyfriend, but it's nice to be appreciated.

Engineers are a special subcategory of men. Straight engineers do not look. My Costa Rican engineer friend Edwin wrote, "We engineers are like having a close gay friend, we don’t have a gay couple but we only notice gadgets and formulas and that sort of stuff. Girls are OK, but they are no competition to technical matters, so you are safe within your new engineering coworkers."
I am not sure I agree with him. My gay friends do notice what women wear and they will sit down next to me and we will have a good ol' time going all Glamor Don't on passers-by. And even SH is a good fashion critic, although I think he steered me wrong advising me to keep that Banana Republic wool-ish tweed dress that looked great on the website on the 5'10" 110-pound model but did not look so good on 5'5" 140-pound me.

Where was I?

Oh. New job. Bunch of engineers. Could be gay, could be straight. I have no idea. Don't care. But they do not look at me. I didn't realize they do not look at me until after I had my bike accident - yes, I was wearing a helmet and the helmet was just fine after I fell, it was my prescription sunglasses and my face that took the brunt of the fall. So for weeks, I had this huge bruise on my face - a bruise I used to get out of attending social events with SH - I am not a social person so was delighted to have the excuse - and that I used to keep my boss in line, warning him that if he was not nice to me, I would act scared around him when the two of us went to corporate.

So I had this huge bruise and six stitches in my eyebrow and NOBODY NOTICED. If I saw someone with that level of damage, I would maybe pretend not to see because what if she had been beat up by her husband and was ashamed and didn't want to talk about it but I would react. I would not be able to keep my eyes from flying open or keep my jaw from dropping.

These guys reacted not at all. I know because I was watching them because I wanted to talk about the injury and how ticked off I was that the urgent care center would not treat me and that I had to go to the ER where they did not ask if I wanted a CT scan - did not discuss the pros and cons - but just did it and then charged me $1,500 for it, even though I kept saying, "I have a $2,500 deductible! How much is this all going to cost?"

(For the record, I paid more for that medical treatment than I paid for my first car. I paid more for that medical treatment than I paid for one year of Top-20 ranked business school tuition. I do not begrudge any nurse or doctor or nurse practitioner her proper pay, but I am not a fan of possibly unnecessary diagnostic procedures.)

So yeah. The engineers at work didn't notice my bruises. They will not notice what I wear to work.


Anonymous said...

I am the only woman in a group of six database administrators - we deal with large databases and financial and HR software and Unix and all that. Anyway one lunchtime I spilled coffee on my shirt, so I went out and bought a new one - I like coffee but I don't want to wear it as perfume. I changed my shirt when I got back to the office.

That evening I told my husband what had happened, and he said, "Did anybody notice that you changed your shirt?" And I replied that I probably could have changed my shirt right there in our open plan office, and not one of my colleagues would have even looked up.

Class factotum said...

Anon, I laughed so hard when I read this because it is SO TRUE.