The Secret Life of Melanie O.
Monday, November 28, 2005
First day on the new job
I've just come home from my first day at my new job, working for one of New South Wales' largest charities. I went, with a bit of dread, due to my last work experience, which was like something out of the Twilight Zone. To my surprise and delight, not only did I not come home with a headache, I actually had enough of an appetite for dinner.

My mistake in my last job, was to not listen to my gut feelings during the job interview. You know, when you've got something gnawing at the back of your mind after an initial impression of a place, it's best to pay attention to it, otherwise, you wind up with a gaping hole somewhere. (It usually has something to do with your sanity.) How often have I sold my soul for a few measley bucks because there were bills that had to be paid!

Things I have learned from job interviews:

If you walk into a business for an interview, and no one in the office is talking or laughing or looking like they're enjoying their work, then you'd better turn around and leave.

Every office has one Career Bitch. She wilI be jealous of your balanced home and office life and thinks you should sacrifice ALL to the Company, like her. She also thinks you should be miserable. Like her. Learn who this person is in your office and avoid her like the plague. If she's your boss, learn to like antacids and find a good dentist who can repair your teeth after you're done grinding them.

If you go for an interview and the interviewer "checks you out" before asking any questions, then be prepared to have to listen to dirty jokes for the entire time you're employed there. And when you do finally leave, be prepared to be treated like the cheating lover.

If you go to an interview and no one gets your jokes or laughs with you, you shouldn't be working there.

If you go to an interview and everyone seems really uptight and "professional," it's because they're hiding their misery under a veneer of corporate plywood.

Messy desks are the sign of a productive mind.

Clean cubicles are the sign of a rabid office manager who will make sure you cover your kids' photos with a tea cosy every night before you leave.

Beware of any office with one word inspirational messages like "Dare," "Leadership" or "Soar" superimposed on photographs, hanging on the wall. You will be expected to put in 50 hours a week on a regular basis, and get paid for 40.

Someone PLEASE kick me if I think of going back to the corporate world. No - better than kick me - tie me up, spank me with a wooden spoon, and make me watch Jerry Springer reruns.
posted by Melanie O. at 7:29 PM - 0 comments
Saturday, November 26, 2005
The holiday season
OK - here I am, stuck in Australia while my compatriots back home are enjoying Thanksgiving and ushering in the start of the shopping season. With all of the griping that I hear about how commercial the holidays have become, I suppose I should be thankful to be away from a lot of the hype. The holiday season in Australia is very different than in the USA, in many ways. I suppose the fact that the seasons are flip-flopped is the biggest reason why people aren't into the light displays and Yuletide cheer here. Why do you need that when it stays light out past 9pm?

shrimp cocktail

Holiday dinner? Oh, the humanity!

The holiday season is celebrated, by many families, with a trip to the beach. Instead of Jack Frost nipping at your nose, you get sunburn. Instead of roast turkey or ham, it's cold shrimp cocktail (or prawn cocktail, as it's called Down Under) and salads. It feels a bit like a Surfer's Holiday. Unfortunately, I'm not into surfing, unless it involves an Internet connection and a mouse.

I suppose it's the pagan in me that is feeling let down at this time of year. I love the winter solstice celebrations. Everything from the yule log in the fireplace that burns for most of the night, to mulled wine, candles and luminaries, mistletoe, and the fresh evergreen boughs that I used to decorate my townhouse back in Raleigh, North Carolina. I miss the smell of pine. I tried to substitute pine cleaner for a real fir tree, but all it did was create a strange craving for sex with Mr. Clean. There's also no gridiron football. No hunky men in tight pants on TV. No half time entertainment. No males yelling and grunting excitedly from the other room as I prepare the family feast.

Our Christmas tree is a fibre-optic thing, imported from China. It's small and really disappointing. I feel like I need to be smoking a joint and burning a black light, in order to enjoy it. My family is far away from me. Call me a masochist, but I loved cooking all day and putting on a big spread for Christmas dinner and having the family around me. Now, it's too hot for me to be bothered to run the oven, and it will take months of planning to get the family together. Most of the time, this is a plus, but during the holiday season, it stinks.

I miss pumpkin pie and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was a staple in my life. I knew how to time the preparation of my Thanksgiving dinner by that parade. 9 am - start of the parade and put the turkey in the pan. Start browning the onions and celery for the stuffing and boil the chestnuts. By the time the parade was half over, I knew I should have the stuffing made. By the time the parade was finished, the bird was stuffed, plastered with butter, and put in the oven to bake. My ability to make the perfect Thanksgiving turkey is directly in proportion to watching that damned parade. It took years to perfect that technique. Now, I don't even need to think about turkey basting. I need to perfect my shrimp boil.

I suppose one day, I will have totally assimilated the Aussie cultural holiday season - just in time for me to move back to the USA. I imagine being an old woman, and having the family gathered around me for the family feast. I'll be dressed in my favorite sun dress and one of my grandchildren will comment on my fake tan. No doubt I will be telling dirty jokes that involve romps with Mr Clean and they will all look at me funny. Mr Who? My husband will be glued to the TV to watch gridiron football, and I'll sneak in to look at the hunky guys in tight pants.

posted by Melanie O. at 9:07 PM - 1 comments
Monday, November 21, 2005
Something happens when you get to your 40's and you're a woman. Suddenly, you realise that nearly half of your productive years are behind you and that the dream of being a movie star or a rich heiress to some secret monarchy just isn't going to happen. You decide that you need to live in the "real" world and had better start saving more for retirement. Somehow, the eternal optimism of youth is now tempered with common sense and a stronger sense of your own mortality.

Besides changes to your mental outlook, your physical body starts to change as well. The .7 waist to hip ratio suddenly increases. Your boobs get larger and your energy level starts to taper off. Sure, you can still wear that size 6, but it just doesn't look the same on you any more. You begin to understand why old people obsess about their bowel movements. There isn't a beauty cream on the market that will erase those fine lines and wrinkles. The once-flat stomach is now a bit softer and rounder than you ever remember seeing it, and no amount of sit-ups will make it go away. You do discover, however, that sit-ups are a great aid in releasing flatulence.

But, hitting middle age isn't all bad. In fact, some of it is pretty darn good.

I get better service now in restaurants and in department stores. I carry myself with more confidence. I'm not afraid of appearing bitchy or making a "scene" if I need to. I've become the master of the cutting remark, especially when I see people cutting into a queue that I've been waiting in for more than 20 minutes.

I can wear things that I like, as opposed to what's "trendy." I also won't be bothered with nasty, disrespectful people, and I'm not afraid of confrontation or fighting a battle I think is worth fighting.

I am more pleased about myself and how I've "turned out" than at any other time in my life. I can manage my money and make investments with confidence. I can tell the guy across the street to knock it off when he's having a nasty row with his girlfriend in the driveway or I'll call the cops. And I sound like I mean it. I DO mean it. I've gained some authority with seniority.

I'm an equal in relationships. I don't feel like I have to stifle parts of myself in order to be with someone. When I was in my 20's, I used to feel like I HAD to make a relationship work - like it was all up to me whether or not the relationship was going to be successful. I often gave 100% while the other person gave next to nothing. I sacrificed everything while the other person couldn't have cared less. It was the emotional equivalent of trying to dig to China with a spoon, and being timed.

I look damned good for someone in her 40's. Sure, I could stand to lose a few pounds, but now that I realise I am never going to be 1) a model, 2) a movie star, or 3) a famous singer, I don't care as much. I'm me. This is who I am. And I like myself. Even if I don't like how I look in a bathing suit. My husband adores me. I wouldn't trade that for a fewer pounds, believe me. And I feel pretty certain that in another couple of decades, I'm not going to care how I look in a bathing suit, either.
posted by Melanie O. at 3:49 PM - 4 comments
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Job hunting - the world's oldest profession
When Adam and Eve got kicked out of the garden, they must have been at a total loss for "what to do next." After all, they had spent their formative years walking and talking with God, getting an education, spending endless hours in praise and adoration, while God provided everything they needed. This is all they knew. Once forced to leave the garden, they had to find another way of providing for themselves. No doubt, they feel as we all do now when faced with unemployment and no cash flow. Scared, alone, and falling without a net, while God dumps a big bushel of manure on you just for giggles.

Eve could have sold her body if there was someone around to sell it to. But Adam was the only guy in town - this is why I dispute the statement that prostitution is the "world's oldest profession." It isn't - "unemployed job seeker" is the world's oldest profession, next to gardening.

It takes nerves of steel and a pig-headed determination to be a job seeker. It also means learning to take heaps of rejection. If you're over age 40, like me, you have to worry about age discrimination and the fact that you are competing against advanced university degree holders. When I was growing up - you didn't need a degree to succeed. Heck - Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's, was a high school dropout and died a gazillionaire. We've all heard stories of people with enough determination and hard work who worked their way up from the mail room to the Board room. Those days are disappearing like the proverbial dinosaur. Now you need an MBA from Harvard in order to have credibility. Experience doesn't count for much - unless you are interviewed by someone who values skills and experience as much as that MBA.

In addition to competing against degree holders with little work experience who will be taken more seriously than you will, you have to try to look and act younger than your years. Nearly every advertised marketing position out there seeks "an energetic, vibrant person to join young team." I feel anything but energetic and vibrant. Mostly, we job seekers are feeling discouraged and depressed. We're just coming out of a rejection phase - even if we rejected our jobs, not the other way around. Somehow, you feel shut out of the whole system.

Looking for work is the emotional equivalent to a ride on the Roller Coaster of Death. I've spent the last 10 days or so flooding the market with my CV, and have made a dozen or more calls to agencies in the hope of at least getting some temp work. But I'm overqualified for everything. Finally, I did get a call from a recruiter, who told me that I would be perfect for a job that was listed with his agency. "That's great!" I told him.

The recruiter told me that he would have to call and set up an interview for me. "Fantastic," I said, not wanting to leave any doubt that I would be totally psyched (in a good way) to get an interview.

A few days passed. No return call about an interview. I emailed the recruiter. I called and left a phone message for him "to see how things were going." Nothing. No response. So, I did some investigating. The job I was asked to interview for was also listed with another agency. The other agency got their candidate in for an interview first. Not just a first interview, a second interview. I was rapidly descending that seven storey drop to the bottom.

A week went by. The recruiter called me again. "I bet you thought I forgot about you," he said. Ha! I knew that he had just been too cowardly to let me know about another candidate's second interview. I played it cool and nonchalant: "Oh, I just figured you were probably busy," I lied.

"Well, they want you to come in for an interview. How's tomorrow sound? And if they like you, can you start on Monday?"

Wheee! I'm in my little car, being pulled to the top of the next rise. I hope the next drop just thrills me, and doesn't make me want to pee my pants.
posted by Melanie O. at 12:03 PM - 2 comments
Monday, November 14, 2005
Please turn down the decibels

Most women, when having a discussion on the merits of men, will disagree to a certain extent about what they find personally attractive about the opposite sex. Some like long hair. They see "romantic poet/misunderstood artist" when a man has long hair. They also see Fabio.

Some women like muscley guys with "butch" haircuts. These guys are into sports, cars, Penthouse magazine, and guns. The women that love them are the long-suffering, understanding, patient type (ie: not me).

Other women prefer Men in Suits. Men in Suits represent money, power, and summer homes on the lake. My uncle is one of these guys (and a nice guy, too.)

Then, of course, there is Mr Outdoorsman. He hunts. He camps. He fishes. His back-to-nature personality brings out the beast in her.

And then there's me. My guy is your typical Mr Nice Guy. Oh sure, he can fix things. He wears a safety uniform to work every day. He was BIG into Formula One racing, until Michael Schumacher made it boring to watch. He's tall, but a "gentle giant." He has grumpy days, and he has great days. He's perfect for me, with one small exception. He is LOUD.

He learned that from his mother, who is also LOUD. She grew up with hard-of-hearing parents and so had to always shout to be heard. But that learned trait never went away. And she passed it onto her son. He is so loud, I'm afraid to take a personal call over my mobile phone BECAUSE ANYONE WITHIN A SIX METRE RADIUS WILL BE ABLE TO HEAR BOTH SIDES OF THE CONVERSATION. Which can be embarrassing, as he often calls to talk dirty to me. However, I have to hold the phone away from my ears, or he blows out my eardrums. To make matters worse, he often calls me from inside his truck.... with the engine running ... while he's being unloaded by cranes or forklifts, AND HE FEELS HE NEEDS TO SHOUT AT ME IN ORDER FOR ME TO HEAR HIM OVER THE BACKGROUND NOISE.

Whenever he stubs his toe or drops something, he is LOUD. I think it's a major crisis and come running to see what disaster has just transpired. But no, he's just commenting on something he's read in the mail, or he's banged his elbow on the door frame. When he snores, paint chips fall off the ceiling. He's woken himself up with his own nighttime reverberations. I usually have to banish him to the guest room in order to get a good night's sleep. Turn him over onto his side? He'd blow a hole through his pillow.

On a positive note, he can keep a room full of people entertained. In fact, when he's not there, I often feel at a loss at what to say to people, as I've gotten so used to his exceptional decibel level and garrulous nature. I've told him many times that he should become a public speaker or go into politics (his penchant for getting up on his Soap Box is another trait that I'll have to discuss later.)

I am sure one day I will appreciate his loudness. No doubt, I will be 85 years old and deaf myself. At least, I am hoping that he will be there with me, TALKING LOUDLY ... and snoring ... and keeping me awake.
posted by Melanie O. at 9:47 PM - 0 comments

About Me
Name: Melanie O.
Home: Durham, North Carolina, United States
About Me: Female, American health and beauty-conscious professional who has rekindled a childhood love of dolls.
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