I work with Cardinal. She maintains a rigorous level of business attire. A real biz-pro-smokeshow. Every outfit is just a little too professional (and too sexy) for our office. I love it.
She’s one of the most attractive women in our office. A blonde 8 in most cities. That makes her an office 10. Draws the 1- or 2-seed in hottest woman in the office bracket (mom’s division). Still, not my type.
I take that back.
The more attractive I make myself. The more I focus on myself and confronting my fear and shame. The less I think of women in terms of types.
She started a few months ago, when I was just starting to unlearn my approval-seeking tendencies. I’ve said my share of low-value things around her. As I noticed this, I tried to actually say nothing. Easy, since our work doesn’t overlap much.
First step in becoming high value? Eliminate the things about you that are low value. In this initial phase, I often defaulted to saying as little as possible until I felt I could comfortably avoid sounding low value around women.
Today’s a wintery Saturday.
I came into the office to drop off my work clothes for the week (I’ll explain later). I shoved five shirts and five pairs of pants into a dirty pillow case to make the drop off because there’s rarely anyone at the office on Saturday. Low value move? We’ll find out.
Cardinal happened to be the only other person in the office amid acres of empty cubicles. Though it’s Saturday, she’s wearing a smoking hot red dress and sexy boots with her hair down and looking good. This is the most ovulatory I’ve outfit I’ve seen her wear. And she’s got several.
Before she even sees me, I speak. Loud and with authority. [paraphrase]
“Compete and total violation of company policy… [she’s startled, but sees me]”
“My god, you scared me.”
“Why on earth are you dressed like that on a Saturday?” No apologies for the startling. She smiled at me taking command of the situation.
“I have a baby shower to go to after this. It’s not for work.”
“But a baby shower? Isn’t it a bit much for that even?”
“It’s at a fancier place.”
I let it go. She sees the big lumpy pillowcase with some humorous, condescending curiosity.
“That’s … none of your business. [smirk] I’ll tell you about this … if I feel like it.” I playfully change the subject. She eats it. The irony was perfect. She’s wearing an ovulatory masterpiece on a Saturday afternoon with no one around. And I’ve got a lumpy bundle of sweaters.
I digress to take a victory lap for one of the greatest conversation moments of my life. This Nixon did three critical things that symbolize putting my learning into practice, put over the top it being the hottest woman in our office.
First, my deftest and most authoritative pedestal kick. Without being at all a prick, I knocked her off my personal woman pedestal. All it took was some animated defiance, mixed with kayfabe to demonstrate secure, playful command. Second, pillow case frame grab was a singular moment in my development. I maintained frame in front of a hot woman in an ovulatory dress asking me a question about something embarrassing in my hand. Third, I aced an opportunity to not apologize, defend, or justify myself. No apologies for my pillow case, for my evasiveness, nor for my startling her. None were needed.
It may not have been an “own your own shit” moment. But it was a cousin. And it gets to the heart of the nice guy, low value reflex: shame for having a lame bag of laundry, apologize for not using a garment bag, etc. The no-game response is to do whatever you can to save face for having done something lame, even though the other person has no idea this is a lame move on my part (and doesn’t care).
Old Nixon would have said, “oh, it’s my clothes for the week, I usually drop them off on Saturday. I didn’t want to bring them in a pillowcase, but I’m doing laundry later” (justify, rationalize, defend). Or I would have made a self-deprecating joke that amplified my low-value signal. And I probably would have done a lot of shrugging and shaking my head, to self-negate (the tragic Tommy Boy Syndrome).
I did none of these things. She didn’t care at all.
We continued the conversation. I backed out, then pulled back in. She gave fantastic eye contact. I recalled this even in my low-value days. Arms and legs crossed and uncrossed here and there. She was not defensively closed off and did not try to get rid of me. She could have talked awhile longer.
I stayed a few feet away. Not only is she a coworker, she’s married with a couple kids. At a few instances inched closer to her personal zone for practice.
We talked about work. I led on the topics, but she did most of the talking. In a different setting, I would have been obligated to inch closer to her until she signaled I had come far enough.
Sensing an opportunity, I cut it short and we made some polite goodbyes. Left her wanting more. There’s an art to abruptly cutting off a conversation without sounding rude. Getting there.
And I hope I look back on the pillowcase incident as a turning point. We’ll see.