Allison’s Bra and the Narcissist


Sharon was the personnel manager, until the time came, as it must come to us all, when titles were euphemized, and she became Vice President for Human Resources.  She was totally self-absorbed – “the Narcissist.”  Little tales of prudery can serve to flesh  her out:

The first concerns two people who reported to me, caught by the security guard having unsanctioned congress with one another in a conference room.  Sharon never discussed this with me, but the guard was willing to talk about it.  The only comeuppance, as far as I knew, was that the guard was fired.

At one time everyone in the secretarial pool reported to me, because I was known as “the people manager”.  (It was a long time ago!  I was good at it, too.  Social Intelligence.)  We had a junior spot for someone to answer phones, deliver messages and completed typing, and do other thankless stuff.  For a time, Allison had the job.  She was a Midwestern Valley Girl, a free spirit, young, blasé,  and statuesque.  It was the ‘seventies.  She wore no foundation garment supporting her superstructure – as was the fashion, you will recall, in those days.  (Bras — if they had ‘em they burned ‘em – it was said.)

Before I proceed, I should mention that I had “always had a problem with authority.”  It was Sharon, years later, at the point when I blew up my career in California, who ghosted the president’s letter offering me a severance package.  In the letter, to soften me up for the blow, she wrote that line about authority.  (It was true, too, but…)

Anyhow, on a day in May, Allison was making deliveries, flouncing through the company, perfecting her jiggle, and leaving in her wake brief work stoppages (of which she was well aware).  The oglers were having bad thoughts, but knew that her heart belonged to Cjuba (“Chubba”), the shaggy Hungarian computer operator.  Now, Sharon was also moderately attractive, but she was approaching the point of  no return.  She hadn’t gotten the hang of the modern liberating fashion, and it made her teeth bleed that Allison rocked it so delightfully.

She came to me and said “I want you to immediately tell Allison to go home and put on a bra!”  Up rose my problem.  Sharon could usually get managers to do stuff  because she spoke with a voice of authority, and no one knew for sure whether she had a right to do it.  But I thought about the stakes we were playing for; and I said, “You must be crazy.  I like Allison fine just the way she is.  If you don’t, you tell her.”  Oh.

She didn’t do it.  She didn’t want to be the meanie.  She had a vague sense that she was already not universally respected, and she didn’t want to make it worse.

More back story:  Because she was altogether self-centered, Sharon actually had no friends; but she could commandeer people to go to lunch with her in the cafeteria.  It looked good to the other executives – her lunching with the proles and that.  Sadly, she imagined that the people she commandeered were thus her friends; so one day she shared a secret: that at home she liked to dance naked in front of a full-length mirror!  (Oh the hypocrisy!  Oh the narcissism!  And, the human comedy.  Sharon!  My God!!!)

Oh, dear.  Just way too good to keep still about.  “Like wildfire” is the only appropriate metaphor for how that tidbit spread.  Ffffffffffffft!  That’s how long it took to reach the ends of the earth.

Sharon never knew.  As is typical of unwell companies, most of the executives were hermetically sealed off from “the little people.”  (How do the simple folk live?  Who knows!  Not Sharon.)  But you can imagine, as she strutted about in her austere business uniforms, what people were thinking as they watched her… that pendulous equipment banging about in front of a large mirror…

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