• Christine Merser

I Surmise: A Mirror of Herself & A Window Into That Which She Aspires to Be

My daughter's friend posted this picture of her daughter watching Kamala Harris on Saturday night. Stella is almost two.

It brought me back to my own life. I tell clients and customers that every person you are selling to needs to see a mirror of themself and a window into that which they aspire to be. Stella will not have the barriers my generation did in terms of what is possible for us. When I arrived back in New York City in 1975, fresh from the University of Nebraska hinterlands, my dad summoned me to his New York apartment, where he would hold court once every month or so when he had business in the city. He flew in like the Shah on his lear jet, and I still remember pushing the button to the floor of his apartment on the upper east side with a feeling of anxious hope that we would feel good after the visit was over. Both of us. I was still on the Parent Payroll, which in fairness to him I didn’t treat with much respect or regard. It just was. On this particular day, he informed me that he had enrolled me in Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School. I was shocked. “Why, Dad, would I do that? I have no intention of being a secretary.” To be honest, I didn’t have much of an intention to be anything at all. Ah, to live those years over again. Seriously. It’s one of my largest regrets. Not searching for anything other than a man. Dad replied, “Because, Christine, no matter what happens in life, you can always get a job as a secretary.” That is how he saw me. A mirror of all that he knew about where women belonged in the workplace. “Well that may be Dad, but I’m not going.” I was so insulted. Insulted I tell you. “If you do not go, then I will cut you off.” “Frankly Dad,” I said with great bravado, having just finished Gone with the Wind, “I don’t give a damn.” I stood up with every ounce of unearned dignity that I could muster, and I walked out. I was never on his payroll again. I also immediately found a job answering phones at Marymount Manhattan College. “Marymount Manhattan College, how may I direct your call?” That lasted a few days, until I simply took off the headphones and walked away from the switchboard, leaving an “I can’t do this job, but thank you” behind as I shut the door on my way out. I ended up at a financial management company, where my “clients” included Don Imus, who was in forced financial management for not paying taxes and used to yell at me on the air because the management firm wouldn’t give him all his money to spend on photography equipment, women, and drugs. Until the taxes were paid, he was on an allowance. But I digress. The point is that I can say I have done all right for myself, and while I do not have a Katherine Gibbs certificate, I think I gained my independence, and a dose of reality that probably saved me from never really trying to earn my own way. I am so very grateful that Stella will have so many roads from which to choose. I'm so very grateful I had the strength to stand up to the standards that were set for my generation in the early seventies. It's a new day for us all. You go Stella! Do whatever you see that excites and challenges you.

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