Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Poetry & Prose Corner
by Rita Janice Traub
Years ago, the teenaged worker was promoted to s*y. “I’d rather stay a steno,” she protested. “S*y means somewhere there’s a boss,” she explained. They smiled at her earnest child’s face. On S*ys’ Day the boss took the girls out to a real restaurant to nibble daintily at the Special Luncheon. On returning, they found each desk adorned with a small vase, in it a fresh sweet red rose. But the teenager’s rose mysteriously withered within the hour.
Gradually, everybody realized the s*y term just wasn’t cool. Way too feminine. People even said it with a wink, so you’d know the girl being referenced was something other than a bona fide s*y. And members of the opposite sex who worked as s*ies felt demeaned, preferring to call themselves “assistants.” So the offensive term was finally sunsetted, replaced by a cumbersome mouthful, “administrative professional,” mercifully shortened to “admin.” Workers no longer are called “girls” and “boys” as in days of yore. Offices are more diversified, not as gender- and race-specific as in decades past. For some arcane reason, U.S. Cabinet posts retain the S*y word.
Yet subservience survives and thrives in the digital age. Luncheons are yearly held, red roses adorn desks, cubicles have impenetrable glass ceilings. And the ex-teenager still sees that day through a cataract haze of pink bitterness. On her walker tray is an imaginary vase with an imaginary red rose, which she kills with one imaginary smile.