Thursday, 9 December 2010

How Middle-Aged Men Can Put You Off Young People For Good

I know I should probably be writing about the tuition fees vote but I'm a bit distracted by other stuff and, anyway, I'm fed up with young people today - for reasons which will become apparent.

Trish phones first thing, and asks to speak to me off the record. That always makes me nervous.

"What exactly is Victoria working on?" she says. "Have you found out yet?"

"Um, no," I say. "I've had Greg looking into it too, but we're still not sure. Vicky says it's very important, though."

"I bet she does," says Trish.

I don't know what to say to that, but Trish doesn't seem to notice. She just carries on, regardless:

"Well, I've spoken to Andrew, and he says there'll shortly be a vacancy that he'll need her to fill. Do you know what he means? Is anyone thinking of leaving?"

"Not as far as I'm aware," I say. "But I'll check, if you like?"

"Please do, Molly," says Trish. "As let me know as soon as possible."

Oh, bloody, bloody hell. Now what is going on? And how am I supposed to find out if anyone's leaving without causing wholesale panic? Marie-Louise still hasn't got over her last undeserved verbal warning, and Carlotta's already convinced that all non-British researchers are going to get the boot since the whole Mike Hancock incident.

I can barely concentrate all afternoon, as I'm so worried about what The Boss could have meant. And who he could have been referring to. I'm sure no-one's thinking of resigning in this economic climate, so I hope it's not my job he's talking about.

The more I think about it, the more convinced I become that I am the one that Andrew is planning to put out to grass. I don't have Slavic cheekbones and am probably not decorative enough to work for an MP any more. I'm positively geriatric compared to Mike Hancock's researcher.

My self-image doesn't improve when I get home. Honestly, if there's one thing more difficult than finding out who Andrew is planning to get rid of, it's establishing the dress code for any event linked to Max's job. Which is all the more vital because all bar one of Max's colleagues is female.

The only male - Max's boss, Colin - is gay, so I probably should have asked him what to wear to the Christmas dinner, as Max is about as helpful as a hole in the head when it comes to sartorial matters.

Tonight is no exception. When I ask him what he thinks I should wear tomorrow evening, he says it doesn't matter, because I always look fine. This is obviously rubbish, so I try again.

"What will the other women be wearing?" I ask.

This seems a perfectly reasonable question to me, but Max sighs heavily before saying that he doesn't know. It's like getting blood out of a particularly reluctant stone.

"Well, will they be dressing up or down?"I say. "It's not a very posh restaurant, and 6:00pm is a funny time to start, so I haven't got a clue what's appropriate."

"I already told you - I don't know," he says again. "I suppose they'll probably wear a skirt and a top, or trousers and a top, or a dress. Does it really matter?"

"Yes," I say. "It does bloody well matter. As I would have thought you'd remember from the last time we had to go out with your colleagues. When you told me that no-one would be dressing up."

"They did all wear jeans," he says. "Just like I told you they would."

"Yes, but you missed out that they'd all have their tits hanging out from miniscule sequinned tops, would have slapped on more make-up than Jordan, and would be wearing enough jewellery to open a branch of Warren James with. Not to mention skyscraper heels."

Max glares at me, and I'm sure he whispers something about elephants never forgetting under his breath. I glare back, so that he knows the subject is not yet closed.

"You looked all right. You were just in a mood for some reason," he says.

"I was wearing a thick, woolly jumper and my snow boots," I say. "On the basis of your advice to dress up warm. I have never felt such an idiot in my life."

Now would be a very good time for my husband to smooth the situation over, give me some reassurance and generally show some sensitivity.

"Well, seeing as all the other women are only in their twenties, I can't see how it's relevant what they'll be wearing anyway," he says.

I manage to lock myself in the bathroom before I burst into tears. 

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