Harriet Poznansky Death Through a Child's Eyes


The biggest influence on the child is the unmet dreams of their parents.

–Carl Jung

Every reader has a secret obsession. Besides masters like Tolstoy, Austen and Marquez, bedtime often finds me curled up with books by those wily women who somehow make it up the ladder to the c-suite. What strikes me most about these recent missives about corporate America including Lean In and Thrive is how utterly clean these books seem, discussing good-girl themes like balance and self-esteem. Back in the 80’s when all this corporate madness began, we had precious time for aspirations on the small end of Maslow’s hierarchy. Those of us who paved the way for Sandberg and friends had to contend with a sort of schizophrenic messiness. In fact, it might still be messy, but that doesn’t always make a great book. A recent Monster poll, released in conjunction with the anniversary of the film Working Girl, shows that 44 percent of women and 28 percent of men think nothing has really changed since the 80’s. In which case, whatever we were doing back then, stuck.

I was born in Feb. ’65, a few years before Steinem published After Black Power, Women’s Liberation. Surely some mothers were having their babies on Ina May Gaskin’s bus and picketing for abortion rights, but mine and the others I came to know in Wellesley, MA had mostly worked as secretaries and then gotten married. My mother’s aspirations involved clubs and Jaguars.

The year I graduated from college, the microchip was on the rise. The iron curtain was collapsing, and the first American test-tube baby had just been born. Trailblazing was in order, and yet the gender situation was schizophrenic at best. The forerunners of the current lean-in frenzy were tottering around in nine-inch heels with sprayed hair that sometimes caught fire when someone lit a cigarette in the boardroom. I was confused. To remedy this confusion, I swam a lot senior year, plunging deep to the pool’s bottom and blotting out the world. When my lungs felt ready to implode, I hauled myself out the pool and returned to my room where I made pots of black coffee and smoked Eve 120 Menthols until class time rolled around. In the late spring of ’87, starting to despair my future, I decided to get married.

I met my future husband through Melinda, a girl in my dorm with unharnessed pendulum breasts, who was frequently found in the living room, watching TV in a threadbare nightgown and chewing on her hair. The boys congregated like bees to honey smeared on, well, unharnessed pendulum breasts. Tristan was one of these boys, cute, reserved and naïve. I wanted him and figured eventually, I would get him. But he’d enlisted in the air force two months prior and before long shipped out to Texas and then to another planet called Guam. In his absence, I grew intimately close to his best friend, Tom Flowers.

The summer I graduated, Tom proposed to me. We were vacationing in Ocean City, Maryland, and I said yes because Tom was ambitious and career-oriented, like my father. Also like my father, he was understanding and tolerant when it came to his wife holding down a full time job. This came in handy since I’d graduated from a curriculum representing “a sound liberal arts base” targeted to “instilling a woman with a little bit of knowledge about a lot of things” and thereby rendering her incapable of pursuing a given discipline.

I stood beside Tom in late May of ’90 at the altar of Regis’s chapel wearing my mother’s gown armed with a sundae spoon in which to consume the best man, Tristan. (Despite my attempts to indulge after Tom and I were married, the sundae never allowed me even a taste.)

Tom wore glasses and had a twenty-seven inch waistline, which was interesting since the only things he ate were toasted raviolis, Little Debbie Marshmallow Supremes and homemade whoopie pies. Tom was plain, predictable. Once, to spruce him up, I brushed on eye shadow as he stoically sat on the closed lid of the toilet. He hated this, even in jest, and washed it off after a glimpse in the mirror. In all actuality, he should have married my roommate, Prudence Dearheart—she weighed less than him, I had introduced her to the benefits of falsies and waxing and her acne eventually cleared up. Tom needed a wife, and unbeknownst to both of us, I was about to plunge head long into non-wifehood, a dive that would finally seem to pave the way for every working millennial gal in corporate America today.

That first year with Tom, I found myself staring into space, remembering my wild days at Regis and contemplating the perfect boredom that was marriage. While my mother found satisfaction in getting into certain suburban clubs, I could hardly find the gumption to make chicken casserole. I was worried I would turn into my mother. Or Tom’s. His mother, a warm, kind woman from a working class city just west of Boston, had been enslaved into servitude by her five children and a husband. She called trash “rubbish,” soda “tonic,” potatoes “b’daydas,” the day after Friday “Saddadee,” and the numbah aftah thirdy-nine “foddy.” Tom’s father, on the other hand, didn’t spare many words but when he did, over Sunday’s roast beef and turnip dinner, he’d say, “Mama, pass the blood” and “Mama, I’m ready for my tea, now.”

It was my father, out of this crowd of Tom’s parents and mine, who seemed to have the most fun. My father was both powerful and amenable. Aside from cucumbers, he didn’t appear to be disagreeable about anything. Perhaps being the only child born to second-generation Italians made him docile for survival. His parents did all things Italian, besides cooking an amount of spaghetti that could have extended from their home in Bridgeport, CT to Sicily, they did a whole lot of yelling and dictating. My grandfather would often crack walnuts between his fingers and say, “Aw, Frank, you did the best you could with what you had to work with.” A pistol shot, disguised by complimentary overtones.

Despite this winning assessment, my father’s self-esteem never seemed particularly bothered.  He was full of initiative. A mechanical engineer by trade, he could explain highly technical things as if he were talking about a recipe for meatloaf. At AVCO Lycoming Engines and Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford, Connecticut, he labored on engines—taking them apart down to their washers, re-assembling them with his eyes closed, testing them, and making them better. He’d met my mother at AVCO–she was beautiful then, before pacifying her hurt with food—and the initial encounter of the two meeting was, according to my mother, “love at first sight.” Quite different from my father’s first impression—“she was stacked!” What kept coming back to me during those bored first years of marriage was that somewhere in my adolescent years, Dad’s career had  allowed him to pull out of the whole family thing. He’d taken a hiatus at Cornell’s two-year graduate program and lived in a high rise dorm infected with roaches.

That’s when the plan to become my father began to formulate. He had always wanted to work for the Department of Defense, and about two years into marriage, I applied for a job at PB&J Corporation in Wellesley, a Fortune 100 conglomerate that served as a top-tier contractor to the Department of Defense, NASA and other federal agencies. They put me to work in the corporate office; a plush location where women remained confined to traditional roles and were frequently seen carrying pots of coffee in the wake of some suit-wearing executive.

Situated in mahogany row, I reported to a division controller in an administrative capacity and readily developed a knack for building Lotus 1-2-3 macro-run spreadsheets and a chronic intolerance for bean counters. My boss, a nervous CPA afflicted with twitches and a lightning speed gait, was an expert at creating a tension-filled monotony. Consequently, I befriended my neighbor, an elderly secretary who reported to a well-respected Executive Vice President, Max Powers. Max was a master at operations strategy.

When special occasions arose, I celebrated offsite with Max, his controller, and his secretary. Once, driving back to the office, Max asked me out to dinner. I thought it was odd—we were both married and there was quite an age difference between us—I was in my mid-twenties, and he was well into his fifties. But he drove a Mercedes, so I agreed.

Max wasn’t a player—he was content in his stale second marriage and active in his daughter and sons’ lives. And yet here I was fresh out of college and not wanting to be a housewife. I brought some life into the nearly geriatric office. He was attracted to that quality along with some of my other features, like breast size. And age.

In turn, I was attracted to him because unlike Tom, Max’s middle boasted something I could grab hold of—a 42” waistline. As well, when Max passed by me in the office, if the coast was clear, he’d look me up and down, bug out his eyes and waggle his eyebrows. Tom never did that sort of thing—even when we first met. Max was also tall, Italian, mature, successful, a personable no-nonsense type. Kind of like my father. Back in the 80’s when the working girl movement truly began, you were trying to be your father, and your boss was also your father (or at least someone like him), and you were, inevitably, sleeping with him. This was all mildly disorienting. Jane Miller’s new book Sleep Your Way to the Top (and other myths about business success), another bedtime obsession, nails all this right down and actually gives you some guidelines about sleeping, or not sleeping, with some senior level execs.
Aside from this ogling, Max and I were discreet about our infidelity; he had a great deal at risk. And though I did too, I didn’t consider carrying on with him such a terrible thing—the relationship was well rounded, and I loved the attention. This line of thinking, however vile was par for the course. While riding around in Max’s Mercedes, I sometimes remembered my Dad inviting two young women from work to the beach near our house. They showed up wearing bikinis. I was in the water next to the blond at one point and her nipple was exposed and I remember feeling so embarrassed and plunging below the water’s surface. Why would Dad invite two young women to the beach? He was also seen driving his ’54 Corvette through town with some woman at his side. And now perhaps I had become the woman in the Corvette, just exactly at the same time I was trying to become my father.

Some weeks later, after we had regularly steamed up the Benz’s windows, I indulged in a couple of cocktails at one of our group luncheons. Upon returning to work and feeling frisky, I bypassed my desk for Max’s and entered his large corner office. Nowhere in Lean In does Sheryl Sandberg talk about plopping into an oversized leather chair and placing one’s heels and legs up on the boss’s desk. When he crossed the threshold to his office and found me stationed at his desk, he drew a few steps backward and glanced at the door. “Lisa,” he whispered. “Get out of that chair.”

I crossed one leg over the other. “I kind of like this chair.”

He checked behind him. “Lisa,” he repeated. “This isn’t funny. Get out the chair now.”
And there ensued a dialogue much like ones I might have had with my dad when I was young:

“No.”

“Yes.”

“No.”

“Now.”

“Oh, alright.” Pretending to submit, I placed my feet on the floor but then changed course and gleefully spun around.

“Lisa!” he hissed. His face was the hue of a Detroit Dark Red beet.
Finally I popped up and out of the chair and sauntered past him. He avoided eye contact the remainder of the day.

“Just what did you think you were doing?” he scowled the following night.

“Playing,” I answered. Play girl, married girl, working girl, daughter, who was I?

“Well, don’t do it again,” he said. The corner of his mouth curled into a smile.

 

I didn’t want to sit around with Max and the elderly secretary all my life, and when the opportunity arose, I left my job to report to the V.P of Management Information Systems (the dawning of IT). After assimilating quickly into the admin position by working with a networking guru to transition staff from the use of dumb terminals to PCs, I became a valued resource and my training skills were in constant demand. Just as my father did when he left us for Cornell, I began to consider an MBA as a fast track to management.

Similarly, all my male counterparts were getting their MBAs part time at Babson College, a school that had previously been predominated by men. This, I figured, was the ticket to my future. My father had wanted the MBA, too, but because of a family curse in accounting, he had decided to audit a course and so got a certificate instead.  I had struggled with accounting at Regis, too, but managed it. I was not only going to become my father, I was going to surpass his wildest expectations.

The only thing standing in the way of graduate admissions was the GMAT, an entry exam designed to quantify and humiliate all those who fall below a superior level of intelligence.  I prepared for it for weeks. When it came to taking the exam, though, I panicked halfway through and handed in more empty circles than filled-in. When I later mustered the courage to try again, I completed half the exam to the best of my ability and then overwrought with anxiety, filled in “C” for “correct” throughout the remainder. To my dismay, the test results again fell short of the admission standard. It fell below any standard. Anywhere. For anything.

FairTest, the national center for open and fair testing, claims that this single 3-hour test wields a tremendous amount of power. Many B-school admissions officers use GMAT cut-off scores of 550 and higher but women average only 503. Although we make up more than half of all college graduates and post higher undergraduate GPAs than our male peers, two-fifths never attempt the GMAT. Determined to get into Babson, I made an appointment to see the dean, who unlike the Regis dean, was male. Leveraging the traits Max found attractive, and the make-it-happen mentality that both he and my father instilled in me, I walked into the Dean’s office, hand extended, wearing a cinch-waisted suit and crippling high heels.

When he stood up to make my acquaintance, I intercepted his hand over a copy of my rejection letter.  “Good Afternoon, Dean,” I began enthusiastically. “Thank you so much for seeing me. I realize how valuable your time is.”

He smiled at my chest. “Good Afternoon, Ms. DeMasi, the pleasure is all mine.”

I assumed the chair opposite his desk and launched into my agenda. “I was extremely disappointed to receive that rejection letter. Although I scored a tad low on the GMATs,” really my brain shut down completely at the ghastly sight of it, “I assure you that I’m an ambitious professional and require Babson’s MBA as a platform for a career in executive management.” I paused to cross my legs and flutter my lashes. “In turn, I would serve as a critical value-add and fitting member of the student body.”

Shifting his weight forward in his button-tufted high leather chair, the Dean placed his elbows on his desk, formed a bridge with his fingers and studied my face. Moments expired. He inhaled deeply, and flexing his eyebrow said, “I like your style.”

“Thank you, Dean,” I smiled back and reinforced my intention. “I’d certainly appreciate it if you would give me the opportunity to prove myself and reconsider my acceptance to the program.” Lash flutter.

As if engaged in a game of dorm room hoops, the Dean picked up my rejection letter, crumpled it into a ball and discarded it into his wastebasket. “Consider yourself in,” he said. A feat of feminine wiles (a la my mother) and business go-get-em (a la my father) and I was on my way.

The Babson College campus was less than three miles from work and twenty minutes from our home in Westwood. Tom was supportive (at first), my father was thrilled, and Max was impressed. And because my studies were complementary to my responsibilities in the office, my department extended a lot of flexibility and reimbursed the steep tuition costs. Financial Accounting, the barrier that had turned my dad’s academic status at Cornell from graded to auditing, was one of the initial requisites. I put it off.

The first night on campus, I sat in a state-of-the-art multi-tiered hi-tech classroom—a far cry from Regis’s cozy classrooms with heat hissing out of old steam radiators. My peers were not giddy freshwomen, but experienced businesspeople, mostly men. I didn’t feel intimidated. I’d work extra hard to keep up and soon I’d be just like one of them—on my way to making an impact as an executive.

The first thing I did when I started the MBA program was change back to my maiden name, something that was just starting to happen in the 80’s. When the judge was perplexed because it didn’t involve a marital dispute, I explained it had to do with a hear-me-roar type of thing. I also became an early bird. At 5:30, I rolled out of bed, tugged on some sweats and arrived at the gym around 6:00. Energy begets more energy. I got to work around 8:00, studied or exercised some more at lunchtime and left for campus by 5:30. I didn’t get home before 9:30 at night. And an entire weekend day was consumed in relative effort.

Halfway through the MBA, my marriage came undone. Tom wanted kids. I didn’t. My schedule left no time for them. Nor would it ever, it seemed. Vaguely I remembered visiting my father at Cornell on the weekend. He’d made friends in grad school. Namely, “Barbara,” a pimply-faced woman maybe 10 years his junior.  My mother was suspicious of her, and I can see why. “Barbara this and Barbara that.” Why is Dad always talking about this Barbara? Dad also made friends with a tall Russian man named Sasha who gave us Olympic pins from Russia (Olympics were in Lake Placid during that time). I remember him being very friendly while Barbara seemed aloof.  I can’t imagine Mom was happy about it; home by herself raising three kids.  Years later, it wasn’t a surprise to me when Slaughter’s article on having it all in The Atlantic went viral and created backlash and hate mail. The truth hurts. I couldn’t have kids because I wanted to become Executive Vice President of ABC Widget & Co. Finally, Tom and me filed for divorce, divided our possessions and sold the house we acquired from an elderly couple that had decorated the kitchen with avocado-colored wallpaper and orange countertops.

 

I was a new person; re-engineered and overhauled and single. I had done away with the ultimate setback that would have placed my career on hold—becoming a vessel of reproduction.

By this time, my helpdesk job at PB&J had slowed down. Personnel had been long trained on Windows and aside from the occasionally challenging “how would you do this” scenario, I was ready to take on equal opportunity in an environment that wasn’t engaged in producing weapons of mass destruction (I let my father down gently).

I became a financial analyst reporting to a Vice President of Marketing in a work hard/play hard software company, called Cold Boot, Inc., which was growing rapidly. I figured once I got my foot in the door as a prospective MBA, a management opportunity would crop up. Cold Boot was located in an office park in Concord, Massachusetts. A week before my start date, I found a charming apartment inside a two-hundred-year-old farmhouse and bid farewell to Max Powers who once asked me “why didn’t I meet you thirteen years ago before I remarried,” and laughed when I answered “because I was fourteen.”

The Cold Boot job was a great step up and my enthusiasm soared. As it was in the 80’s when we were all getting our corporate heels wet, sales were skyrocketing and the fifty-person marketing team pushed to keep the numbers off the charts by wildly promoting the company’s product. As a result of this spending frenzy, invoices by the hundreds—many in the form of credit card statements and expenses scratched down on cocktail napkins—flooded Accounting and the staff couldn’t deal.

Consequently I developed and evangelized the use of a simple software application I called, “The KISS Initiative,” based on the design principle “Keep It Simple Stupid.” In short I was an accounting genius. With just eight out of the twenty MBA courses remaining, and feeling superior, I bit the bullet and enrolled in the initial requisite of financial accounting.

Cold Boot, like PB&J, picked up my tuition costs as long as I made a B or better. I’d earned a mix of B’s and low A’s. By taking summer sessions, I’d planned to complete the masters six months before the usual four-year turnout. By then, I’d be carrying out significant management responsibilities.

Then, a couple months into the horrid accounting course, Cold Boot was acquired for millions. I wasn’t certain how it would impact my job, but things looked promising. In fact, to demonstrate how promising it looked, the company hosted a ridiculously expensive affair at The Sheraton Tara in Boston. Naturally, it materialized into a rave.

After a two-hour workout in the hotel’s gym, I skipped dinner and for the next few hours, the product manager and his cohorts seasoned various parts of my body, doing shots of tequila and licking the salt from wherever. The only thing I remember is the D.J. finishing up with “Stairway to Heaven” while Bill, the Sales V.P. and Ian—a guy from accounting who I dated until I found out he was married and had a newborn—played a tug of war with me over the threshold of Bill’s hotel room. At some point, they noticed my arms had grown considerably in length and became civil. They escorted me downstairs to reception. Bill, at his own expense or quite possibly the company’s, checked me into my own room. If you think this is very un-modern and slutty of me, you must have been born after 1975 or so, so you couldn’t possibly see behind Oz’s curtain to what was really happening whilst paving the corporate woman’s yellow brick road.

After that, I passed out in bed, alone. I think.

After developing this new kick-ass accounting system that had saved the company, this new company purchased a different requisition system and phased out my job. I was not offered my dream management role, but a lateral position with an ambiguous job description working for a peer. This disconcerting news was delivered just hours prior to my accounting final exam. I kept mindfully clear and calm throughout the day, however, and found myself feeling confident when I arrived to campus that night.

The air was mild and hinted at spring. Everything was going to be okay, I reassured myself—the job would work out, and before the night was over, I’d have conquered the family curse in financial accounting. Settling into my usual seat along the back row of the classroom, I set two pencils, a sharpener and calculator before me. Standing militantly at attention before us was the professor, the Accounting and Finance Department Chair, a woman who reminded me of those terrible educators in Pink Floyd’s movie The Wall. She fixated on some invisible point above our heads and clutched a bunch of crisp blue booklets to her bosom.  Counting with her eyeballs and curt nods, she distributed the exam.

Four words in ticker tape fashion tracked into my cerebral processor:  … School … Divorce … Career … Freedom … I whispered aloud, “Not now.” But the tape tracked in again: … Cost of freedom … No babies … Lousy lateral … Body shots …

The person in front of me held the exam and booklet behind his head awaiting my receipt.  I took it and set them down on my desk.

“You have two hours,” the professor announced.

I stared at the ridiculous elementary school booklet for several minutes before managing to pick up a pencil. I inscribed my name on the cover—tracing over it again and again. About a half hour into the exam, I managed to open the booklet. While the other students bit on ends of pencils and vigorously managed calculations, I remained fixed on the first blank page in a debilitating state of, well, debilitation. “Lisa?” I called inside my head.

No one was home. Up front Max wasn’t at the helm. Nor the dean who had looked at my boobs, not anyone but a woman who looked like she played by the rules. Every single rule that had ever been put in front of her.  Everyone had their own way of rising. And this woman had found hers. This woman who’d probably had to work harder than anyone I had ever known to get a professorship at Babson College.

I made my approach.  “Professor?”

“Yes,” she snapped, never glancing up as she bore down to inscribe another red X on some sorry soul’s exam.

I opened my mouth to speak.

“Realize I can’t help you,” she interjected. “The problems are self-explanatory.”

“Professor,” I began graciously. “I can’t concentrate. I’m going through a divorce and my job was eliminated today.”

No response.

I tried again. “Could I please take a makeup exam? I just need a couple of weeks to get over favoring my freedom instead of having a baby and reporting to someone younger than me with no supervisory experience.”

“You have to take the exam now or you’ll fail the course,” she looked up at me with her reptilian eyes. “Take it or leave it.”

I lingered there, wringing the booklet in my hands. Puddles of napalm burned on her desk and singed the exam in front of her and then wafted over to me. I observed the crown of her head and thought about the culminating events that had made her so nasty. There wasn’t a fiber of soul-sister-I-got-your-back in her. Maybe a long time ago before her bun got so tight and her mouth got so small she might have tried that. And it didn’t work. If only I could get hit with a heart attack and dramatically plummet to the floor, I thought. That might bring out the compassion. Mountains crumbled, seas receded, hills burned, the stage curtain cascaded closed.  There was to be no quarter. My heart just continued to thump blood through the appropriate channels, enduring the crucible of my accounting professor. I regarded the booklet in my hands and then gesturing forfeit, offered the measly thing for her receipt.

She ignored it.

Finally, I let the booklet disengage from my sweaty grip. The damp crinkled cigar toppled to the desk and swayed back and forth before coming to rest.

“Then, I leave it,” I said.

In a buckling state of doom, I turned away, gathered my things and the entire class launched into a panic, assuming I quickly mastered the exam.

When I eased into the seat of my car that was parked in Never Never Land—because student parking is designed to taunt those who work all day then come to school stressed, exhausted and late—I gazed out over the hood dumbfounded. I don’t know how long I sat there, envisioning the scene from Apocalypse Now when the villagers slaughter a water buffalo (an authentic no-PETA-interference sequence) and Willard attacks crazy Kurtz with a machete.  Lying bloody and dying on the ground, Kurtz whispers, “The horror…the horror…”

I had no way to approach the Dean for resolve because then I would risk Professor McNasty, learning of my “unorthodox” acceptance into the program; ammo to further enforce my ineligibility for a makeup exam. Moreover, I couldn’t submit for reimbursement at work, having failed a course. The lack thereof would raise a red flag, suggesting weakness and incapability in light of my ability. On that particularly eventful evening, I had crashed into the invisible barrier Carol Hymowitz and Timothy Schellhardt had aptly termed in the 1986 Wall Street Journal article:  the glass ceiling. In a quandary and feeling sick, I headed home.

In college, my father, having performed frightfully in his accounting throughout the semester (not intentionally, it’s the family curse), needed a C to pass the course. He’d been running late for an accounting exam, a requisite for getting his B.S. degree. With heightened anxiety brought on by habitual procrastination, he ended up racing to make it in time, passed all the vehicles in a single lane of traffic, lost control of his car, and crashed it into an eighteen wheeler. He totaled his car, walked away from the accident, and didn’t take the makeup exam until a month later. He ended up scoring lousy on the exam, but the professor realized he did the best he could with what he had to work with. He was passed without the big hair, without the boobs, without fogging up the Benz’s windows. He was passed by another guy who believed him when he said he was too much of a wreck to do well on an accounting exam.

 

The following morning, I woke up feeling like a machete was splitting my face in two. I thought of the woman at the front of the class. And the ticker tape ran its course. And then I thought:  I should do something compassionate, someplace new and sunny and warm all year round. Surely by now, my vile deeds have been paid in full, and by focusing on others, good things will come my way.

I typed up my resignation and despite my boss’ nudge to stay, tendered my two-week notice. The next morning, making coffee and trying not to look at the accounting book still spread out on the dining room table, I again routed around for someone’s footsteps to follow.  Except I wanted the footsteps to be far away, in a place that didn’t hold the broken shards of all I hadn’t achieved. My father had always wanted to go to California, but his mother had wanted more kids, and when she couldn’t have them put a load the size of the world on Dad in terms of him being around to be part of their lives to take care of them.

I could go to California myself, I thought. My father had been a terrible manager and communicator at work, perhaps there he found some semblance of power he hadn’t had with his parents. He hardly ever erupted at us kids and only in a blue moon, at my mother. The latter was prefaced with Italian expletives that to this day, I’ve never repeated. But with the 500-something staff under his wings he often erupted at his employees if they exhibited even a semblance of laziness, which he hated. Congruently, he had an enormous soft spot for any Affirmative Action sponsored disabled person that shared the workspace. I suppose he liked “the cripples” as he called them, mimicking my grandfather, because he figured they were trying hard to overcome their challenges. That’s it, I thought, closing the accounting book and trying to figure out how to burn it. I’d start a fundraising effort for the disabled among the wealthy and glamorous residents of Southern California.

Over the weekend, I announced to family and friends I was heading west like so many hopeful pioneers before me. Though I didn’t know it yet, I would stop first in Wyoming and, seeing the power of the boys who handled horses, would take a brief hiatus trying to become a cowboy. And there, too, would run into myriad ways we look for power and run into strange bedfellows and wild borders. But that’s a story for another time.

In May 2006, I finally did finish my MBA. Was the Monster Poll right? Have we transcended the 80’s? Can we start aspiring to higher elements of Maslow’s hierarchy? I got a job working at the Boston Ballet, reporting to the Executive Director in a financial support capacity, but all I did was type her handwritten notes of meetings. So I quit and became a project manager for a Cambridge consultancy. I put in 60+ hour weeks, traveling to and from the San Fran office and developed an application to manage our 1M-dollar client. Thank goodness I didn’t have kids. About three months into it, I was let go. The CEO’s hubby had started showing up at the office, asking me about how I used the project management tool I developed. When they let me go, they offered me two weeks severance if I supported the CEO’s hubby for two weeks, while he “learned the ropes.” That’s when I met a very odd cardiologist who said he wanted me to help him write a book. And that’s when I started writing.

My parents just celebrated their 50th anniversary. They said it was us kids that kept them together. I think if my mother had the choice and the security, she might have left my father a long time ago. By staying married and having children, my mother gained some semblance of security (and a Jag or two). But she doesn’t know what I know. When I cuddle up at night next to my boyfriend and my cat and open those books by women on the fast track to the c-suite, between the words, I see the body shots, the men named Max, the business school deans. I also find compassion. I see an accounting professor at her desk, bearing down to mark her papers, a woman who can’t quite find it in her to reach out to the person on the other side. That someone being another woman who was, at one moment, feeling powerless as she tried hard to pave the way for others the only way she knew how: by becoming her father.


About the Author: Lisa Mae DeMasi has been shortlisted for the Tucson Festival of Books Literary Awards and last summer Shark Reef published her essay, “Subversive Writer on the Writing Life.” Her work has also been published in HuffPost, Elephant Journal, Rebelle Society and Midlife Boulevard.

Artwork: Harriet Poznansky is a visual artist, writer and musician from the UK based between Oakland, London and Cornwall. She studied at the Slade School of Art London and School of the Art Institute Chicago, SAIC. She currently works from her studio in Oakland’s Fruitvale district where she is part of a vibrant literary and arts community. Poznanksy’s artistic practice predominately gravitates towards painting, however, she also makes electro/classical music and writes short stories. Poznansky’s is represented by the dynamic central london gallery The Kopple Project and her most recent past exhibitions include a solo show at The Nomadic Press Workspace Oakland (2015), Waterbody at London’s Hardy Tree Gallery and Death and Dying, at MAG3 Gallery Vienna. Her work can also be seen at the Australian House London by appointment, and in the Nomadic Press 2015 Journal, where Poznansky is this year’s featured Artist. She is a member of Grace God Collective and her music and drawings have been used for many of the collective’s audio-visual and/or fashion projects. Poznansky’s most recent work can be seen in the group show “Pandiculate! ” The joy of stretching, opening at The Kopple Project, March 15, 2015 and in September 2015 The Kopple Project will proudly present Poznansky’s inaugural solo show in London.

http://www.thekoppelproject.com/pandiculate_exhibition.html

http://www.harrietpoznansky.com/

http://www.gracegodcollective.com/

http://www.nomadicpress.org/