I Know My Desk Is Here Somewhere

    Gina, I meant to ask you about something important last year, but the note got lost on my desk, under the pile of chicken wings and Saturday Evening Posts.
    Office Depot conducted a survey of office workers last year, asking about what "clutters" their workspace. "An important memo from the Personnel Department," was not the answer.
    Tied for first place were food and old newspapers and magazines. Interesting about the food. There's a campaign afoot called "Take Back Your Lunch," which complains that office workers, despite laws of God and man requiring a "lunch break," often work through lunch at their desk, subsisting on cold pizza and Fig Newtons. Thus, the desk clutter.
    "This morning's coffee" was next on the list, which puzzled me. Where's the clutter? Take the stupid cup, pour the remains in the flower pot near the secretary's desk - and then use the cup as a place to store your pens and paper clips and decriminalized marijuana.
    It was the next item on the list that I particularly wanted to ask you about. Almost 30 percent of respondents said "personal hygiene products" represented workplace clutter. Hmmmm. Gina, I'm going to take a wild guess: 98.7 percent of the "hygiene" respondents were girls.
    Have you ever seen a guy's office desk all covered with lipstick and eyeliner and wrinkle cream and hand cream and brushes and stuff? The only personal hygiene product on my desk is a napkin to wipe the barbeque sauce from the chicken wings off my fingers. Natural beauty has its benefits.
    Gina, is your work space cluttered with personal hygiene products?
    It depends on how you define personal hygiene products. Do we carry tweezers with us at all times? If we are over age 40, yes we do.
    Armed with tweezers, reading glasses, and a 10x mirror, we are women on a mission. We will get that rogue hair - the one we can only see in the early morning light at work.
    This would be fine - we all get to work early to get the good parking places - except, of course, that women are not supposed to have chin hairs.
    This means that a person, however bold in alternate venues, would collapse instantly if somebody caught her in the act of plucking. She would have to say "Hello, Valued Colleague! I'm trying to do my own root canal. That's the reason I have my lower jaw stuck out this way!"
    For most guys, having personal products amounts to having a tube of Brylcreem, a miniature bottle of Listerine mouthwash swiped from a Holiday Inn during a trip to the Amish Country in 1993 and a souvenir nail-clipper from Niagara Falls.
    For women, it means anything from tooth-whitening chewing gun, to hand-moisturizing salve, to emory boards, to clear nail polish (to be used not only for nails but also to repair runs in stockings for those poor souls who still wear now almost obscene-sounding "hose").
    Women have everything at our desks and in our purses that we might need to start life in a new state. Men? They carry a credit card and $20. If they need it, they can buy it. But women? We're the nurturers and the caretakers. You want some lasagna? I'm sure it's somewhere on my desk.
    I think we've determined why girls make less than men at similar jobs. The girls are paralyzed by their desks. Shall I respond to the memo? Shall I pluck my chin? Shall I confirm an order with our best client? No, no, I'll moisturize, instead. As Charlie Brown once said, "Life is full of choices, but you never get any."
    Once again, Gina, I've changed your life for the better. You can be a provost or newspaper publisher or something similarly awful, but lucrative. Purge that desktop - but don't put the stuff in your purse. There's no room there, either.
    Whatever it is that needs to be done, do it at home before you plop yourself at your academic desk. Emily Dickinson published only 10 of her poems while she was alive. She was paralyzed at her desk, trying to decide on lipstick vs. mascara.
    Gina, in the spirit of "there's a place for everything," ponder the wisdom of Mrs. Patrick Kennedy, a good friend of George Bernard Shaw. "It doesn't matter what you do in the bedroom, as long as you don't do it in the street and frighten the horses." And so it is with bathrooms, as well.
    Bathrooms? Who mentioned bathrooms? Let's stay focused on our desks that, despite the presence of dental floss and hair clips, are an altogether difference space.
    Want to know why women have everything in our desks?
    Because men believe women's desks are, basically, bodegas. You come to us asking for Band-Aids, aspirin, lozenges and candy. You ask us for everything except lottery tickets.
    But you've made me glad of one thing: that my edition of Shaw's "The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism" is right here, next to my lip-liner. I'll take a look at it right now, while I'm eating that lasagna.

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