One of the things that a broke writer in New York will find herself doing at one time or another is temping. What is temping? Think of it as Rent-a-car for big companies, except the car is me and my amazing typing skills. Since the economy blows harder than a humpback whale surfacing off Keahole Point, I haven’t had much temp work, but this week and last week I managed to get a gig with a large consulting firm that will remain nameless due to contractual restraints on my part. Suffice to say, they are Corporateland, America the Formal, with pantyhose and suit jackets for all.
People in Hawaii may have trouble understanding this, because even when we wear formal clothes, we giggle about how silly and formal we look. We know that as soon as we get into the car, we’re going throw the heels in the backseat and crumple the suit in the back of the closet for next year. I worked just down the street from the state capitol: even our senators wear aloha shirts on Mondays unless they’re going to be on TV.
Not so in New York. These people wore suits like we wear bathing suits back home. I took a look around the office today and suddenly realized, This isn’t a novelty for them. This is how they live.
It was somewhere between this thought, the lame office jokes about neckties and binder clips, and the realization that my black suit made me look like a Hassidic teenage bride, that I was struck with the urge with pierce my lip with a safety pin and spray bourbon out of my mouth into the faces of my cubicle mates. I wanted to shave my head, tattoo my collarbones with raised middle fingers, and take a razor to my stupid fucking skirt until you could see my ripped black underwear.
In short, I wanted to go punk.
I never understood punk before now. Like I said, in Hawaii, we’re casual. Personally, I never wore anything that I didn’t have fun wearing, as evidenced by the picture of a seven-year-old me dressed as Catwoman at the grocery store. And since I was raised by a bunch of barefoot, nonconformist, sunbathing-nude-in-the-backyard hippies, I never had that soul-crushing, skin-itching need to rebel.
Now I see that this need is what created the punk movement and I finally understand why so many good punk outfits are based on English school uniforms: formalism, class hierarchy, and savage hypocrisy—listen to Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” if you want to know more—make their sufferers long for release, revenge, and rebellion.
Hence my desire to shed my corporate threads and kick my cubicle to shreds. But I’m going back for two more days, because otherwise, “How can you have your pudding?”