re-educated late in life and after I graduated, I began a job search. For three
endless years, I answered ads from coast to coast, but, although I filled out
countless applications, I had no offers at all. My father said it was because I
am a woman and a middle-aged one at that. My mother insisted it was because I
have no style. Oh, I'm clean and neat enough, but I don't spend a lot of time in
dress stores and beauty shops. I dismissed my parents' reasons as foolish.
"People aren't hired by their looks,” I said. “If I had the right
qualifications, an employer wouldn't care if I dressed in a burlap bag and had
eyes in the back of my head."
I believe this because I think that way. I value people because of their
goodness and I measure their worth by their capabilities. I assumed that was how
others judged me. And so I ignored my parents’ pessimism and concentrated on
polishing my writing skills so that when opportunity knocked, I would be ready
to open the door.
At last I received a telephone call inviting me to Madison, Wisconsin to be
interviewed for a writing position. The personnel director of the newspaper
there explained that it would take about two days for me to meet the managing
editor, the department heads and the people I might be working with. "How soon
can you get here?" he asked.
I could hardly contain my excitement. The work he described was the kind I had
always dreamed of doing. I knew I could handle the job. "I'll be there
tomorrow," I said.
The next morning, I closed my house and hurried to the airport. I bubbled
excitement as I chattered to everyone I saw. The flight was filled with
interesting conversation, and I had a wonderful time.
The personnel director met me at the airport and drove me to the executive
offices of the newspaper. He ushered me into a plush, well-appointed office.
"Mr. Garfield will be right in to meet you," he said.
In just a few moments, the door burst open and the managing editor walked in. He
introduced himself and began talking immediately about the tremendous employee
turnover he had at his newspaper. "I really can't understand it," he said. "We
pay very good salaries here, and our fringe benefits are unequalled anywhere in
the state. I guess it's the kind of people who seek employment these days. They
just aren't stable; they take no pride in their work."
As he talked, he paced the floor and smoked one cigarette after another.
Abruptly, he walked to the door. "I must leave. I have a deadline in just half
And he was gone.
I had not said one single word.
In a few moments, the personnel director returned. "Well, you can go home now,"
"You mean that's all?" I asked. "Isn't anyone going to ask me any questions?
Aren't I going to meet any of the editors?"
"Mr. Garfield doesn't feel you would fit in with us here,” he answered. “He has
a sixth sense about these things."
He drove me to the airport and booked me for the evening plane. As I sat in the
airport, the full impact of what had happened hit me. I had been rejected for
the way I looked - nothing more. I went to the mirror in the Ladies Room and
peered at my reflection. For the first time, I saw me. I looked at a plain,
middle-aged woman with lines around her eyes from years of laughter and wrinkles
on her forehead from years of worry.
At last, I cried.
I cried tears of frustration that I had been judged for something I could not
help, for something that told no more about my writing ability than an orange
peel tells how sweet the fruit will taste.
I was very quiet on the trip home. I did not talk to my fellow passengers for
fear I would repel them. I drove home from the airport and opened the door of my
house. I was warmed by the sight and smell of so much that was familiar to me. I
felt once again that I belonged somewhere, that I had a place to love and be
I wasted no more tears on the things about me that I could not change. Instead,
I thought of that man and all the people like him in this world who base their
judgments on the color of someone's skin or the curl of his hair. How futile it
must seem to build your hopes on foundations as fragile as a passing fad, as
evanescent as a rainbow. As I stood in the welcome comfort of my own solid
world, again I saw that nervous, pacing man, and I cried once more.
But this time, I cried for him.
Beauty is all very well at first sight;
But who ever looks at it when it has been in the house three days?
G. B. Shaw