Gina left big shoes to fill. And rather than hire a girl with big shoes, HR hired a big girl.
“Well, Bonnie wasn’t big when they hired her,” a coworker named Cindy explained to me, herself the victim of career-related weight gain, “but she didn’t do her job very well…wasn’t really on top of things, which stressed her out, which made her eat, which, you know, made her fat.”
“How fat?” (I had to ask.)
It was afternoon and the dark circles under Cindy’s eyes were in danger of becoming permanent, but her eyes brightened when I posed the question to her. I could tell she’d be a rich and willing source of company gossip. She even had the gestures to match, and dramatically cupped her hand around her mouth, as though to shield her lips from whomever could see, though the office was mostly empty.
“Thirty pounds,” she whispered loudly.
My jaw dropped.
“Thirty pounds? THIRTY POUNDS? In ONE YEAR? What the hell did she do? Eat one of the accountants?”
“Shhh!” Cindy said in faux panic, as though the old executive assistant was still here, hiding in the vending machines. She nodded slowly and held out her pudgy hands and puffed out her cheeks, “Yes. It was a very dramatic change. She blew up like a balloon.”
A few days later another coworker fleshed Bonnie out further.
“It wasn’t even that she was fat,” said Jane, an athletic Asian girl in marketing whom I quickly befriended at the risk of seeming like a huge lesbian, “She was a bitch. She hated all the girls her age and was only nice to the boys. And on top of that, she like, got dressed in the dark or something. Totally did not know how to work with her…heft. She would wear these like puffy sweaters and jackets that only made things worse for her. And she’d always ask me, ‘Does this make me look fat?’ And I’d say ‘No, no,’ but really be thinking, ‘Hell yeah it does, fatso.’ It was bizarre.”
Bonnie was a UCLA graduate who had apparently interviewed well. My boss expected her to bring the same energy and spunk she had showed during her interview to the job, but a few months into Bonnie’s employment, he felt duped. In addition to being rather piggy – “Bonnie was always eating something at her desk,” Cindy said – she was also lazy, preferring to surf the internet for long bouts rather than run errands or schedule meetings. Important emails went unanswered which led to tiny pockmarks in my boss’s public complexion.
|Perhaps a member of Bonnie’s family.|
I imagined Bonnie to be a rather formidable figure – a nasty girl who abused her power (“Which she absolutely did,” Jane said dryly, “until I verbally bitch-slapped her, and then she at least didn’t give me attitude.”) and sat on her haunches waiting for things to be done for her. She was, after all, the EA for a year, which to me meant my boss put up with her. Had he been afraid of her?
“Oh of course not,” Cindy said, rolling her eyes at my naivete, “Bonnie was terrified of him. But you know, so much of what she does doesn’t really get back to him. She could pawn her incompetence off as someone else’s by saying, ‘Oh well, so and so hasn’t gotten back to me about that, so I don’t know,’ or ‘I told him to do it, but he hasn’t done it yet.’ When really, she was the one who wasn’t doing anything.”
“Bonnie was not so great,” he said one afternoon.
“Someone told me she was fat.”
He looked up from his monitor and I could see the beginnings of a grin, but he pursed his lips and decided to take the high road.
“It was her laziness,” he said, “Laziness is the young person’s death. You can be stupid, but you have to be willing to learn. And if you’re willing to learn, you cannot be lazy.”
I made a mental note to never fall asleep at my desk in front of him.
“I’ve been fat my whole life,” he said, “so last year I decided to change. I started working out. I stopped eating carbs. Stopped drinking wine.”
He looked at me, “You see my schedule, you know how often I have to go out to eat and drink and entertain.”
“I do,” I said, “There are lots of temptations.”
“Exactly. But I did it. I stuck to it. I’m not a lazy person, but you know, when it came to my health, I was for so long. So I decided to stop being lazy, to learn about my health, and I lost sixty pounds.”
Life must have been awful for Bonnie around then. I imagined her waistline, butt and thighs gradually expanding while my boss arduously whittled himself down. He walked past her desk every day, a beacon of hope for all the fatties in the company while Bonnie gained in both mass and resentment. Why should a man nearing middle age be putting her youth to shame? I’m no psychologist, but I’m quite certain that Bonnie, at that time in her life, ate more than ever, teeth and tongue gnashing more viciously out of rage and contempt, both dangerously misdirected outwards towards her situation but were responses to her self.
In the end, my boss lost sixty pounds of fat and to mark the occasion, he decided to cut some fat at the office as well.
“Esther went around tell people that she’d gotten into a prestigious grad school,” Jane said, her face skeptical, “But I think she was fired.”
I attempted to verify this with my boss.
“So Gina was great, but Gina left.”
“Yup.” My boss’s eyes remained on the monitor.
“And Bonnie was not so great.”
“So what happened to Bonnie?”
“It didn’t work out,” he said vaguely.
“Did she…” my voice trailed off, and my boss turned to look at me.
“Don’t worry about it.” he said, “Just remember what I said about laziness.”
I nodded solemnly and made a mental note not to get fat.