When I was a kid, girls were allowed to dream only so big. I mean, I remember distinctly wanting to be a ballerina (ha! FAT chance of that one, but I did take tap and ballet for years), a flutist (again, years of lessons), and about here I kindof stopped. Of course, lots of careers didn’t even exist yet – my son plays videogames for a living (well, he’s a game tester which is much less cool than it sounds) and nobody foresaw that, or all the careers in computers that we now have. My mother had been an elementary school teacher (one of the time honored careers allowed women – you know, teacher, nurse or secretary) and hated it, so she eventually got a job with the County of Los Angeles as a social worker. In those days, you just needed a college degree which my grandparents had insisted she finish even though she’d gotten her Mrs. degree. (Yes, they were prescient as my parents did divorce and she needed to use that degree to get a job.)
There was a time when I wanted to be a teacher, but since it was the career my mother had loathed (I think she loathed children and we all know that’s going to be another post or series of posts), it wasn’t a desire I could easily voice.
As I got older, I thought I wanted to write, but the most I could envision was working at a newspaper, so I spent part of a semester at The Daily 49er, the campus newspaper of Cal State Long Beach. It managed to be both boring and stressful, not a great combination. The writing wasn’t particularly interesting, but the deadlines were merciless.
In high school I had taken a typing class (probably my mother’s idea) which served me well, as I could always eat, and for a number of years, I did just that. I’d dropped out of college after a semester and was doing secretarial work and taking night classes at Long Beach City College. It was there, in a math class, that I met the man who would become my first husband and after a bit of time, I was able to quit my job to finish my degree. I didn’t have a major, so even though I wanted to major in that really practical course of study called Comparative Literature (you know those grads – they’re the ones who ask you if you want foam or no-foam on your lattes), and my husband was insisting I should be a business major (for some reason, that was just anathema to me – perhaps because he was pushing for it hard), so I compromised and majored in economics.
But I didn’t think I wanted to be an economist – I mean, what REALLY was that anyway? – no, somewhere along the line, I set upon the law as a career. I had watched hours and hours of Perry Mason and it seemed like you were either Perry or Della Street, his scrappy super secretary. And since I was in college I figured I was heading over to be Perry. But try telling that to my husband. His attitude was that he’d helped me get my college degree and it was time for me to go out and work. This was the same man who said it had been two weeks since I had given birth, so it was time to go back to work. You see why we’ve been long divorced.
Of course my BA in economics really didn’t prepare me for anything (again, was that a caramel macchiato?) but that ability to type saved me once again, although this time I got a gig as a legal secretary for a small law firm. And then I worked for another lawyer, a man I’ll call Marc (since that was his name).
Now Marc was a mess. Smart, funny, savvy (he was from New Jersey), and even a good lawyer on occasion, he was also lazy, paranoid and had a fondness for cocaine. He was a sharpshooter who kept thousands of dollars in his coffee can at home. He had an, shall we say, “eclectic” practice consisting of suing the local community for dog-bite cases, and defending members of the Vagos Brothers, the local Mexican motorcycle gang. And I had a big crush on him. My marriage was on the rocks and his was a mess and he didn’t know I existed and, well, he was just so dreamy. Plus, because he was lazy, he let me play Perry instead of just being Della. Frankly, it was quite unethical, although when you’re having so much fun doing the research and writing the briefs, you don’t worry your pretty little head over such trifles. You don’t think that what you’re doing has much connection to the people whose case it is. You just don’t think.
And on that note, stay tuned for the next part of this story.