First rule of business: Cover your ass

A lesson in how to NOT take yourself too seriously

This column from October 2015 won the silver at the BC and Yukon annual newspaper awards in 2016.


In the past week I’ve had two occasions to contemplate the female posterior.

Okay. Let’s just call a spade a spade and an ass an ass.

We can use the word “ass” in the local newspaper. It’s in the Bible and if it’s in the Bible it’s okay. That’s right isn’t it?

As a wholly unrelated aside we can also use the word spade. Years ago I severely reprimanded a reporter for using “call a spade a spade” in an obituary story about a local politician. It presented as a racial slur. Further digging, however, revealed while the phrase may have adopted dark undertones in the past hundred years, it is actually derived from the early Greek “to call a fig a fig and a trough a trough.”

(My apologies if that’s too much etymology for a reader who might only have been lured in by the word ass.)

On the weekend I received a text from my thoroughly frustrated daughter in Ontario.

She is on the eve of a work placement as part of her post-graduate studies and was recently told that if she intends to wear form fitting pants on the job, she also has to wear a long sweater to cover her posterior…er…her ass.

There is a lot for a feminist to get her eyeteeth into over that kind of instruction.

Suffice to say this: The woman in question is 21 years old. She holds an honors degree in linguistics. She is brilliant, talented, tender hearted and truly wants to make a difference in the world through her chosen career.

All her anxieties about job performance, self-worth and future goals have effectively been crystalized into concern about what her ass looks like in a form fitting pair of pants.

That just hurts.

It touches that fear many women share that it doesn’t really matter who she is, what she has accomplished, and what she might have to contribute.

The real question is: What was she wearing?

Been there, done that, got the form fitting t-shirt.

Senior editor to newsroom intern: It would be easier for people to take you seriously if you didn’t wear mini skirts.

Thought in intern’s head: It would be easier for people to take you seriously if you weren’t an ass.

That said, it’s been several years since I’ve given much thought to how appearance, or attire, would be judged at any given event.

Bless the universe for its sense of humor and timing.

Last Friday I was fortunate to be invited to a meeting of publishers from our region, an opportunity to share newspaper ideas and discuss the general state of business.

The conference took place in Kelowna and I wakened early for a 5:30 am departure time. Coffee, shower, and I pulled a long-skirted suit out of the closet that hadn’t seen daylight in over a year. Two minutes with a curling iron, a bit of lip gloss, and out the door feeling reasonably confident.

Purposefully, I arrived early. It was my first meeting within the company and it was important to make a good impression on colleagues I’d never met.

Once at the hotel there was a quick visit to the washroom. Turning for a final inspection in the full-length mirror I was horror struck to realize the back slit of my otherwise very professional skirt was ripped – all the way along the seam from mid-calf to the approximate location of my tailbone.

It was a wardrobe malfunction of enormous proportions – words chosen carefully – that left nothing to the imagination.

In what can only be described as a panic I texted several girlfriends in quick succession and got back the most useless suggestions.

Go to the conference room, sit down and don’t get up for the whole day.

Go to Wal-Mart, try not to get arrested, and buy a new skirt.

Go out to your car, don’t you have any clothes in your car?

Just leave. Skip the meeting and go home.

Eventually a sympathetic hotel attendant located a sewing kit from the front desk. I reclined in a corner of the washroom – which by that time resembled Grand Central Station, – half naked, stitching together my skirt and reflecting mournfully on that good impression I so wanted to make.

Yes the universe has humor, timing, and a sense or irony.

If only someone had thought to tell me to wear a long sweater with a form fitting skirt, it would have been so much easier to cover my ass.