Jan Lipsky And The Shrinking Shirt

“Just remember, Jan, that men will tell you anything if they think they have a chance to have sex with you.” Martha, Jan’s mother, explained to her as she brushed her hair one night before bed. She continued, “I know you’re young but that’s something you need to understand. It’s also something you can use to your advantage further down the line. Men think with only one head at a time and you’re going to be gorgeous when you’re older so they will only use the one south of the border when they speak to you.”

Jan began to smile and turned to her mother, “Oh no, Mommy, I’m going to marry a prince and live in a big castle one day!”

She kissed her mom, gave her a big hug, and was then tucked into bed.

“I love you, my little princess.”

“I love you too, Mommy.”

Jan went on to do some impressive things in her life. Fueled by the burning desire to prove her mother wrong, since that one conversation, she had to show that a woman can get ahead in life without having to use sexual persuasion or provocative clothing in order to do so.

She even got the acronym “M.E.N.” tattooed on her inner left arm as a reminder that she, herself, would make it to the top based on her intelligence and not her model-esque physique.

Because of this she made sure to wear loose fitting clothing, wear her hair in unflattering styles, and hardly ever go to the beach in a bikini. She didn’t want a chance encounter to happen because a guy was thinking with the wrong head.

Despite all efforts men are still men so they made their remarkably out of touch sexist comments, promising Jan the life she always wanted. Mercedes, Louboutin, Chanel, and Hamptons – occasionally private jet was thrown in during moments of absolute desperation – were often mentioned in consecutive sentences in an attempt to win her affection.

Sometimes her efforts to dull down her look had an adverse affect, her face was still beautiful so men often wanted to see what she was hiding underneath the loose fitting clothes she put on that morning.

For what it’s worth Jan excelled at everything and she made sure that a man oogling her wasn’t the reason.

In school she did all she could to ensure she had women teachers, her personal trainer was a woman, and she primarily only had friends that were girls.

She dated men but she needed to make sure they were an intellectual match for her and that conversation would primarily be driven by common interests and not what freaky sex stuff turns them on the most. She also vetted their employment history in order to maintain the standing that her current boyfriend did not help her advance in her career.

Even though all efforts were made to preserve the idea of a strong, independent woman who wouldn’t use sex to make her life better, Jan enjoyed sex the way any human being would. She would record herself in order to perfect her craft – if any success in life wasn’t because of her own doing she had to know why and study it meticulously.

Obsessive-perfectionist, some may say.

In her valedictorian speech to her peers at Columbia she told a story about a tree in a hurricane. How the winds often tried to push the tree around so they can flow freely. Continuously pounding it and trying to pull it from the ground and break it’s roots, with the wind declaring victory once it had fallen to the ground. She urged her classmates to be the tree with the toughest roots and strong winds can only be sustained for a short time.

“Eventually the winds move on and fade away while you hold yourself in place because tomorrow’s a brighter day.”

If there was one thing she wanted to drive home to everyone it was that struggles come and go but if you believe in yourself and are a strong person you will prevail.

No one mistook her story for a misanthropic telling of meteorology and knew this was an allegoric reminder to those around her that she would make her fortunes come true.

She also would refer to men as wind-bags, only further solidifying her goal to empower women to use their brains not their body to advance in the world.

Upon leaving school with a degree in applied statistics she entered the world of high-finance and accepted a position at a hedge-fund. She was immediately thrown into a world where any power move you could make and any advantage that was available was executed without prejudice. She learned extremely fast that smart doesn’t mean shit when you’re in the business of money.

Jan was still holding on to her integrity, however she realized how advantageous it is if she wore outfits that were more professional. She would also be told by her female counterparts that if she showed off her body then men in the office would take notice and she could climb up the ranks quicker than anyone else.

She scoffed at that advice and told herself that her intelligence and self-integrity would help her reach the upper-echelons of finance.

She wasn’t entirely wrong, but six months into her stay at the hedge-fund she realized those who showed cleavage or bent over to pick stuff up off the floor got promotions and raises much quicker out of their male superiors.

That didn’t deter her mission.

A year into her tenure she hadn’t got promoted and barely anyone knew her name. She saved the company over two-million dollars when she found a flaw in a macro they had written into Excel that funneled money into a discretionary fund that essentially sat as petty cash in a holding account that drew no interest.

All she got for that find was a quick note from her manager saying “Tx.”

She couldn’t take it anymore so she called home to her mother, the one person she was trying to prove wrong.

“I’m trying. I’m trying so hard. Sometimes I just want to throw in the towel and give up. What am I even fighting for anymore? Why am I minimized for being a woman? I just want them to see me as a contributing member of the team. As someone who brings value to the company and someone who can use her intelligence to take it to a whole new arena. Why must I be subjected to perverted thoughts of men when I bend over to pick something up? Is this what life is about? The perverse notion that a woman should be sexualized in all situations? That a woman’s worth is based on a carnal desire?”

She paused for a moment and openly wept as her mother hugged her phone imagining the pain her daughter was going through.

Jan continued, “Just once I’d like a person to come up to me and ask how I’m feeling that day. To show me some warmth, a sense of comradery, that we are all pushing for the same goal. To walk out of a room full of men and not have to worry that if I left something behind I wouldn’t have see them scramble to act like they were doing anything else but staring at my ass as I walked away. I just want to be accepted for who I am. I worked too hard to be treated as if I’m a piece of meat dropped into a cage of lions, but every day I feel like I am being pulled down to that level. I need to continue to push forward in my career, however I am being overlooked for covering up my body and not allowing the higher-ups to look down my blouse. Yet on the flip-side of that I will be criticized by my entire office as they claim I “fucked my way to the top” if I even show a little bit of skin. All my hours of work mean, and will continue to mean, nothing no matter what route I take. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe my mission is all for naught. Maybe the wind has finally won.”

Jan and her mother talked for another hour about life in general, often times the fateful conversation they had that one night would be brought up and Jan would declare a restored faith in her mission. They hung up the phone and Jan felt a small sense of relief in her chest, a renewed sense of passion.

Feeling validated, Jan got up, threw on some workout clothes and decided to go for a run. At the end of her workout she opened up the jacket she was wearing to reveal a tight fitting shirt that hugged her body. As she walked toward her building she was brimming from ear-to-ear and began to jog up the steps to the front-door of the brownstone she lived in. Accidentally her keys fell out of her pocket.

“Here you go.” A man’s voice said.

Jan reached for the keys with a smile, “thank you!”

Jan’s guard was completely down, she was wearing a shirt that was too small for her liking – a shirt she kept as a reminder to stay true to herself and one she wore when she worked out because it was always covered – and she found herself not caring if this man was checking her out.

“I feel like I know you,” the man said.

“I wish I could claim that I did something worthwhile that you would know of.” Jan said with a flirtatious chuckle.

The man’s face lit up as he remembered where he knew her from. “Tomorrow’s a brighter day.”

“Excuse me?” Jan said.

“That’s what you said to end your speech at Columbia.” The man was smiling as he reminisced on those words. “That speech really got me through some tough times. Thank you so much!”

“Wow. I can’t believe it had that much of an impact on you. I can’t tell you how much that means to me.” Jan replied.

“You can’t believe how much it still means to me.” The man said with a tear in his eye.

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