The night before my Layoff Arbitration Hearing II (held yesterday in Western Illinois University’s Capitol Room), I tried on a flimsy grey blazer with navy slacks. I went to bed. The next morning, I stepped on some shoes and bags on the bottom of my closet and reached for the sassy black blazer that I keep zipped up in the back. The last time I wore it was to testify before the House Appropriations Committee, Higher Education in the Thompson building in the Chicago Loop.
I hung the blazer on a loop in the bathroom, where there’s a full-length mirror and a heating vent. It is woven from a structured and stiff cotton and the black is very black. If I put it on, it means I’m taking the event very seriously. It feels like armor–testimony armor. It gives me a feeling of power and authority.
My daughter, who almost never comments on anyone’s clothes, saw it hanging in the bathroom and said,
“You’re wearing that?” She knows it means something is at stake.
She went downstairs for breakfast, and I put the blazer on over a pink shell and grey pants.
“Pink?” She was not convinced. Plus, she’s rarely seen me wear pink.
“Yes, because when you are a woman and you wear only black, they will say you are cold and uncaring. Like crooked Hillary. A teacher who is a woman must come across as maternal–even to people who are not her students. If I do not appear at least a little soft, they will say I am not a good teacher.”
Plus, I liked the contrast of the peachy pink with the stark black.
If an outfit could restore my tenured status at WIU, surely this one would do it! But it will take much more than an outfit. Fortunately, the UPI has a knowledgable, meticulous, and formidable attorney who didn’t miss a beat yesterday. And fortunately the UPI has a knowledgable, meticulous, and formidable grievance officer who has covered all his bases.
An IFT representative who has seen many of these hearings told me that judging by the arguments presented, he did not see how the arbitrator could justify not ruling in our favor. Justice is still possible, but I wonder if other, unseen, forces were at work yesterday.
As for how I’m doing, I was up most of the night replaying, in my head, the 3-hour hearing. My throat hurt and body ached–my first winter cold virus. I haven’t slept well in more than a week. And Tom and I have yet to sit down and figure out how to pay our bills. We’ve had two full-time incomes for 10 years. I’ve forgotten how to make due on one. Thrift is a skill that requires practice. I am out of practice.
Anyway, I’m happily taking a manuscript workshop, and the instructor, Ariel Gore, whom I admire as much as any other contemporary novelist, has said she likes my book. I’ll end today’s post on that note of hope.
Thanks for reading!