I was psyched! They decided that they would get me to work writing European grant proposals and that seemed like a sober and worthy enough occupation for me. I didn't last long.
My problem wasn't so much the grant proposals nor yet the need to become acquainted with the ins and outs, fol-de-rols and regulations of the various EC bodies which awarded grants. Like any other graduate trainee, in between making fabulous cups of tea, doing the sandwich run, answering the telephone and wrestling the photocopier, I became known for writing a mean report and a savant-style proposal. None of that was the problem. The problem was that my director thought I was a scruffbag.
I came in everyday in pressed suits, ironed blouses and polished shoes knowing that this was the norm for the young professional (sic). I am a clean individual and would never dream of leaving the house of a morning without having first showered and washed my hair etc. etc. If I ever had to go off-site, I put on a special effort with my appearance although the main thing was being prepared and able to feign intelligent input. I was hardly Sir Les Patterson. This was not enough.
"My dear," the director said to me, having called me in for a meeting, "I do not like the length of your hair. It is neither long enough to be tied back nor short enough to be let down. Deal with it."
I dealt with it. At great expense I went and consulted with a hairdresser and my chin-length hair became rather shorter. I sat up at nights and took Mousse 101 and invested in a hotbrush in an effort to tame the wild bush which my hair can become. I would not be defeated.
"My dear," the director said to me, having called me in for a second meeting, "I must insist that you wear make-up and make-up that is obvious to the casual onlooker. Deal with it."
I dealt with it. At great expense I hit the make up counter and attempted to get a 'professional' there to teach me how to avoid both the Kabuki or fetishistic transvestite look which tends to result whenever I'm presented with sticks of pigmented lanolin or cakes of mineralised talc. I would not be defeated.
"My dear, " the director said to me upon the third special meeting, the one which paid for all, "I must compliment you upon your coiffeure, your application of cosmetics, the three new outfits with matching high-heeled shoes which I approved and possibly even the weight-loss which you are undergoing as a result of no longer being able to afford to eat, but I must insist that..."
Since there was never going to be an end to it and I could not afford cosmetic surgery, I quit. I found another situation rapidly enough and the first question I asked the interviewer there was what the dress-code was. She laughed and I knew that I'd come home...