I used to be the lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of Utah. Yes, that is correct, I used to get paid to talk about sex with the Utah Legislature. It was a lovely job that most people think is a bit like sucking on lemons with no sugar on them. For me it was like a luscious orange, sweet and juicy, the most rewarding job I have ever had.
Of course I haven’t done it for six years and so naturally hindsight is making it seem much more delightful that it inevitably was. To tell the truth it was hard. It was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life. There were so many emotions to navigate, so many personalities to negotiate, it was like that picture from the haunted house in Disneyland where the girl has her pretty dress and her parasol and as the picture reveals itself she is on a tightrope and there is an alligator underneath her with his mouth gaping wide open waiting for her to fall in.
What I wore to work became an obsession. I am a very tall woman, with very big boobs and curves that go on for days and days. Long feet with even longer legs.
I had a presence about me that was a bit like an uncontrolled forest fire.
Oodles of passion, passion for days and days and days with very little control over my emotions. I was in my 30’s. This was my first real adult job. I wanted to be taken very seriously, I wanted to not be taken seriously at all.
I wanted to FEEL fancy and glamorous.
I wanted everyone in Utah to THINK I was fancy and glamorous. I wanted ultimate power and control and what I wore became entirely reflective of that notion.
What I wore wasn’t just about my clothes. I mean sure, the clothes were super important. I needed office clothes, legislature clothes, casual Friday clothes, and I needed clothes to wear to the bar and out to dinner. Everyone knew who I was. I was on TV and in the papers at least once a month. Three entire pages of my CV are dedicated to my media appearances. I had a personal shopper at Nordstrom and a gay shoe boy at Nordstrom. I had Memorie the hair goddess who was in a punk rock band and sang a song called “Fucking Tourette’s”. I had a Mac drag queen and a car guy. I had a realtor and a coffee man. What I wore wasn’t just about my clothes, it was about my everything.
The Utah Legislature was a unique political body that only worked part time. The legislative session would run for 45 days in the dead of winter. January-March I was up on the hill every single day. There was snow, there was sludge, there was mind and finger numbing cold and every lobbyist on that hill was a damn fashion plate. I had to fit in and at the same time I had to stick out. I had to wear the right amount of sassy with the right amount of demure. I drove a white jeep with a sticker on the back of it that said “Hummer escape pod”. When parking was scarce and spots had been taken up by giant mounds of snow that had been shoveled off the road I would park on top of those hills then climb down them in my high heeled boots and fishnet tights, hoping upon hope I would not fall on my face or rip a hole in my skirt/shoes/pantyhose/coat.
On days I was ready to go to war my cleavage would come out. Those days were set aside especially to kill nasty abortion bans and bills that eviscerated women’s rights.
On those days just enough cleavage would be exposed, a subtle hint off the top, like a nice wine bouquet.
The amount of skin was meant to confuse and leave people wondering if they had seen what they thought they had. High heels with enough leverage that most of the men on the hill would have no choice but to look straight down into my heaving bosom, which most of them did. This was a pain in the ass in the snow. It was slushy and wet the entire 45 days of the session. Feet would get wet, sensible shoes weren’t an option in this lobbyist fashion show.
Obviously what I wore was entirely intentional; it always got me what I wanted no matter which gender I was talking to. My former boss called my cleavage my “power”. The lobbyists knew when the shirts that showed the boobs came out to step aside; Missy was on the warpath, long legs ready for battle. I became legendary, Adriana (name changed to protect the innocent) who was an expert professional lobbyist became my arch fashion enemy. I was so jealous of her it was petty and childish, total elementary school insanity. Every day I would try to outdo her glamor. We would circle each other like lions around a kill, where did you get that bag? Is that Prada? YSL? Oh I see you went with Kate Spade this year, going for a more conservative look? Fortunately we both respected each other immensely as professionals, our shared love of fashion broke down barriers between us so that with her conservative colleagues I became respected and liked, in turn they would do my work with legislators that I couldn’t access.
What I wore on the hill was my success. My nice house and my nice car. My nice clothes with my nice shoes and my expensive hair. I passed laws and killed even more. What I wore was me.