Friday, June 4, 2010

Citibank Fires Aphrodite. Aphrodite Sues.

Here's some advice that most men know all too well. Unless you are some kind of a professional stylist, never, ever tell a woman how to dress.

When your date or your girlfriend or your wife dresses up for a special occasion-- make that, for any occasion-- your job is to lavish her with all the praise you can muster. No matter what you think. No matter how she looks.

Even male therapists know this, often from having learned the hard way. A woman will happily accept that she has an Oedipus complex or an Electra complex, or, more recently, a Phaedra complex, but if her male therapist should ever hint, suggest, or intimate that her appearance is in any way strange or bizarre or off-putting, he will learn more than he wants to know about the old line: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Women work very hard on their appearance. And since their dress codes are not dictated by uniforms, they have to work harder at it than men. Your appearance is your public face; you can control it; and you want it to present yourself at your best. Women usually have a very good idea of what makes them look best, whether it is most attractive on a date or most professional on the job.

If they do not, an army of makeover specialists, to say nothing of best friends, is at the ready to help them out.

A man judging a woman's appearance is like Ellen Degeneres judging American Idol. He might be witty and charming, but if he knows as much about women's dress as Ellen knows about music, he should simply sit back and say nice things.

This to introduce the sad story of one Debrahlee Lorenzana, a woman who was recently fired from her job at Citibank for dressing inappropriately. Now, she has also decided to sue the bank because, she charges, her intrinsic and essential sexiness proved too much for the men at the bank to handle.

As a goddess of feminine sensuality, a veritable postmodern Aphrodite, she could not, despite her best efforts, camouflage her true nature to fit Citibank's standards.

The Village Voice has the story and accompanies it with a modelicious slide show that could easily pass for a look book. Link here.

I will mention in passing that my local Citibank branch is but a few short blocks from Lorenzanas. And I will attest that all of the women at my local branch always comply with Citibank's dress code. They all dress professionally, all the time.

When Lorenzana complains to the Village Voice that other women at her branch were wearing low cut blouses and micro-miniskirts, the charge does not ring true to my experience.

Nor does it ring true to the strictly unscientific sampling conducted by the highly estimable site, Dealbreaker. Link here.

The self-selected group that wrote in to Dealbreaker had conducted business in the Citibank branch where Lorenzana had worked. Most of them admit to the fact that her appearance was a distraction-- sometimes for better, sometimes for worse-- and therefore, that it was out of place. In fact, Lorenzana had gained a degree of notoriety for her sensual appearance.

If you read the Village Voice story, much of it emphasizes the extensive discussions that Lorenzana had with her male manager. If said manager felt compelled to have continuing conversations with her about her appearance, surely there was something wrong. And if he, like most men, did not express himself with the skill that a stylist could have mustered, we must, by my lights, accord him some slack.

Explaining to a woman how she should dress does not come easily to most men. As it should not. Most women are perfectly competent at adopting an appropriate professional appearance, so the question does not arise very often in very many offices.

As she tells it, Lorenzana tried everything to cover up her burgeoning sensuality. To no avail. Since all of her efforts failed, that meant that she was simply too hot for their repressive Puritanical culture.

I believe we should add that most women are not especially happy about having one of their professional colleagues dress like a vamp. They might even feel that it distracts from their own professionalism and contributes to a less than harmonious work environment.

In any event, given her manager's difficulty dealing with her appearance, Lorenzana was transferred from the Chrysler Building branch to the Rockefeller Center branch. Perhaps Citibank was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, because it assigned her a female manager.

The result: the female manager fired her after about a month on the job.

Which led Lorenzana to sue.

She is now proposing a multicultural defense. She is a Puerto Rican, and this apparently means that you are so thoroughly sensual that you cannot hide it or dissimulate it.

She insists that she tried. But alas, this postmodern Aphrodite could not even use fashion and stylings to tamp down her effulgent sensuality and render her appearance more fitting for a bank.

Of course, there is more to sensuality than skirt length and cleavage. For all any of us know Lorenzana's demeanor, the way she looked at people, her gestures... might have been giving people the sense that she was there for love and not for work.

Ought a Puerto Rican to adapt to New York banking culture? Of course, she should. As they say: when in Rome do as the Romans.

People come to New York City from all over the world. If everyone insisted in following different dress codes, speaking different languages, and having different table manners, the city and its businesses would quickly descend into a Babel-like anarchy.

Maybe Lorenzana will win her suit. Maybe she will not. The least we can say is that she is sufficiently well adapted to American culture to know that her grievance should be litigated. The sad part of her story is that she does not have much of a future in the professional world.

Perhaps, as Susan Walsh suggests, she is angling for a role on Donald Trump's The Apprentice. True enough, her uncontrollable sensuality seems more fitted to a celebrity culture than to a bank.


Anonymous said...

Here's some advice that most men know all too well. Unless you are some kind of a professional stylist, never, ever tell a woman how to dress.

I stopped reading here 'cuz I knew the story already and that is all there is to be said.


wv: vereadi: In Vineadi Vereadi.

FiKaLo said...

Brilliant. Great article.