I remember, many moons ago, being a young cub reporter and standing in awe of the tough broads who chain-smoked at their desks and cussed like drunken sailors when the occasion demanded it -- like when an editor changed their prose. Those don't-mess-with-me women reporters pushed themselves into the nation's male-dominated newsrooms and paved the way for younger women like me to pass through the glass ceiling without drawing blood from its jagged edges.
Those women taught me not just how to report out a story and write it so people would want to read to the end, they also taught me how to get along in an office where you are the different one, the late-comer to the party. They taught me by example how to juggle family and work, which to put first, and that I didn't need to play the Hollywood casting couch game to get ahead. They taught me how not to let anyone patronize me, and that while not every battle is worth fighting, some most certainly are. When a Monmouth County NJ judge ordered me from his courtroom because I "disrespectfully" wore pants instead of a skirt to cover a case before him, they all joined me in the front row the next day in solidarity -- and in pants, of course.
Yes, that all feels like ancient history now. But still, decades later, I find myself thinking back to those days. I work in an multi-generational office here at the Huffington Post, Beverly Hills, where I am guessing that I'm the oldest woman in the newsroom, possibly the building, possibly in all of Beverly Hills -- or so it seems some days.
What makes it interesting though is that I once again feel like the cub in the room. While my colleagues can, and often do, seek out my help or advice on a story, far more frequently it's me turning to them with questions about how to use the technology that now drives the news business.
They are an inclusive bunch, these young women with whom I work. They make a point of inviting me to the bi-monthly hip-hop class and they all rushed to my aid and effectively pulled off a makeover miracle when a TV crew came to film me in the office for an upcoming HGTV show.
But there are differences, of course. None of my younger colleagues is yet a parent. I suspect that the idea of having children is on their to-do lists for later, once their careers have gotten traction. When my daughter calls from the school bus at 3 p.m. each day and they hear me coo softly into the phone to her, I sometimes wonder: Does it set off their biological alarm clock bells the way it always did mine when I was a cub when the older women got those 3 p.m. calls?
And then of course there is the thermostat. Now, I've already established that I'm a woman of a certain age, right? That means that for the past half-dozen years, my body temperature probably runs a few degrees higher than that of my younger colleagues. My desk is right next to the thermostat that controls the temperature for this half the newsroom and when I come to work in the morning, I flip that sucker down to full-force Arctic air-conditioning levels. A few hours later, after donning sweaters, scarves and jackets, one of my colleagues invariably will approach -- her lips blue and her teeth chattering -- and ask if she can turn the heat on. It is winter, after all.
In my hormonally challenged brain, I replay the scene in the 1991 movie, "Fried Green Tomatoes," where Kathy Bates' character, Evelyn Couch, is cut off in a parking lot by a car full of young girls. As the dialogue goes:
Evelyn Couch: Hey! I was waiting for that spot!
Girl #1: Face it, lady, we're younger and faster!
[Evelyn rear-ends the other car six times]
Girl #1: What are you *doing*?
Girl #2: Are you *crazy*?
Evelyn Couch: Face it, girls, I'm older and I have more insurance.
I might have to ask that we watch it together, next hip-hop class.