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Which side is real? Painting by Julie Seyler


I received an e-mail the other day from an attorney. He had been opposing counsel in a case that we had settled about three years ago. His reply was in response to a message I had left on his voicemail concerning a completely new matter. We hadn’t spoken in the three years since the other case closed, but his e-mail said, in part: “How can I forget those yellow smoking hot pants!!!” “The sexiest … attorney at … ”

The hot pants were a pair of jeans, not “hot pants”. As background, during the long negotiations we had had a meeting at a crowded business function. The day we met I happened to be wearing jeans that were yellow colored. Amongst a sea of navy suits, pastel yellow stands out and we had joked about it. Anyway when I received the email I was a bit shocked, but not outraged. Really we had laughed about those yellow colored jeans. But, what made me not cast the email banter aside was a conversation I had had with my colleague, “Q.” He led me to see the vignette from an entirely different point of view.

When I told “Q” the anecdote, his first question was, “What did you say on the voice mail?”

“Nothing. My message simply said, ‘Hi, it’s Julie, remember with the yellow pants?'”

“Q” rolled his eyes and shook his head, “You made the first move.”

Huh??? I did not see myself as being at all provocative, but I listened. “Q” was giving me insight into the male psyche. He was helping me to “see” how men “see,” confirming the over-used adage that men are from Mars, and women from Venus. He was telling me that my use of the innocent phrase, “yellow pants,” could be interpreted as alluring; flirtatious. I would love to know what other men and women think, because my boyfriend, Steve, absolutely agreed with “Q”, whereas a female colleague’s eyes popped out in horror when I told her the story. Her immediate reaction was “How dare he!”

And that’s why this thumbnail sketch of male/female interaction is so intriguing. “Q”’s perception, and Steve’s concurrence certainly made me question whether I had (un)consciously sought an acknowledgment as to how I looked. It also led me to wonder whether men read very well, the little movements we make to (not) attract attention. Is it possible that they see right through us? Are women more naive than we like to believe?

And as for my reaction to the comment from the attorney about those “hot smoking pants?” It’s a snapshot of time travel.  In the ’70s when I was in my teens and a rampant and ardent worshiper of Gloria Steinem, I probably would have taken umbrage. Today, at 57, I am embarrassed to admit that what actually entered my mind when I received that e-mail was: “Would he still think that I was “sexy” three years later?” Geez how shallow and vain can you get?