The first time Alice encountered Muriel’s online presence, she stood out as the most interesting-looking person in a group photo posted by a woman Alice used to work with. Muriel Brazil wore blue thick-rimmed glasses, her hair up in a yoga headband, her red dress short, with yellow tights, and she wore gray Converse high-tops that avowed a bouncy personality. Alice clicked over to her page, which was private, so she sent a friend request that was accepted minutes later. Muriel Brazil was someone who got Facebook notifications and responded to them, not like her own friends and family. Alice didn’t know if she’d ever get to meet Muriel Brazil, but from then on the spirited woman with the blue glasses was a bright presence in her daily feed. And when she saw Muriel had posted about some great new band, or a fundraiser for kids who needed coats, or passed along a photo of a missing dog—Alice would click over to Muriel’s page to see what exciting things had happened the weekend before. Muriel posted photos of herself with fun people, at the symphony, or at the roller derby. She ate exquisite platters of sushi, she flew kites, she frequented a trademarked aerobics class where a dance studio filled with women who shouted and punched at the air. Alice quickly developed a deep nonsexual crush on Muriel Brazil, and her truest private desire was that she wanted to be her. So that when she saw the job ad that Muriel had posted a link to, Alice intuited that Muriel Brazil already worked at Squidgy Inc, and if she could get that job the two might fast become friends.
In her post Muriel had written, “Squidgy is a great company to work for!” Alice clicked over to their website and she saw that it was. They had a casual dress code, a Ping-Pong table, free organic snacks, parking spaces with chargers for electric cars, and it was a block away from Whole Foods. The guys who started squidgy had been college roommates and unless the photos were old, they could still pass for students—one the computer whiz, the other the graphic designer. They put themselves together and they were Squidgy Creative Tech Solutions. Every picture of everyone who worked there oozed cool and there was no doubt Alice would apply, though she was anxious they’d see through her. She could never really be that amazing, could never even fake it. What she needed was to write good copy, and then maybe her work would stand for itself.
In addition to her resume, they wanted her to write a three-hundred-word description of herself as well as a three-hundred-word advertisement for “art.” It was a writing job and she knew this was some kind of mind-trick, something Google might use to distinguish the true innovators. Most of the jobs on the “We’re hiring!” page were for coders or IT personnel, but the one Muriel had linked to was a writing job; they wanted a “creative.” She wasn’t asked to take a Myers Briggs or one of the other dumb personality tests the big companies asked for. No, they wanted her to write an ad for “art.”
The three hundred words about herself was easy. She spent twenty minutes on Muriel Brazil’s Facebook page and wrote about herself as if she were Muriel minus the blue glasses. But when it came to writing about “art,” she was stumped. Then Alice did what anyone would do. She Googled “art,” and flipped through page after page of paintings and painters, which seemed a pretty limited way of perceiving “art.” She understood that what Google had found was merely a reflection of how most of us thought. When we heard the word, we tended to think of painters, and Alice realized that “art” could also be a man’s name, and so she wrote about a guy named Art, and she wrote about him as if she were writing his dating profile, and she gave him the qualities of “art” in the abstract. He was colorful, truthful, high-minded, and priceless, like if Muriel Brazil had a rich older cousin. They made a good pair, Muriel and Art, she decided, and Art could take care of Muriel like no one else. When she’d gone over her application enough to be sure there weren’t typos, she emailed it before she could second-guess herself and change her mind.
Squidgy Inc. also had a Facebook page where not much ever happened, and she really loved the logo with the smiling purple cartoon squid who held a fountain pen, and she would check back a few times a day, not expecting to see any new hires, but hoping to gain insight for some clue or connection that never came. She’d almost given up hoping when three weeks later she got a phone call, and they asked her to come in for an interview. She was elated and terrified. What would she wear? Was it too late to get a tattoo? A tattoo of what? For sure they would think she was boring and plain. Because she was, and they’d soon enough know it too.
Once she had the job interview scheduled, she all but forgot about Muriel Brazil. She actually believed her description of herself was based on herself, if exaggerated, and she came to want the job more than anything, because it really was a great place to work and Squidgy might change her life permanently for the better. At her current job, people often called Alice “Alex,” who was the skinny intern with the straightest most perfect blonde hair and was hired through the business sorority. Alice decided people made the slip because Alex was who they’d much rather be talking to, and no one at her current job could ever imagine Alice anywhere better.