Step 1: Talk About Footie
“I’m sorry… What’s a ‘tit check trap’?” Caitlin asks mortified, and Thea throws her a side glance, momentarily distracted from fixing her lipstick in the giant mirror in the shop she’s dragged Caitlin to.
“Cai, my love, if your brontosaurus is at least a bit alive down there, he’ll check your tits. And we need to make sure he does. In the dress we will buy for you, he better have a good look. But men are easily distracted. Especially by other parts…” Thea gestures all over Caitlin. “You need to help him focus.”
Caitlin is not feeling OK.
This is the fifth shop they are in. She is tired, thirsty, and doesn’t understand the criteria Thea applies to the dresses Caitlin has been forced to try.
“Think strategy, love,” Thea continues her lecturing, hangers clanking on a metal rod, dress after dress being rejected. “Everything on you will have to serve a purpose. You need a dress that brings up your best, but leaves enough mystery. But not enough for him to have to think to suss out what’s there, because men don’t want to make an effort.”
Caitlin groans. Besides how alarming Thea’s chauvinistic statements are, Caitlin properly doesn’t want to do any more shopping. Her everyday outfit consists of wide trousers, a jumper, sometimes a jacket, comfy flats. A bit of À Bout de Souffle, a bit androgynous, and very, very practical. She is short and skinny, and her ginger hair is impossible to style, and her feminist views are too well-organised in her noggin to want to spend more than half an hour in the morning to make herself presentable for male gaze.
“I think I found the perfect one,” Thea announces cheerfully, and all Caitlin can do is frantically shake her head.
“That’s too much, Thea! And the back is bare! I work at a university!”
“Perfect!” Thea beckons the shop assistant, who’s mincing to them. A pair of shoes is offered, which Thea rejects in disdain. Apparently, buying shoes in a clothing shop is like ‘buying sushi in a grocery shop.’ Caitlin is stuffed into a dressing room – to her horror – in the company of a push-up bra. Her weak protests are ignored.
The dress is midi length, dark blue, and as narrow as Caitlin’s understanding of what’s proper to wear to her boring professorial job. She has a nice backside, for her age especially, and long skinny pins, but she is pretty sure they haven’t been on that much display since her swimming Nationals twenty years ago.
Caitlin takes a deep breath in – not out of nervousness, but out of necessity – and weasels into the dress. Two activities immediately become problematic: the aforementioned breathing, and walking. The skirt is so narrow, she’d have to walk as a Song dynasty girl. Meaning she’d have to be carried around.
Caitlin clumsily falls out of the dressing room, and a choir of fake admiring voices greets her. She’s familiar with the procedure, that’s the fifth shop they are in. The employees flock towards her, because that’s five hundred quid tightly clinging to her skin, and the saccharine smiling boys and girls start serenading her. Caitlin throws a look at Thea, and for the first time there’s no disgust written on her face. Caitlin decides this has to do.
She’s paying, wondering what she’s going to do with this dress after she hopefully seduces her brontosaur, and then the torture continues. Apparently, her only good pair – black Jimmy Choo’s with a little flirty bow, only couple years old – are no good, and Caitlin gets subjected to more of her trying and Thea cringing. Caitlin’s cousin has a wedding in two months, that’s her only consolation.
They leave the shop number eleven with a box with Louboutin navy suede stilettos, and that’s when Caitlin decides she’s reached her limit. And her credit card as well.
Caitlin decides that the operation “Brontosaurus Roar” has to start on a Tuesday. She teaches Monday, Wednesday, Friday, so this way she has less chance to run into her students. She’s sneaking into her office, the box with the shoes in a large sports bag, her dress hidden under a large baggy cardigan. She’s still endlessly uncomfortable, she is forced to make small steps, and she hates every second of it.
She finally rushes into her office and locks the door behind her. She wiggles out of the cardigan, put on the shoes, and picks up her stylish clutch. It was bought last year, and she hissed at Thea like a vampire at a garlic toast when she suggested a new one.
Caitlin’s stuffing her lipstick and mobile in the bag – it needs to look like she’s actually using it – when a knock comes to her door. She freezes, probably looking like a startled squirrel.
“Dr. McGrath, are you there?” That’s one of her students, Billy. Horrible grammar, but overall a rather decent paper on La Chanson de Roland last term. Caitlin is holding her breath, one cursed Louboutin dangling on her finger by the ankle strap.
Billy eventually leaves, and Caitlin falls in her chair. What is she doing?! She is out of her depth and on a frying pan. She has half a mind – perhaps, even 67% – to abandon mission “Brontosaurus Roar” but then a distinct memory of Dr. Oakes’ white toothed grin sneaks into her noggin. There’s still a surprising amount of ebony in his beard, although his mane is almost exclusively silver, and the teeth were white and even…
…and Caitlin takes a sharp breath in and rises to the occasion and onto her stilts.
The last element is the aforementioned Tit Check Trap, from now on known as TCT. It is a necklace, the bottom part of which consists of a long chain, disappearing in a chick’s cleavage, consequently directing the male gazer’s attention to where the ‘gazee’ needs it.
TCT also has the emergency mode. In case of lack of interest, pull the chain. In a slow sensual motion, the chain is to be pulled out, to uncover a pearl dangling at the bottom.
With all the elements in place, Dr. McGrath ventures on an adventure. She needs to cross a hall, take the lift, travel two floors up, and cross another small lounge room. It is fifteen minutes into a typical lecture time, so even those who were late because of a queue in Starbucks should already be in auditoriums. All clear, all clear!
The trip to the lift is fast and furious. She canters through the hall, and smashes her hand into the button. If before she thought the lift was slow, now she wonders if its surname is Van Winkle. She’s shifting between her already aching feet, each creak and rustle making her think everyone she knows in uni is coming. The lift arrives, and the doors open. It’s empty, and she’s once again banging at a button.
At his floor there’s some noise, but the doors open, and Caitlin panics. And presses her back into the wall. She is so small that though the doors open, and the two students laughing loudly in the lounge throw a look inside it, they don’t see her. The doors close, and she exhales in relief. And then the doors open again, and she prepares to exchange molecules with the wall again, but the lounge is empty.
She sprints across it, and here she is, in front of his office.
His secretary is off on Tuesdays by the way – Caitlin checked the Faculty website – and she walks through the parlour.
She’s been in this office a lot before, she was in friendly relationship with Dr. Oakes’ predecessor. Of course, not as friendly as she’s hoping to have with Dr. Oakes.
She stops for a second, gathering her wits. She quickly smoothes the dress, pats her head, making sure the hair is more or less still in a loose bun Thea instructed her to produce, and she checks the TCT one last time. Everything seems in order, and…
The story will continue in Chapter 2. Step 1: Talk About Footie (Execution Stage)