Odd Girl Roar - chapter one

When I called the mayor a "cockwomble", it didn't go down well.

In my defence, he deserved it, but a lowly graphic designer for Invercargill City Council was never going to come out of an altercation with the mayor without being forced to eat excessive amounts of humble pie, no matter what shaky ethical ground His Worship stood on.

I know what you're thinking. How could someone drop a verbal bomb that was at once on the limp-wristed side of offensive and able to collect an embarrassing amount of collateral damage in its blast radius?

Here's how.

It was Superhero Day at the library. The library often had theme days aimed at engaging kids. You know, promote literacy and all that good virtuous stuff, and because I designed all the library promotional material, I got an ‘invite’. The execs euphemistically called them "team events" because an invitation did not, in fact, offer an attendance choice. All in all, they're pretty generous with throwing out emotive rhetoric, like calling us "the council family", because it made you want to do your job for much less than the private sector would pay.

So here I was. Dancing to the tune of the council panpipes.

I hadn't gone for a full costume because I don't like the pressure of having to act a part. I'm also not partial to embarrassing myself or drawing too much attention or having to, I don't know, actually get involved. So my outfit choice for today was a T-shirt I designed myself from my Empowered Collection.

However, when I saw the average age of the children at this particular event was eight – old enough to read my shirt but not understand it – I realised that maybe it would have been better to have feigned forgetfulness of the dress to theme memo and come in a plain T-shirt.

I hid behind a shelf of books and watched the mayor read a superhero themed story to a couple of dozen kids at his feet with all the enthusiasm of a post-Botox-party eyebrow.

Mayor McManus only visited the libraries before an election to help his street cred, which despite being rather obvious, seemed to work. He'd been re-elected three times.

Anyway, at the end of the morning's "super" events, the staff shuffled off to a special morning tea in the library's meeting room. The mayor walked in, gave a short thank you speech, and when he'd finished and the hubbub of cross-coffee talk started up, he homed in on the only other male in the room. Rashid, the newish children's collection manager, who was dressed as Black Panther.

The mayor gave him an Oh, a male librarian. How novel look,
then slapped him on the back and said, "Good for you," which was reasonably patronising in itself, but the added, "Taking one for the team," really got the emasculation message across.

I caught Rashid's eye and gave him a sympathetic smile.

He widened his eyes as if to say, Shoot me now.

Rashid was well over six feet, the mayor well under, but Rashid leant against the back of a chair, so they were pretty much eye-to-eye. The mayor adopted a wide-legged stance and laid a hand on Rashid's shoulder as he talked to him. The body language said, I am your buddy and the type of man who connects to people in a 'grass roots' kind of way. But you need to know I am still the dominant male.

Rashid played his part, smiling and nodding and answering questions, and then as the mayor exhausted his male-librarian-inquisitiveness, he looked across the room and spotted me hovering by the Madeira cake.

My T-shirt had a plus-size female superhero on it. Her speech bubble read Anything you can do, I can do bleeding. And the mayor didn't even take the trouble to lower his voice because he thought a) the person nearest to him, being male, would agree with him, and b) his brand of witticism wasn't offensive, and he rolled his eyes and said, "Vagina worship. Worst bah-loody thing to come out of the 70s. Apart from The Carpenters."

And I had that thing, where I turned Hulk-like and transformed into an angry, indignant person. Well, okay, more of an angry, indignant person than I already was and with much less self-control. And while I was in the green, ripped-clothes stage, I marched over to him, pointed my finger at his chest and said, "We've been subject to the Cult of the Cock for millennia, so deal with it." And the thing was, because his hairline had receded to halfway across his skull, and his very high forehead was shiny and, thanks to my outburst, a little red and veiny, he looked a bit penis-like, so I added, "You cockwomble," and stormed off to immediately regret my actions.