“The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she’s treated”

October 12th, 2012 by Briana Cummings

Tonight I had dinner with a law school classmate and her friend from college, who is now a third-year associate at a big firm in San Francisco. We had barely been at our table for two minutes before she began to talk about her dreams of opening up a flower shop.

“How long have you been at the firm?” I asked.

“Two and a half years.”

“Oh, that’s early to want out. Most of the people I know want to leave after four years or so.”

“Not at my firm. More like one year.”

She had recently spent three months working on a famous case between a Silicon Valley heavyweight and a foreign competitor.

“Oh cool. What did you do for the case?”

“Discovery.”

When I asked what she worked on after that case, she said, “Nothing.” For the next several months she billed one or two hours a day, until the partners told her to take a vacation. “That case destroyed my short term memory. I used to have great short term memory, right up until I worked on that case. Now I can’t remember anything. I have to write down everything someone tells me to do or I forget to do it. When I try to tell someone a current events story I read five minutes earlier, I can’t remember any of the details. I thought once I got off the case, it would start to come back, but it hasn’t. My friends say it won’t come back until I get out of law.”

When we asked her about her planned flower business, she described something very simple — maybe even growing flowers out of her backyard. “I don’t want to get a physical store to begin with. I thought I would start with doing weddings and events, and maybe get a cart and bring it around to farmers’ markets, with a set of arrangements for $10 or $20 — something people could buy as an impulse buy.”

That image of her pushing around a flower cart brought to mind a modern day Eliza Doolittle — except that, in My Fair Lady, the flower girl Eliza Doolittle represents the lowest of the low, the ultimate challenge for Professor Henry Higgins to prove his skill in transforming the most unlearned into models of refinement and class. Tonight the flower girl represented quite the opposite — the idyllic escape from the (quite literally) mind-numbing drudgery of the work of the highly educated elite.

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