Chapter 2: Shanelle (The Traditional One)
Shanelle quietly ate her spinach and egg white omelet with three women that she just met. Conversation was slow. Vic was the most open with everyone and asked the most questions of everyone. It was good to have someone be the conversation starter. Shanelle rarely acted as conversation starter.
“Shanelle, what do you do?” Vic asked.
Shanelle automatically gritted her teeth with the thought of her job. She had hoped this weekend would be a break from the city and the bro culture of her work environment. Everyday at work she was surrounded by men; specifically white men with healthy trust funds. Her days consisted of “that’s what she said” jokes and stories about Thirsty Thursdays that ushered in wild weekends of being wasted. Shanelle desperately needed female energy.
“I’m a copywriter for a content management company,” Shanelle replied.
“Whoa, your face changed when I asked you about that! Hate your job?” Vic asked.
“Well…it’s not exactly a great environment. It’s all men. All white except for a couple of Indian IT guys. Everyday I feel like I’m in a frat house. But I love copywriting.”
“Yea, I get it. I’m a game designer with few women in my industry. They may be nerdy in my industry but they can be pretty misogynist. I’m looking forward to making more female friendships,” Vic said.
“Same here,” Myra piped in. “I work with a ton of women but they are older and have families. They all live in the burbs.”
“I work with all women and I love my work environment, but it has its disadvantages,” Priya added. “There’s no office romance happening in my world.” Priya giggled nervously.
Shanelle laughed and said, “You wouldn't want to date the idiots I work with.”
Vic nodded her head in agreement. Shanelle thought about the gorgeous, sophisticated Indian American woman sitting next to her dating one of her entitled coworkers. Those idiots wouldn’t appreciate her, Shanelle thought to herself.
“I can’t get a date from my industry either,” Myra was saying.
Shanelle liked Myra’s retro quirky style. She wore a vintage barrette shaped like red rimmed sunglasses. She couldn’t imagine such a pretty woman having issues with dating. But Shanelle knew many good looking women who had difficulty dating in New York City. She thought about how thankful she was for her boyfriend, George. Currently he was spending the weekend with his frat brothers in Las Vegas for a bachelor party. Shanelle and George would be attending the wedding in two weeks. There was a quiet resistance to this wedding within her. Weddings always added pressure to the relationships of the attendees. Honestly after seven years, she wasn’t sure how much she wanted to marry George. He was perfect and Shanelle knew that. But there was always something she couldn’t put her finger on about their relationship. It was almost at the tip of her tongue as to why their relationship should not be forever. Anxiously, Shanelle reached to her right ear tugging lightly on her chrysoprase and reclaimed wood earring with cream tassels. They were a new pair of earrings that were the first item she bought in many years without the input of their friends. She never wore jewelry like that before. Everyone in their crowd wore fine jewelry in yellow gold or white gold. Her new purchase made her nervous. Unable to solve anything at the moment, she passed her issues out of her mind to focus on the present situation with these three strangers.
“Are you single?” Myra asked Shanelle. "By the way, your earrings are cute!"
Shanelle gave a sweet smile, “Thanks. I’ve been in a relationship since freshman year of college. It’s been seven years.”
There was surprise on everyone’s faces. Shanelle was used to it. In these days of hookup culture, relationships barely began much less lasted for seven years.
“Wow! I wanted to be that couple in college,” Priya said in awe.
“Well, George is special guy. He's perfect,” Shanelle answered. “I guess I just got lucky.”
After breakfast, all of the attendees were given an hour break before they reconvened for group exercises with their assigned groups. Shanelle decided to go back to her hotel room and text George. In the course of their relationship, they had barely spent time apart. It felt awkward without him telling his friendly jokes that helped her get over her initial shyness in groups. George had a friendly calm demeanor that helped in his career in mergers and acquisitions. He could negotiate any contract despite his young handsome face. He had a strong jaw and the confidence of a 50-year-old playboy. Yet George remained faithful to Shanelle. He did not cheat because he liked life to be uncomplicated. Shanelle loved that about him. Her childhood had been full of complications but with George her life path seemed so clear. He supported her dream to be a copywriter instead of getting a law degree as she had originally planned in undergrad. Many of their friends thought copywriting was “too artsy.” She had the lowest salary in her group of friends and often felt like the butt of jokes told when she was out of earshot. But George always supported her decision. “It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you’re happy, I'm happy. And besides, I make enough for both of us,” he had stated multiple times.
Reaching her phone she saw that he had already texted her: “We just landed and its still pretty early. I think we will get breakfast. How is the retreat?”
Shanelle: “We just had breakfast and I will be heading to the first group activity.”
George: “Enjoy! :)”
That was generally how their conversations went. Shanelle leaned back on the bed. There it was again; right on the tip of her tongue. But she could not find the words to explain her feelings. She looked towards the bed claimed by her friend, Janae. Her friend had told her about the retreat and asked if she would like to share a room with her. Janae had been a friend since college like all of Shanelle and George’s friends in New York. She was not a close connection but Shanelle trusted her judgement that this retreat would be fun. Besides like Janae had explained, Shanelle needed something to do while George was away.