I put on a pair of pantyhose twenty years ago.  It was nineteen years before I’d wear another pair.

When my last company was about five years old, I got the call of most entrepreneurs’ dreams. “Laura, we’ve been watching you, and we like what you are doing, and we’d like to know if you’d consider being acquired?” They were going to buy my business, the business into which I’d spent five years pouring myself, the business baby I birthed whilst birthing two actual human babies on the side, the business that I never knew was inside of me but which became no small part of my identity.  Someone saw my success and wanted a piece of it for themselves.

It was heady.  It was ego-stroking.  It was validation that all of those lost nights of sleep and soaring wins were worth it and soul-crushing losses were worth it. I was practically counting my money before I even hung up the phone.

We went through the necessary due diligence, trading lunches, and strategy sessions, and paperwork and all the usual courtship rigamarole.  At last, it was time for The Meeting — consummation: Show me the money.

I got all dolled up in my professional finery, navy blue suit, power pumps, pantyhose. I can still remember flipping through the sizes in the department store with one hand whilst wrangling a toddler and a preschooler with the other, trying to decipher that periodic table on the back to discern exactly where my post-baby booty now landed.  But there I was, walking into the building — fapitzed, as my nana would say in her yiddish — like a real actual grown-up business lady. Dare I say, there might have even been a strut in my step.

I was ushered up to the office of the CEO, a kind-faced, older gentleman named David.  And as I sat, listening to him regale me with his delight that they were to acquire my business, I looked around the office and at the many photos he had of himself with politicians — Presidents, Senators, Congressmen, all men, all Republicans — and the many stuffed elephants he had tucked next to them, presumably gifts from those inside of the frames for favors and donations.  And, while I know and love a number of open-hearted conservatives — this was long before the vitriol of the current day — I had made my career squarely on the other side of the aisle.  I was not represented on his shelves.

No matter, my pantyhose and I pressed on.

He talked about how there might be some “slight changes” to my firm’s approach and some “strategy re-directions” to our founding principles.  He glossed over the values that underpinned every piece of what we did in his haste to get to the bottom line that he thought we’d achieved through some sort of voodoo magic.  There was the usual mild misogyny and slight condescension, unintentional and benevolent, nothing I hadn’t experienced a million times already from just this type of kind-faced, older sort. I’d gotten good at smiling through it by this point in my career. But, I was not represented in his words.

No matter, my pantyhose and I pressed on.

He spoke of how my small business would be brought into the fold of his much larger company, about how, of course, we would make this change and that to be aligned with his view of the work and of the world, and about what the steps and the timeline would be for me to undo precisely what made us unique — what made us special — before I would be quietly excused, stage right, and my people, my clients, my processes would become wholly his.  But, I was not represented in his plans.

No matter, my pantyhose and I pressed on.

I knew I was supposed to want _this_.  I knew I was supposed to want him wanting _me_— my business, my track record.  But something just didn’t feel right.

At long last, the conversation turned to dollars and, as if out of an old school movie, he took a folded piece of paper out of a portfolio and slid it across the table that sat between us, telling me how excited he was to take my little company to the place where it truly belongs.  And as I looked down at the piece of paper, I caught sight of my legs through the glass table, suffocating in their pantyhose.  And it dawned on me exactly what was wrong:

I made a special trip to the store to buy pantyhose for the occasion of selling my soul to its very first suitor.

And I didn’t even want a suitor.  But I’d put on a pair of pantyhose for him, nevertheless.

This call was the call many entrepreneurs desperately want.  But not me.

I had no interest in maximizing profit.  Had that been the case, I’d have run a totally different company from the start.  Instead, I ran it to maximize impact in the world and flexibility in my own motherhood-filled life until such time that my children were in school and I could hand some of my parenting hat off to the much better qualified elementary school teachers.  The company for which I was wearing pantyhose didn’t share those values, and was certainly not going to give me either of those.

It was so simple, though.  All I needed to do was unfold that piece of paper, read a number, and let the forwarding waves of five years of struggle surf me all the way to the bank.  All I needed to do was unfold the paper and sign on the bottom line.

But I saw the pantyhose.  And I looked up and said, “Thank you for your interest, but I think I’ll do just fine on my own.”

No matter.  Me and my pantyhose walked out the door.

I put on a pair of pantyhose twenty years ago.  I didn’t wear another pair of pantyhose until last year when a stylist to the stars told me that it would give a better overall look that would help to carry my personal message forth when I appeared on The TODAY Show as part of the media tour when my book Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve Your Own Path, and Live Your Best Life came out.  I put on that pair of pantyhose for me.

I didn’t sign on the bottom line.

I never even unfolded that piece of paper.

 

 

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