I asked my boyfriend what about me he finds sexy. He looked at my chest, tripped over his words, and finally settled on something he knew wouldn’t get him into too much trouble.
“I think Work Brandy is really sexy.”
Oh, of course he does.
When I get home from work, I’m worn out and exhausted. I shake my hair out. I step into pajama pants, slave over the stove for a good hour, and settle into my corner of the couch with a bowl of food and my DVR. By then, my eyeliner has rubbed down into the rims of my lids and my eyeshadow is creased. I’m tired and silly. I put on my worn-out moccasins to trek to the bodega for ice cream. I come back, drag my boyfriend into bed, curl up in bed with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and maybe, sometimes, end up falling asleep with chocolate smeared on my face. My boyfriend says it’s really cute.
At home, my default mode is sweet and cuddly. I wear unflattering, comfortable clothes and I treasure cuddling. My boyfriend is used to this version of me. He loves this version of me.
But the version he doesn’t see all day isn’t as cute. He calls her Work Brandy.
Work Brandy is how I compose myself in the office, which is fairly middle-age-male dominated. So I’m self-assured and I’m brazen. At work with a bunch of older men, I carry myself with pride and strength. And I wear what I feel confident in—my go-to outfit is a skirt, a fitted v-neck shirt and bold jewelry. I wear big heels and tie my hair back. Sometimes I sport a pair of tortoiseshell glasses and a big, chunky watch. I walk down the corridor with my back straight, my lips pursed and my head up high.
(To be fair, none of these coworkers see me at home, decked out in pajamas, half-asleep in a puddle of chocolate drool.)
But I’m not sure if my work attire is what my boyfriend thinks is so sexy. He thinks the bitchy, bossy, no-nonsense, get-shit-done Work Brandy is hot. I attack meetings. I spew memos. I’m a ball-buster at the office—I have made grown men cry. Okay, not exactly cry, but feel really shitty.
I think what we have here is a reverse Madonna-whore complex. Men who “suffer” from the Madonna-whore complex want a lady in public and a slut in the bedroom. But it seems like my boyfriend likes the angel in the living room and devil in the conference room.
It’s not where I act differently, or even how. After dating for a year and a half, I’ve realized that much of his physical attraction lies in the transition. The transformation from super-cute to power-chic is incredibly alluring. When you live with your significant other, you fall into sweet, lazy ways with each other. Brandy at home isn’t sexy, but she’s warm and lovable. Work Brandy is anything but warm—but she’s a hot, domineering bitch.
The unexpected difference is appealing to my boyfriend, who drools when I straighten my hair for the first time in a month. On the rare days I go shopping, he volunteers to accompany me in the changing room to watch me try on outfits. Hell, he appreciates when I’m feeling racy and rub on neon purple eyeshadow. He’s just as excited when I go curly again, or return to my usual brown eye makeup. This is same guy who comes home, puts on his sweatpants and, yes, falls asleep after downing his own pint of Ben & Jerry’s.
Half of me thinks he’s just bored with me, but the other half thinks he’s excited. Some guys prefer drawers of slinky lingerie and role-playing. Some guys want a Madonna-whore. I choose to believe that my boyfriend gets off on my mood-swingy personality—and that’s pretty damn sexy.