IT WAS A MEMO, I remember that, but I don't remember if it fell into my hands because I was the mail boy and thought that my duties required that I read all memos or because I had been promoted to personnel and actually had a right to read the memo. At any rate, I read it and I mention it from time to time whenever women talk about about how they are on the brink of reaching equality with men. That memo indicates otherwise.

The memo was written by the personnel manager of the insurance office where I worked and it was directed to his superiors at corporate headquarters. I remember it being typed, which meant it was dictated to one of the women in the steno pool and what it said more or less was that women were inherently inferior to men.

The personnel manager was in his early 30s and he was considered a comer in the company. He was a tall man, handsome, college-educated and he lived in the suburbs with his wife whom he had met when she came to work for the company. He was bland man made no enemies, but he was a smart-enough corporate infighter to have risen rather quickly within our large organization. He had a problem, though and that was the constant turnover in clerical help within our branch office. This was the subject of his memo.

most of what he wrote made sense. He mentioned, for instance, that insurance was a low-paying industry and that we had to compete with industries with higher wage rates. He said also that out office was in an area that was not considered glamorous and that, too, was a factor in not being able to retain clerical help. He did not say, of course, that the work was boring - that eight hours of pulling files and then putting them back was stultifying. He said nothing of the sort.

instead, he asked corporate headquarters to remember that he was dealing with women. he referred at one point to their " native inferiority." the only phrase he used that sticks in my mind. He went on about women, referring to them as if they were a subspecies - weird, unreliable, strange, I remember reading that memo and being surprised. I knew that some men talked like that, but I didn't think anyone would so stupid as to put it down on paper. So I thought the personnel manager had finally done himself in - that somewhere alsong the line someone at corporate and pronounce my man unfit to work in personnel.

I waited and waited and nothing happened. Eventually, the personnel manager was given added responsibilities and eventually I went to work for him. Every day, he and I would join our fellow workers at a cocktail lounge across the street from the office and it was there that I found that others shared his view on women. They would drink and they would talk. Brooze would strip aqay the privacy of what life was like at home. They would talk about their wives, about why they were in no hurry to catch the train home, about why some of them went to hookers. It was depressing.

I think of those guys and my old personnel manager every time the Equal Rights Amendment comes for a vote in some state legislature and how there's always some who say they are for women's reights, but the amendments is not needed. They point to the advances made by women in recent years, the laws, the court decisions and they say the last thing we need at themoment is yet another constitutional amendment.

I think of my old colleagues, because I know many of them would be saying just that. I think of them whenever someone suggests that the ERA issue be settled by a referendum - the suggestion recently advanced in Virginia. I think of them because I'm not sure how they would vote. I know what they would say, and I know how they would respond to a pollster taking a survey on attitudes toward women. They'd say they're for it. They were notdumb men and unless things have changed considerably in the last 10 years or so, they have not lost their ability to see which way the wind is blowing.

Anyway, I doubt that their heart has followed their rhetoric and it would not surprise me at all if my old personnel manager is now in charge of his company's equal employment program. He's probably doing a good job. But I know, as the expression goes, where his head is at and if I were a women I would not trust him at all. I would nod at his words and smile and at his gurantees and then insist on a basic law like the ERA which asks nothing more than equality before the law for women.

One futher thing, I'm a man, too, and one of the difference between me and those guys I used to work with is strictly generational. I've learned better, for instance, than to use the word girl when I mean woman and I've learned to write the word person for the word man, I've been learning, but I've got a way to go and I'm not there by a long shot yet. What I'm tyring to say, I guess, is this: Laies, get your law.

A lot of us are lying to you.