Monthly Archives: October 2013

Live From The Hosiery Department: Week 5

It didn’t take me very long to realize that my adventures in retail will short lived.  In fact, my co-workers have told me that it’s too soon for me to have the attitude that I have towards the company.  I had to inform them that it doesn’t take me very long to get hip to bullshit and once I’m hip, my tolerance is set at the minimum level.  After only a few weeks, I hate my job and can’t wait to quit.

As I’ve mentioned before, my work environment allows me to observe the 1%ers of our society in one of their natural habits.  Everyday, I encounter bored housewives pushing strollers looking for Spanx that will suck in the excess baby weight, elderly women that are fussy about the cotton blend that their socks are made out of, and everyone else who’s going to a black tie event wearing a black dress, black shoes and looking for black sheer stockings to complete their Wednesday Addams look.  They all want your undivided attention and special treatment because their husbands’ hard earned money is paying for their over priced hosiery that they’ll be returning in a week and complaining that it didn’t fit.

With the recent Barney’s incidents making news headlines, I’ve started to pay even more attention to the color lines that are created in my store by customers and employees.  Not all, but a few customers and co-workers have made it awkwardly clear that they don’t know how to curb their inappropriate comments and behavior towards employees that are non-white.  Sometimes its funny and sometimes I want to sit them down and take them through a lesson or two on the African diaspora.

In one situation, a woman was being helped by one of my co-workers who happened to be black.  My co-worker disappeared for a second to help another customer and I noticed that the customer was looking lost.

“Do you need help with anything?’

“I was being helped but I can’t find who was helping me.”

“Okay.  Do you remember what she was wearing?”

“No”

“Do you know what she looked like?”

She paused for a moment and looked uncomfortable.  It was then that my co-worker came back and let me know that she was helping the customer.  From the second the woman paused I could feel that she didn’t know whether or not it was alright to tell me, “She was black.”  She could have even said, “She was brown skinned” to distinguish between which black girl she was talking about since there were three of us floating around that day.

Dear white people, it is okay to acknowledge that a black person is indeed black.  We know we’re black.  We won’t get offended, I promise.  By being afraid to acknowledge that she’s black, you kinda look bad already.

In a more recent situation, I experienced a white co-worker get a little too comfortable and let her white privilege show.  She was feeling upset that her manager seemed to be making her do all of the work in her department while the other employee didn’t seem to be doing much at all.  The poor girl even started crying.  I felt bad for her and she’s really a sweet girl so I tried my best to make her feel better.  She’s one of the few white girls on our floor and sometimes it looks as if she feels left out because she can’t always relate to our topics of discussion when we’re bullshitting around the cash-wrap.  Her manager and fellow department employee are both black and she’s kinda the odd girl out.  But she’s great at what she does and I often tell her that I always see her do more than any of us do.  She’s always cleaning, re-sizing racks and such.  All in all, she’s a good employee and I was sad to see her so upset and feeling like she wasn’t being appreciated.  But as always, you give someone an inch, and they take a mile.

“I don’t think its fair.  I get less hours to work and less chances to make money but I am always doing the most in the department.”

“Talk to your manager and explain how you feel.  Weren’t you interested in switching departments?”

“She said that she doesn’t want to lose me and have me go to another department.  But she’s not treating me fairly.”

There was a short pause and then she said,

“But I’m not racist.”

I blurted out in laughter at the statement.  Not because it was funny but because it was the only thing I could do other than make her feel even worse about herself by telling her that she was indeed racist by saying that she wasn’t.  Nowhere was race brought up in the conversation so there was no need to reassure me that she wasn’t racist.  It’s like when people begin a statement by saying, “no offence.”  You just know they’re about to say some offensive ass shit that they’ll need to get popped for.  But like I said, I like her and she’s always so nice so I gave her a pass this one time.

“Nobody said you were racist.”

“I know, I know.  I just wanted to be sure.”

“Yeah yeah its fine.  I’m sure you know that there are lazy people of all races.”

We laughed again and I hoped that the awkwardness would stop there.  She walked off to see if a customer needed help and I pretended to be busy looking things up on the register.  About 4 minutes later she was at my side again, ready to lodge her foot even farther down her throat.

“I feel like they’re racist towards me.”

“Huh?!”

“Like, they’re racist towards me and it’s not fair.  It’s the two of them and they just make me do all of the work.”

NO.  NO NO NO NO NO!  My mind filled with responses such as “Oh like slavery?!  Yeah, we loved all the cotton picking we were forced to do while your great-great-great granddaddy raped our women and beat the men!” or “Your white privilege is showing, bitch.”  News flash but what you’re experiencing is not racism, dear.  You’re just good at what you do and your manager, who is new at her job, is doing a poor job of showing you how she appreciates how you work.  She’s giving you earlier shifts because it’s easier to make money before the down time in the evening.  I guess God knew that this was not the time or place for me to get my Angela Davis on because a customer was sent over in need of nude sheer stockings so I was called away.  But I’m sure she was able to read my discomfort and she never brought it up again.

The color wars don’t end with white people though.  I’m starting to think that one of the black girls has an identity issue of her own.  I started noticing things awhile ago but one conversation in particular solidified that somebody needed a wake up call from Malcolm X himself.

It started with a simple joke that referenced the movie Roots.  Even if you’ve never seen the movie in its entirety, as a black person, you know of it and you know the famous scene where Kunta Kinte is being beat and told that his name is Toby.  Well my manager didn’t.

“What?!  You dunno Roots???”

“No. “

“Yeah but everybody knows that scene though.  I’m taking your black card.”

“That’s fine.  I’m only 25% anyway.”

If my life was a TV show, it was then that I would have turned to the audience and gave them the “is this bitch serious?” look.  But instead of an audience, I had my co-worker and we both looked at one another waiting for the follow up and if it’d sound even more ignorant.

“You’re black.”

“My mother is this southern, silver spoon fed girl and my dad is this hood, Brooklyn guy.  I have Native American in my family and French.   I grew up around everybody.”

“Yeah but…you’re black.”

Native American?  Did she really pull THAT one?  Lets be clear.  You may have a whole bunch of stuff mixed up in your gene pool and that’s nice.  But to these white folks, you’re a black girl.  Your edges get just as kinky as mine do, boo.  Again, God knew that I was about to stand on my soap box and start talking about how she sounds totally ignorant, so another customer popped up and scurried her away so that she could sell em a pillow or something.

As much as I love to complain about my HBCU experience, I must say that I’m grateful for what I learned there and how it helped me to become the black young woman that I am.  My eyes are a little more opened than some others are because of it.  I’m far from a member of the black panther party but I’m not blind to the fact that life as a black woman is just….different.  It breaks my heart when my fellow black women feed into the ignorance that’s been created around our identities.  Be who you are, but also understand that who you are includes being a black woman.  There’s no need to throw in a whole bunch of additives to make you seem more exotic.  French, bitch?  You can’t even pronounce Au Bon Pain correctly.    We’ve got to do better.

I know that as long as I’m working in this store, there will be more moments like this and I hope that God keeps sending random customers in need of assistance as soon as I feel like I’m about out scream “THE BLACK MAN IS GOD!” with my hands raised in the air as I storm out of the department.  Jesus be a fence around me.

Advertisements

That Don’t Empress Me Much

Capture1_29_14

“Where’ve you been?  Long time since I’ve seen you!”

“I know.  I’ve jus been really busy.”

She knew.  I was sure of it.  She could smell the deceit in the air.  Or maybe that was just the acetone.  Tanya wasn’t stupid though.  I was positive that she knew that I was seeing someone else.  I felt guilty for straying away from the one woman that had always been there for me.  She’d put my first pair of tips on these very hands and I’d stuck with her ever since.

But I was sure that she wasn’t the type to sit around and wait for me.  Just as I’d let someone else hold my hand, she’d held the hands of many others in my absence.  I had needs and so did she so could I really blame her for not waiting for me?  No, I could not.  Expecting her to cater to only me would be selfish.

I found myself reminiscing on the good times we’d had together.  She always knew what to say to make me smile.  She always noticed when I’d changed my hair or complimented me on a necklace I might be wearing.  She noticed the little things.

But in the past few months, I noticed that things had changed.  I was once her first priority and now I often found myself waiting for her to acknowledge my existence, let alone give me the attention I needed.  I could bet my entire paycheck that she didn’t even remember my favorite color anymore.

Jessica did though.  She came to me out of nowhere and right away I knew I’d never be the same.  When Ashley told me about her own experience with Jessica, my curiosity was sparked and it wasn’t long before I found myself in her walk way, sitting at her station and placing both hands into hers for her to do with them what she wanted.  She spoiled me and showed me that attention that Tanya had been denying me.  She was fun and energetic.  And whenever I left her place, I felt like a brand new woman.  There was an extra pep in my step.  Jessica wasn’t Tanya but she was, dare I say it, better than her.  After just one afternoon with Jessica, I knew that she was someone special. However, my loyalty to Tanya left me conflicted.  Donnell Jones sang “Where I Wanna Be” through my ear buds as I sat and watched Jessica’s smooth strokes of nude colored polish coat my perfectly shaped pinky nail.

So there I was, siting before Tanya, both of us acting as if nothing was wrong even though we knew.

“I do this for you?”

“No, I went somewhere else this time.”

“Oh. Okay.”

The sound of the cuticle buffer made the awkward silence seem larger than life.  We knew that this would be the last time she would be seeing me.  Perhaps it was for the best.  Jessica left no corner unfiled and let no finger nail smudge.  She was what I’d always wanted and needed in a manicurist.  It was time I moved on.

After letting my nails dry, I walked over to Tanya’s station.  She handed me the bill and I handed her the cash.

“So I see you in two weeks.”

“Yeah,” I lied.

She wouldn’t see me again.  Our time was over and I would no longer pretend to be happy in this situation.  My hands deserved better.   I turned to walk out of Empress Nail Salon but before leaving, took one last look at the familiar hot pink walls and neon colored nail polishes that sat on shelves throughout the space.  I sighed and looked one last time at Tanya who was looking back at me, mask covering her nose and mouth to protect her from the fumes of the acetone.  She nodded knowingly, and let me go.  Good Luck Nail Salon was my new home and Jessica was my new technician.  I couldn’t have them both even if I wanted to.

Cliché

Image

Every once in awhile you have a moment when you realize that a cliché saying has managed to attach itself to your life and make itself true.  When this happens, depending on the cliché, you can either feel like an ass or like you’ve got your life in order that things are going well for you so far.  In my case, however, the former is what I’ve been feeling and I curse whoever it was that said, “You are what you attract.”

My colorful love life is often a source of discussion with my friends as well as inspiration for my writing.  With more fumbles than touchdowns when it comes to matters of my heart, I take each experience and try to make it useful in someway.  In order to do this, I often have to backtrack and relive every situation in order to find what I had missed the first time.  While doing this, and talking to a couple of girlfriends in similar situations, I noticed a pattern.

To put it plainly, I’m shallow.  I’ve admitted this openly before, but in case you missed it, I’m doing it again.  I like attractive people.  Not to say that I wouldn’t ever associate myself with those that would be considered to be unattractive based on the social scale of what’s hot and what’s not but when it comes to dating, if I don’t find you to be attractive at first or second glance, you’re pretty much out of luck if you were hoping to get out of the friend zone with me.  I hate to sound superficial but its true.  And to follow in the grand tradition of clichés, most of the genuinely great guys I meet do nothing for me visually.

Now you may say that its possible for a person’s great personality to make him more attractive to you and in some cases that almost worked on me.  I had a slight crush on a great guy that I clicked with and found slightly more attractive because of his personality.  But my superficial side would every so often pop up and remind me that I do not think this guy is handsome, cute or anything remotely desirable, and put a damper on what I thought I was feeling.  It’s also very easy to put these kinds of guys in “The Friend Zone” because I know that they do make awesome friends.  However, I’m not the very best at being forward with a person I’m friend zoning.  In case you were wondering, this is where more honesty comes in.

Aside from being shallow, I like attention.  Honestly, who doesn’t?  It’s nice to feel wanted even if it’s not by someone you want for yourself.  But it’s not fair to lead this person on because you want attention.  And it is here where I have to put on my “I’m A Jerk” sign and own up to doing this far too often.  I’m not sure why I do it but I’m guessing its because, as I’ve acknowledged before, I chase guys that are no good for me.  Men that have shown me time and time again that they don’t want me how I want them and that it would never work with.  So the friend that’s giving me attention serves as a cushion.  He is someone to reassure me that I am in fact desirable to someone even if he isn’t the same to me.  And I know that if I let this friend know that I don’t want him, he will move on to someone else and I will be left without any attention.  This is where the cliché attaches itself to me like Velcro on the fibers of my love life.

I complain about how some guys are never honest with me and tell me from the beginning stages that they aren’t interested in me until I’ve already begun to like them a little too much.  But while this happens to me, I forget that I too, am doing it to someone else.  I am now that asshole that only texts when I’m bored, or have been ignored by my first pick.  I’m guilty of asking guys to the movies just because I know he will pay and I won’t have to talk to him for a couple hours.  It’s a fucked up thing to do but I do it every now and then.  Its not that I don’t genuinely care for these people as friends but I am flawed and sometimes it shows.  In retrospect, however, I know that I’m not any better than the men I curse to my friends and use as the subjects of my scorned tales of love lost.  I am my ex-boyfriend that knows just what to say to get me to come over when he’s lonely and his girlfriend isn’t around but after that night, won’t reach out to me again for another 2 months.  I’m not being fair.  I wouldn’t call myself a heart breaker but would someone else be wrong if they were to call me one? And with all of these things, I am noticing that I am indeed what I attract complain to attract.  I am a selfish, asshole.

To most, if not all, this sounds like a clear-cut case of being insecure.  Save the psychoanalysis because I’ve been down that road with my therapist already.  I have my insecurities of course but I haven’t fallen very far into the “I hate myself and always need someone” hole just yet.  Aside from my lesser qualities, I also know that I’m not a total shit person.  If we’re sticking to the theme here, unless all of the good guys that I’ve been stringing along are secretly douchebags themselves, I must be decent enough for anyone to even like me, right?  And if they are douchebags, then my guilt is being felt in vain and they deserve it.  But I don’t think that they are and so they don’t deserve what I’m giving them, just like I don’t believe that I deserve everything that I’ve been given.

And so now I’ve reached the fork in the road where I have to choose between continuing this ongoing cycle and growing beyond my bad habits and exclusive attraction to assholes with nice smiles.  I have to learn to be up front as a means to avoid hurting feelings down the line.  I have to give myself the attention I want and not demand it of someone else at the cost of his feelings.  I have to be a decent human being.  Maybe once I start doing that I’ll find someone really great and it won’t matter to me whether or not he looks like Idris Elba or not.  And as I grow as a better person, hopefully that cliché will continue to ring true.

Worst Behavior: Happy Birthday Ash

IMG_0943

I can’t remember when exactly I began to feel a sense of hesitation about Friday night’s plans, but by 12:00 AM, Saturday morning, I started to kick myself for opting out of staying home, watching Skins on Netflix and eating chips and salsa.  But it was Ash’s birthday and birthdays are important.

Tuesday night I skimmed through a few Yelp reviews for the spot that was to be our party destination.  Judging from what I was reading, this bar wasn’t NYC’s most well liked but it wasn’t my birthday and so I decided to prepare for the worst but hope for the best.  As Friday drew nearer, my excitement failed to grow at all.  Quite frankly, my new job had me running on E and I was flat out pooped.  At 11:00 PM on Friday, my hair looked lifeless, my make-up looked boring and my attitude was equal to a bag of lemons.  I needed a nap.  I’d had the day off from work but had very little time to rest.  The only thing that I was pleased with was my flawless choice of nail polish.  “Just take a drink,” I told myself, “Maybe that will help.”

It wasn’t long before we were ready to leave Sam’s when we were informed that the venue had changed as well as some other plans.  It turned out that a few of Ash’s friends that she invited were having car trouble and needed assistance.  Already one hour behind schedule, the rest of us were not pleased to hear this and were quick to call bullshit the moment we saw it.

Just as suspected, the car trouble was more like “we don’t want to take our hooptie and we’d much rather drive Ash’s car because it’s nicer.”  Sam, being the firecracker that she is, did not hesitate to protest.  After 20 minutes of nothing getting accomplished, I started to feel my eyelids get heavy while I drank some more of the concoction I’d mixed up at the house that was meant to perk me up a little. It was midnight and we were nowhere near the city.

After one more trip back to Samantha’s and a pit stop in a Wendy’s drive thru, we were on our way.  Ash was dressed in her finest pair of denim panties and we were ready to celebrate with her.  But once we reached the bar, another obstacle presented itself.  Where was the party promoter that was supposed to be letting us in?  At the risk of sounding like someone who thinks she is important, I will say that I don’t do lines and neither do my friends. I suppose the universe felt that it was time to humble us, because that is exactly what we ended up doing for about 1 hour and 30 minutes.  The universe did throw us a bone though, because to keep us occupied, God sent a man with an orange beard for us to taunt and talk shit about as a way to pass the time.  Want to entertain a kid on a long flight or something?  Give him a toy.  Want to entertain me?  Give me something or someone to laugh at.

“What’s with the beard?”, I asked.

“Oh my cousin dyes his beard crazy colors and so I decided to try it out.”

“Oh.”

Steph and I giggled because it did, in fact, look ridiculous.  If leprechauns were 6 feet tall, dark skin and Haitian, I would have expected him to ask us about his pot of gold.

“Orange is the new beard I guess.” Steph said.

We snickered again and continued to observe the other interesting outfits on parade that evening.  Once we took a break from our private roast session, we all noticed that Ash had disappeared and had been gone for quite sometime.  Patience was wearing thin and when the question of whether to go do something else came up, I quickly volunteered that we either go home or go to another venue.

After an additional 10 minutes of being outside and not partying, we finally were admitted into the bar.  Ash was given a bottle of champagne and Sam, Steph, Antoinette and I parked our selves by the bar and enjoyed a few beers.  The DJ was terrible at transitioning smoothly from song to song but I figured that the drunken white people probably didn’t notice and were perfectly content with dancing off beat to mainstream reggae, old school house, and pop hits that dated back to when I still wore a B cup bra.  Orange beard and his friend decided to float around us as we ignored them and danced with each other, stopping every once in awhile to see people making out ferociously in dark corners.  Then I heard Orange Beard call me over to where he was standing.

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

“No.”

“What?!  That’s crazy!  You’re so pretty!”

“Thanks.”

“Ok that’s all I wanted to ask.”

A few minutes later I saw him buzzing in Steph’s ear and then Antoinette’s while he danced with her.  He found his way back to me soon.

“I hate when people step all over my thousand dollar sneakers!”

“Who wears thousand dollar sneakers to a bar?”

“Can I have your number?”

“Oh my god I love this song!”

If you were to ask me what song it was right now, I wouldn’t be able to tell you.  But I did love the song even if it was mostly because it was a window to escape this awkward and bothersome situation.  I started to feel like the neon orange of his facial hair was actually a fungus and if I didn’t distance myself soon, I’d wake up the next day looking like a sesame street muppet.  It was time to hit the ladies’ room.

“He’s been trying to talk to all of us!”

“He told me he was in love with me.”

“He said, ‘oh my gosh your ass is so soft!,’ while we were dancing.”

“And his breath is terrible!”

A few tinkles and a couple hair fluffs later, we were back at the bar and Orange Beard was back at it.

“So how about you take my number?”

“Do you want some gum?”

“Nah.”

Seriously dude?  If someone offers you gum, IT IS FOR A REASON!  I pulled out my phone and pretended to take down his phone number while he rambled on about how he’d been arrested for scamming and the police stole his other phone.

“What time is it?” I asked the group.  It was around 3 and I’d reached my limit.  We agreed to find Ash and suggest to her that we start to head home.  There was only one problem: we didn’t know where she’d gone.  We looked everywhere in the bar and she was nowhere to be found.  Panic and aggravation began to set in.  We couldn’t leave her behind.  She was drunk and missing.

We stepped outside and saw her boyfriend walking by himself in the direction of the club entrance.

“Where’s Ashley?”

He didn’t know.  Awesome.  It was assumed that she’d gone off with some other friends to get high and drink more in their car.  At that moment, I’d had enough.

“I GOTTA GET HOME!  MY MOTHER IS GONNA RIP ME A NEW ASSHOLE!  SOMEONE AT LEAST DROP ME TO PENN STATION AND I’LL TAKE THE TRAIN!”

I guess you could say I was a bit cranky.

When we finally found Ash, it was clear that the party was over for her and we needed to get her home right away.  It baffled us how she got that drunk as well as how the hell we were going to get her in and out of the car.  She was dead weight and it was only a matter of time before she would throw up.  In a feeble attempt to prop her up, Sam rested Ash on her back and I was afraid they would both fall and hit the pavement.  I looked at the time.  3:45 AM.  Can’t I just go home?

“I just stole something from the bar.”

It was Orange Beard again.

“What?!”

“It was the stamp so we can stamp ourselves and get in.”

Why aren’t we moving yet?!

We pulled off, leaving Ash’s boyfriend, Orange Beard, her other friends behind. We found a McDonald’s and Sam, Steph and myself proceeded to carry Ash in and into the restaurant’s bathroom.

“Nooo.  I don’t wanna sit on that!”

“We’re going to hold you up.  Squat.”

“I don’t have to peeeeee.”

“Here.  Concentrate!”

I turned on the faucet and she began to piss like a champion racehourse.

“Who’s going to wipe her?”

We got her a cup of water and carried her back out to the car.  It was then that she needed to vomit the rest of the liquor out of her system that hadn’t been released from her hour long piss.  The stench of stomach acid, strawberry-ritas and various other alcoholic beverages made me gag and I feared for Sam who had to run out of the car into the dirty streets of Manhattan in her bare feet to pull her cousin’s hair back for her.

“Friends.  How many of us have them?” Antoinette sang from the driver’s seat.

When she finished puking, we finally started our drive back to Queens.  It was now past 4 AM.

“I’m never going anywhere with you guys again!”

During the car ride home, shade was thrown and jokes were exchanged about how ridiculous everyone and everything seemed to be that evening.  I’d almost forgotten that we had to carry Ash inside until we pulled up to the front of Sam’s house.  It took all four of us to carry her inside and try not to drop her or ourselves down the steep flight of stairs that lead to Sam’s basement bedroom.  We only dropped her a couple of times but no real damage was done.  The night was finally over.

“So how was the party?” my mother asked me the next day.

“I could’ve stayed home.”

“You got in pretty late for something you could’ve stayed home for.”

I told her all about the prior events and how it is only funny now that its already happened.

“You know what the lesson is here right?”

“Yes.  I’m staying home.”