Poem “…for a big girl”

“You’re attractive,
for a big girl,”
he said.
He thought
he was trying to
butter me up.
He thought
he was flirting.
He thought
he was showing
mercy.
He thought
that I would want
to date him
after that.
He thought
he was
doing me a favor
by lowering his standards
to go out
with a fat girl.

And now,
nearly 2 decades later,
I see on his Facebook page
that he weighs at least
a hundred pounds
more
than I did
at my largest,
and I wasn’t even
at my largest
when he paid me his
“complement”.
I’ve lost 50 pounds
from that

and he’s found it,
with interest.

I want to be snide
and I want to say
“You’re handsome,
for a big guy,”
but
I’d like to think
I’m better than that.
I’d like to think
I’m above
reminding someone
of their rudeness.

So I wrote it
into a poem
and posted it
on my blog
instead.

Out of kindness,
I won’t tag him.

How are you?

I think everybody should have to work in retail for at least a year. Then we all might learn how to be civilized.

When I worked at a fabric store I would ask customers all day long how they were doing. They would answer me and they would almost never ask me how I was doing. One day I got really frustrated and I said “And I’m fine too thanks!” I got a really strange look. The person didn’t get that they hadn’t asked me how I was doing and they didn’t get that it was rude not to do so.

The person behind the counter is not a machine. She is a human being.

Treating a human being like she is a machine is how we are falling apart. It is how we are losing our humanity. Common courtesy isn’t common anymore.

When I am interacting with a customer service representative and they ask me how I’m doing, I’ll reply and then ask them how they are doing. They will reply, and then follow it up with “…and thank you for asking.” They are surprised that someone even asked them.

It doesn’t take any extra time to ask someone how they’re doing. But when you are going to ask someone how they’re doing you need to actually wait for the answer. And you need to look them in the eye if you are in person.

Just saying it and not meaning it is pointless. You might as well not say it at all. If you say it and you don’t mean it is just a reflex action and not a real human interaction. It is important for us to remember that we are all humans working together. If we treat each other like machines, then we will become machines. We will become less than human.

Where are you from?

Why do people ask where are you from? What does it matter? Does where you are from define who you are?

I was talking to a lady who defines herself as a “military brat.” She has a really hard time with this question. She’s lived in many places. Does it mean where she was born? Or where she grew up? Or where her parents live now? These are all different places, and there are many other places that she has lived as well. None of them really are “home.”

I think people ask because they are trying to pigeonhole you. As if all people from a certain place are the same. How is this not some unnamed “-ist” thing? It isn’t racist, or sexist, but it certainly is along those lines. It is saying that you are in a group, and you aren’t an individual.

Then again, how long do you have to live in a place before you can say you are from there? I’ve lived in Nashville for nearly 15 years. I grew up in Chattanooga. So where am I from? I chose to live here. Shouldn’t that count?

People ask me where I’m from and I tell them this, and then they ask where I was born. It was also in Tennessee. They are still confused. I don’t talk or look or act (in their opinion) like someone from Tennessee. The problem is, there is no such thing as a person from Tennessee talking or looking or acting a particular way. We are all different. Sure, I’m Southern. But I’m not like all Southerners, and in fact none of my friends are stereotypically Southern.

And perhaps that’s the point. People are what they are.

Is it nature or nurture, or both? Or neither?

It is like asking someone where they work or what their religion is. It really doesn’t matter. You might as well ask them what their sun sign is. You’ll know more about the person if you just ask her about what is important to her.

What does she like to eat? What are her favorite movies/books/musicians? Does she have a hobby?

Instead of putting her in a box, why not find out what makes her who she is? Find out what makes her happy, and you’re on to a good start.

Perhaps the best answer to the question is this: It doesn’t matter where I’m from. It matters where I am. I’m here, now. Take me as I am.

“Ma’am!”

I was shopping at Hobby Lobby a few years back. There was this weird area that was kind of behind a counter. It kind of looked like the area was just for staff, but all the paint brushes were there. There isn’t anything so special about paint brushes that they need to be controlled. I don’t think there are lots of shoplifters who go for paint brushes. So perhaps the area wasn’t off-limits after all. I asked permission to go behind the counter and the clerk told me that was fine. He kind of looked at me funny, wondering why I asked.

I was in an area that looked like it was for staff – but I didn’t look like I was staff. I had my purse slung across me. I had a shopping basket next to me. And most importantly, I didn’t have on the vest that every Hobby Lobby employee wears.

In a short amount of time lady stood behind the counter that was behind me and said loudly “Ma’am!” I knew what she was trying to do. She thought I worked there. She was trying to get my attention. I ignored her, hoping she’d notice the purse, the basket, and the lack of vest. I had nothing that indicated I worked there. Nope. I was wrong. Louder she called. “Ma’am!”

Not “Excuse me.” not “Do you work here?” nor even “Can you help me?” She barked at me, like I was her servant. Her voice was shrill and sharp.

I got up, slowly turned around, and faced this bleach-blonde twenty something standing with her mother, and said simply “I don’t work here.”

Oh, she said, and walked away.

I wanted to speak on behalf of all retail employees everywhere. We are not your bitches. Don’t yell at us. Don’t treat us like dogs. We are people. We are here to serve you, but we aren’t your servants. You don’t have a right to yell at us.

But I didn’t. I’ve been trained well, to keep my opinion to myself. Lots of retail does that. Having a psychopathic, narcissistic manager will do that.

It is very stressful working retail. Somehow people assume that if you are working behind a counter it means you are beneath them. They treat you like you are stupid. Maybe they get a rise out of putting you down.

The library is a lot like retail, but it is nicer. People assume that you have a degree to work there. To do what I do, no. A high school diploma is the minimum requirement. But I am happy to have people treat me better, usually. There is still some retail “she’s behind the counter so she must be beneath me” attitude going on, sometimes.

I remember a time at the end of a transaction I said “thank you”. The guy got really angry and said “You are supposed to say ‘have a nice day'”

No. I’m not. There isn’t a script. If there was, he’d understand that it was time for him to exit stage right.

I don’t say have a nice day because it is trite. I don’t like it when people tell me that. I said “thank you” and it doesn’t even make sense for me to do that. I helped him. The library doesn’t make any money from people, so it isn’t like we need to say thanks. I said thanks to be polite. But he jumped on me.

Weird. If people want good service, they need to not be mean. I expect that in his mind, he gets shoddy service everywhere he goes. You get what you give.

Showing up late.

Don’t show up at a store minutes before they close. They have been open for hours, waiting for you. Your money isn’t worth waiting another ten minutes. If they stay open another ten minutes for you, then what if another person comes during that time? Then that is another ten minutes.

They want to go home. They have their own lives to tend to. They have children to pick up from babysitters or daycare. They have groceries that need to be bought and dinner that needs to be cooked.

I’m grateful that I now work in a place where when close at 8, it means 8. I’ve worked a lot of retail and a lot of late nights because of it. There is no staying late at the library. Well, there is staying late if you are the person in charge and somebody has neglected to pick up their children. Then you have to wait for the parent to come. If the parent takes longer than 30 minutes, then the police are called and the child goes with them. That is thoughtless of the parent. Thoughtless is another word for rude.

It is rude to show up at a shop at the last minute. It is assuming that your needs are more important than their needs. Sure, this may be a small business and it relies on your money to survive. But they shouldn’t be made to feel like they are groveling for your money. If you really wanted to help them out, show up when they are open. To show up at the last minute and not be through when the closing time is to insist that you are more important than they are.

You aren’t.

Now, they aren’t more important than you either. There has to be a balance. This has to be an equal relationship. It is as if you are dating a guy and he insists that you go to horror films and you hate horror films. But you are desperate to date him, so you keep going out with him to these films. So you keep feeling bad, and he keeps feeling good. A relationship is healthy only when both people are happy. To insist that they stay late for you, especially when they aren’t going to make a lot of money on the transaction, is only going to make you happy. It is going to make them miserable.

The customer isn’t always right.

I agree with businesses that close on time and kick people out. They have to draw the line somewhere. If they tick off a customer doing that, fine. A customer that does not respect the employee’s time isn’t the kind of customer that is desired.

Worse is the restaurant business. If the place says it closes at 9, that just means that they take the last people in at 9. They could then place their order and lounge around until 11. It is very common that they will not tip to make up the difference. You may think that the waitress and chefs are being paid for that time. They aren’t being paid much – and they too have places they want to go. They too have families they would like to see. They have a life outside of work, and they would like to get to it. If a restaurant closes at 9, be courteous and be done by 9. Don’t just get started then. They will resent you.

I have worked retail for many years of my life and I have repeatedly had nightmares with people coming in late, saying “But I just…” In these nightmares, the people won’t leave. We are trying to close the doors and more keep coming in. Then more people come in after them. Then we are stuck there for an hour or more. The bad part is that the nightmare isn’t far from reality.

Trust me, your money isn’t worth that. If you can’t be bothered to shop during regular hours, they don’t need your business. Businesses should not have to beg for your business. Part of being a good customer is respecting their time.