Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sorry Boys, I'm Not Your Dress-Up Doll

I should probably be writing about the new Lily Allen video (My initial reaction: I like it; followed by my more thought-out reaction: Does that make me a #solidarityisforwhitewomen -style racist? Yikes . . . more contemplation later!), or explaining where I've been since The Militant Baker freaking rocked my world by linking to my post about Maria Kang, fitsperation and privilege (moving to the new house, making art, and not sleeping very much is the short answer). However, last night I had this brilliant idea for a post series, and I just can't wait to get it started. Therefore, without further ado, I give you:

Feminist Undercover: Keeping My Big Mouth Shut, One Shift at a Time

Tuesday nights, I work as a bartender. Generally, I like it: I get to join in for karaoke when I'm not too busy, the pay is good, and the owner is chill. The customers are also pretty chill, for the most part. But here's the thing:

Every week, I wear a pair of cowgirl boots. And not just any boots -- these are my very favorite, super-comfortable red cowgirl boots that the Mr. gave me for Christmas seven years ago. Since then, I've rarely appeared without them -- with the exception of my wedding ring, they are my most-worn accessory. And I love these boots. I love the way I stomp around in them. I love the way they make even the most mundane outfit look cool and artsy. And I love the way they support my feet -- especially over a long shift at work.

The highly controversial boots.
Apparently, not everyone at the bar feels quite the same way. And last night, when I got on shift, my boss pulled me to the side, explained that I was doing a great job and no one has any complaints, except . . . "People are tired of the boots." I didn't have to ask to know exactly which people we were talking about. 

See, I catch the tail end of the day shift's crowd. And overall, they're nice people -- hardworking, mostly blue-collar, mostly middle-aged dudes looking for some cheap beer and a pretty girl to talk to before they go home alone. And I know that not everyone can be an über-progressive feminist baddass like myself, so I don't hold it against them that sometimes their conversation topics leave me wanting to either give someone a vicious intellectual tongue-lashing, or run for the door. And I understand that part of my job is to look cute, and act cute, and put up with their unsolicited comments on my appearance, because at the end of the day, they are the customer, the beer is the product, and I am a major part of the packaging that makes a 66¢ bottle of Bud worth the $2.50 they pay for it. And lord help my closeted feminist butt, but I keep doing it week after week because the money's good and I need that money right now.

Even so, I have my limits. Back when I was in high school, some random girl once handed me a "Fashion Police" citation for wearing a pink t-shirt with red sneakers. Back then, I simply laughed and threw the slip of paper away. Now imagine me ten years older, with a whole lot less fucks to give.
Me: "I'm sorry, I really like my boots. I dress up for the customers, I do my makeup for them -"
Boss: "No, you do that for yourself. You do it to get better tips, pick up some more hours . . ."
Now, I may be misquoting here; because a slow miasma of rage had begun to creep across my vision. But the basic implication was, if I vary my footwear, I stand to improve my nightly haul and potentially pick up more hours on the schedule. Let's ignore the questionable logic of that statement and focus on the important stuff: 

"So you want me to wear . . . more?"

Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe we have just discovered my bar's "Flair" policy.

Let's be clear: I bring out the girls in all their glory on the nights I work. I get my face prettied up. I keep smiling, even when I'm exhausted and my feet hurt and I just worked a full day at my other job, because I know no one likes surly service. But anyone who thinks I give a rat's ass about whether they are amused by my footwear has a whole world of other thoughts coming. You want to see clothing displayed on bodies for your amusement? Go to a damn fashion show.
Me: "When I can afford another pair of boots, maybe I'll wear those. Honestly, I'm pretty happy wearing these. But I'll certainly keep it in mind."
Then I smiled and shut up. I hope my face was neutral enough to hide the bright-red "STRIKE TWO" flashing through my mind. This is the second time at this job I've been talked to about how people are "tired" of my boots -- and at first I chalked it up to the owner being drunk and talking stupid. Now I'm thinking just plain stupid.

I may be a bartender. I may rush to get you your drinks, and apologize if I take too long. I may show some cleavage and flirt with you if it seems it will help me line my tip jar. None of this takes away the fact that I am still at my job, and nowhere in the job description does it mention me being your life-size dress-up doll. Protip: if it would irritate you to have someone "correct" the way you're dressed, try not to do it to someone else. As for my boss? Let's hope we don't reach Strike Three.

Strike Three is just so unladylike.


  1. I love this, I love your boots, and I fuckin hear ya. Way to keep it together but not be a's a science and an art. xoxo Erin Jaye

  2. Are you kidding me???? Aren't cowgirl boots in a lot of sexual fantasies anyways?? And, you live in HIPSTER CENTRAL IT COMES WITH THE TERRITORY MKAY.

    At any rate, stupendous writing.

  3. You handled this amazingly! Keep rockin those boots!

    1. Oh trust me -- they're stuck tighter on my feet than Dorothy's ruby slippers.

  4. I just .. . I can't.. . WHY are they so concerned about what you wear on your feet? I mean... I've been in the service biz for awhile, and I honestly can't see customers giving two shits about what boots you wear? Do they really have time/energy to sit around and discuss your footwear? (I am not doubting your story for a second, never think it--I'm just incredulous that they can't find anything better to do than to critique your footwear.)

    Or, maybe your boss just doesn't like them, and he's putting it off on "customers." Either way, shitty. Ugh.

    1. I've thought about whether it's "customers" instead of actual customers, and honestly I'm not sure. The regulars I suspect are the kind that literally come to the bar everyday, and I suspect they feel a sense of ownership or something (and unfortunately that may extend to the bartenders' fashion choices!). Then again, the owner literally put "dress up and dress cute" in the last memo . . . so, you know . . .

  5. They remind me of some red boots I owned :-) Unfrtunately, they went the way of all things and are gone, but I still miss'em. So keep yours as long as they last!