Freshen Up That Lip Gloss, Darlin

 what you are told

what you are told

I’m covered in oil from the bags of coffee I’m pouring into the dispensers. One of the early morning jobs I have at The Epicurean kitchen store at the mall.

I have an apron on over one of my “Sunday best” work dresses. That and high heels are a requirement of the dress code for the women of the store.

Though I am lugging and opening heavy boxes of merchandise and coffee to put on the shelves, heels must be worn at all times.

I have worked here for 4 months. I have been promoted to Assistant Manager. I have the highest sales of anyone in the store. We make commission on everything we sell.

I’m 23.

I have already won:

A Krups Coffee Pot

An entire set of Calphalon pans

A set of J.A. Henckels knives

and many other “top sales” prizes.

This morning, I’m getting ready for my shift, filling the coffee dispensers.

Someone behind me says, “Hello there.”

I turn around, smile and say “Hello Sir, may I help you?”

To the tall thin older gentlemen in an immaculate white suit.

He is smiling and then he frowns.

I wait for him to speak.

He says, “What’s your name darlin?”

I point to my name badge and say “It’s Heather, Sir.”

He says, “I see, where are you from?”

I say, “Well I just moved here from Seattle, but I was born in Michigan.”

He looks me up and down squarely

and says, “ahhhhh ok I see, you’re a Yankee.”

I look at him with my mouth open
And I don’t really know what to say.
I think, who is this person?
Are they serious?
A Yankee? What does that mean?

I think, Heather, keep your cool.

I say, “I guess my living North of here could technically make me a Yankee. But regardless of that, can I help you with something in the store today.”

He says, “Yes, darlin, yes you can. You can go in the back and put some lipstick on to start and maybe a bit more makeup.”

I say, “I appreciate your opinion but I think I look just fine.”

We stare at each other for a minute.

I continue to smile but I know he can see I’m angry.

I have no poker face. (something I still work on to this day)

He says, “Well, I actually own this store and I think you’d probably sell more if you freshened up a bit.”

Ok, I think, now this makes more sense. (actually it makes no sense, but he’s not just a random, sexist idiot, he’s my bosses, boss).

I look at him and think, Heather you need this job, you need this job, you need this job.

I say, “I don’t think you know who I am, sir. I’m your assistant manager, and with all due respect, I’ve never laid eyes on you before, I still don’t know your name, and I am the best salesperson with the highest numbers in this store. And I do that not because of my makeup or lip color, but because I work hard and I’m a hell of a salesperson.”

He says, “Is that right? And my name is Mr. (it doesn’t matter).”

“A pleasure to meet you Mr. (whatever),” and I grit my teeth and put my hand out to shake his.

As we shake hands I say, “Yes that is right, you can look it up. But it is your store and I need this job so I’m happy to do what you ask. I’m sure I have some lip gloss in my purse.”

He says, “I’ll have to check you out. I like my staff to have some… sass. But I would be obliged if you’d put a little bit more of that gloss on.”

I did.

In the grand scheme of the world it wasn’t a big deal.

But actually it was. And I’ve never forgotten it.

It still pisses me off. In that moment. I swallowed it.

All the things I wanted to say. My disbelief at his attitude.

Watching him think that he had “helped” me. Had I not needed the job and I did at the time, badly. I would have told him a few things about lip gloss and women

And Yankees.

To start.


Written by Head Maven & CEO, Heather Newman, Creative Maven

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