Photo by Ken Ohsawa
I’m going to say something that might rub some self-assured and independent women the wrong way:
It’s sucks not getting hit on.
For those of you who have ever worked in any sort of customer service/hospitality industry, I think it’s fair to say that a little flirtation in the midst of a 6 to 12 hour work shift is a welcome break from complaints, crying children, and precocious parents. If not, that’s fine, we’re two very different people. But I think it’s nice. Not to mention, if you do it properly, you can get your way while the customer still thinks they’re right (the sole reason Earl’s girls exist).
A little witty repartee in the midst of a rush. A wink while walking by. A 25% tip. A number on a napkin. These are the things that make 15 minute increments go by faster.
Unless you work for Disney. Where not only are a dismal 5% of your guests young and single (and even then, they’re usually with family), but you also have to wear a costume. Which in my case, is a mortifying one. Sometimes I don’t even realize I’m dealing with a good looking person until I’m sprinkling their ride with pixie dust and they just give me this look like … where does your kind even come from?
I’d like to know the answer to that question myself. As someone who spends a fair amount of time figuring out what flatters what best and working it accordingly, I can very certainly tell you that high waisted green shorts with a 70,000 inch inseam accompanied by a neck buttoned polyester blouse, white ankle socks, and black runners is not it.
“It doesn’t even look like you” said a friend when I showed her a picture (it’s on Twitter for the world to see, in case you’re just dying to know just how ugly it is).
I know. I know it doesn’t. Just wait until you see me in my rain gear.
The appearance guidelines provide very little wiggle room when it comes to how attractive I can attempt to make myself. There’s only so much one can do within the confines of “no perfume, natural looking make up, one earring in each ear on the lowest part of the ear lobe, natural color nail polish, & no extreme hair styles.”
But dammit, I have to keep trying. Because I’ve learned something about how people view your opinion when you’re an ugly duckling in Octoberfest attire: they don’t. They don’t view your opinion, nor do they want it even when they ask you for it. When you look ugly, people are mean to you.
I’m not trying to say I normally don’t look ugly, but I get by OK. And whatever number I usually am on that 1 to 10 scale is now halved. Yesterday, it was less than half, because I had a nap before my shift and accidentally woke up without time to put on make up. And do you want to know what happened? I got tackled by an East Indian woman who didn’t like my ‘system’. Literally, on the ground in the rain with a woman in a burka.
I’m sure there’s a huge part of this that has nothing to do with me and how I look. People get stressed out and have bad days and they get downright rude. But because everything is always about me, I’m going to conclude that when one is an ugly duckling, there are more battles to fight. People get stressed out and have bad days and spit at my feet, but they never talk back to Cinderella. Because she’s an 8.
That being said, the ever-wise Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes (Women Who Run With the Wolves) writes of the Ugly Duckling that it is “a root story so fundamental to human development that without integration of this fact, further progression is shaky, and one cannot entirely prosper psychologically until this point is realized.” She continues “if [a woman] is an ugly duckling … her instincts have not been sharpened. She learns instead by trial and error. Usually many trials; many, many errors. [But], the exile never gives up. She keeps going until she finds the guide, the scent, till she finds the trail, till she finds home.”
As I took the extra thirty minutes to change out of my costume at the end of my shift last night, I was thinking about this passage. I realized that I am an ugly duckling, despite my 2003 hot-or-not rating. I do not ‘clique’ with people; I do not have ‘a kind’, and to quote the almighty U2: “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” This costume I’ve been imprisoned to, while working so hard to fight against everything I hope to obtain during my night’s out with the girls or in with the guys, has given me the opportunity to regain my power as someone with zero fucks to give.
It’s been close to 17 years since I’ve last worn a uniform, and I was never part of that elite group of girls who got in trouble at Catholic school for pinning their skirts up at recess. I kept my skirt long and wore my socks high and I never cried over the boys who liked the girls with the pinned up skirts. I hung upside down from the monkey bars until I thought I would faint. I used sharpies to color my finger nails. People trusted me because I was the one who accidentally always told the truth. I didn’t bother asking my Mom if I could shave my legs because I was happy being no different from the boys. I thought I deserved Jonathan Taylor Thomas and I was going to wait for him.
And then I went back into the public education system.
Back in my costume, after thinking about all of this last night, I found myself walking home from the bus at 2am. I was walking beside a co-worker who always makes fun of the fact I wear heels to and from work, even though I’m working 12 hour shifts and look dead to the world.
“I thought you would have given up this whole fashion parade by now” he laughed in his sweaty French accent. “I only made it three days before I just kept the costume on.“
I thought and walked, walked and thought. I didn’t recall ever having even considered wearing the costume to work. It wasn’t work to put the heels on, it was work to kick them off and tie up a pair of matte black Pumas.
And that’s when it hit me; “holy fuck, I’m a swan!”
Without my ugly duckling rearing it’s head in a pair of large shorts, I would never have known the distance I’ve traveled from my original element. While I still feel like I am out of my element about 75% of the time, I can now see this as an opportunity to further evolve, knowing how far I’ve come.
Also, now whenever I put my costume on, I’ll breathe a sigh of relief and say to strangers in my head Bitch please. I’m a fucking swan. Move along.
xo & yw