Despite the beating that working retail has delivered to my body, I love my job. I work as a sales associate in a very busy department at Lord & Taylor. I’m part time and my shifts typically run 4 – 6 hours—piece of cake. I don’t make much money but I don’t have to get up early, I have time to write, the discounts are great, and I love my co-workers. They are mostly older, black women, with older women names, Helen, Ester, Ruby and Millie, proud, well-dressed and well-respected. As you know without my telling you, they are full timers and have worked retail forever. They are workers bees and women who tend to women, in an intimate womanly way–like my body looks like shit, no honey, you look good. They remind me of my mother—they are nurturing, savvy, and smart shopgirls.
And then there are the young sales girls, the ones that work mostly nights, after their day job or after school, with the made-up sounding names of young black girls, Sheniqua or Prestique or Lasheena. They’re too often lazy and full of youth but I love them just as much as I love the older gals, and they all hug and kiss me when I haven’t seen them in a while. I know only a little about any of their personal lives and they know little about mine—we’re usually too busy to hang out at the register and talk, and really, it’s a refreshing way to work. Most of the women in the store (and yes, there is a handful of male sales associates) take their breaks and lunch in the break room, a quiet, utilitarian space with low-volume Judge Judy type programming on the t.v. and little chatter—everyone is tired of standing, walking and talking. I like to sit there and play games on my phone—again, refreshing and again, I really do like working retail.
The customers can be problematic, but for the most part, they are lovely woman who want to talk about clothes and their issues with sizing. My biggest complaint regarding customers is when they nag, beg, and feign entitlement for coupons or discounts. I have often said that if Lord and Taylor sold a sweater for $1.00, someone would ask if they could have it for $.50. I shrug it off–I clock in, I clock out, it’s certainly not the kind of job that keeps you up at night.
But what I love most about my job is being around women who compliment, both customers and co-workers. These are women who compliment easily and truthfully, who make you feel good with a simple you look adorable or I love what you’re wearing. I worried at first that this surely must speak to my low self-esteem, but I don’t think that’s the case. I have always complimented women a lot, I like to, it’s kind and sweet, it makes me feel good and it makes them feel good, be it a compliment about their hair or their home or their skin tone (a compliment I stole from the best complimenter of all time, KK). And I like to be around women who think like I do, who express themselves like I do, who lift the spirits of others with gentle flattery. I’ve expressed this prejudice of mine before–if a woman comes to my home and doesn’t compliment my style or decor, she’s most likely not someone I could get close to. Who doesn’t like to be petted?
Compliment today, everyday. And men, learn this lesson once and for all, will ‘ya? So, so simple and sweet.
artwork: peniel enchill