Years ago, my husband worked with a lady who - although she'd been reprimanded several times - wore inappropriate clothing to work. After being called on the carpet by the owner of the business, she'd sulkily dress in the more demure items in her wardrobe (which didn't exactly make her look like a Puritan goodwife or anything), but after a few weeks, she'd be back to the low-cut tops that showed her midriff, the skin-tight pants, etc. And this was back when Britney Spears was still in diapers.
One day shortly after my husband was hired, this lady, who fancied herself a great deal, was asking my husband how old he thought she was. If I'd been there, I could have told her that this was a mistake. And not just because it was my husband who was being asked; men, unless it's only about an hour until last call and their beer goggles are firmly in place, generally don't do well with questions like this. There were several other employees standing with them and they all looked at my husband with amused expectancy.
"How old do you think I am?" she purred, twisting a strand of her bleached-blonde hair around one talon-nailed finger. She preened herself, he said, stroking an imaginary dust molecule off her bodice, the buttons of which were barely restraining her augmented bosoms. A tiny bit of super-tanned skin below the hem of her blouse spoke eloquently of her many hours spent lounging in a sunbed. She winked at him with one false-eyelashed eye and gave him a big, confident smile.
(All this to sell carpet, tile and hardwood flooring!)
"Uhmm.....errrrr....." my husband stalled, wildly seeking help from one of his male colleagues, none of whom were willing to meet his eye, for some reason. "Ahhhhhh.....forty-two?"
One man made a funny snorting sound through his nose and went off with a muffled excuse about hay fever. The others drifted away, biting their lips and somehow managing to refrain from nudging each other in wicked glee until they were out of sight beyond the Mediterranean tile displays.
"FORTY-TWO??!!" she asked him with Medusa-like menace. "Forty-TWO??!!"
"How old are you?" he asked miserably.
"I am thirty-five. THIRTY-FIVE, you @$$%$&#!"
"Oh," he said, running his finger along the inside collar of his shirt, which he said suddenly seemed way too tight. "Well, you shouldn't ask people stuff like that."
"Well, EVERYONE ELSE guesses that I'm about twenty-SIX," she said through clenched teeth and flounced off, flipping her bleachy hair, her high heels tapping out a furious tattoo on the floor.
One of the other salesmen came up and said, "Dude, that was just......perfect. PER-fect. Thank you."
"Not such a great way to start out the new job, though."
"No, trust me on this. You are our hero."
Fast forward to last week, where I overheard this conversation. The two participants were a very toned, blonde, suntanned, fingernailed, outfitted and jewelry-bedecked person of average height for a woman who probably weighed 105 pounds dripping wet. The other person was a gentleman of about fifty years. They were discussing this last weekend of the summer and all the last hurrahs of grilling out.
"I'll have to be very careful," she said, smoothing her ring-laden brown fingers over her concave abdomen, belly-button piercing on provocative display. "I've gained four whole pounds this summer and I'm getting soooo fat!" And she laughed that tiny, tinkling laugh that makes me want to grab the laugher by the nose and screech "GOTCHER CONK!" pulling her around the room after me in a bent-over, stumbling half-run.
The man standing next to her gave her a brief look. "It doesn't show," he commented shortly. "You still look like an Ethiopian."
I watched this woman standing there, the gears in her mind turning as she tried to turn this dubious remark into a compliment. Because, surely, he meant to compliment her. Right?
I had to restrain myself from throwing my arms around this man and then stepping back to hold him at arm's length, my hands gripping his shoulders and saying, "Thank you. THANK you."
He is my hero.
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