I have engaged in many activities to achieve financial solvency, but only one job in particular traumatized me so badly that my very soul still crawls at the memory – The Mall. For sixth months I waded through Gap girls and J. Crew guys in a desperate attempt to pay the note on a primo car and finance my independence, only to be driven away screaming and shielding my skin from the threat of a tanning booth.
Every month at this unnamed clothing retail store the managers evaluated the employees. I soon learned to fear these evaluations with an almost superstitious loathing. What part of my physical or psychological makeup would be deemed detrimental to the company this month, thereby rendering me incapable of selling ugly modular clothes to overweight, bored socialite housewives? I trembled.
First, they asked me to be a little nicer to the customers, so I transformed myself into a veritable Pollyanna. I smiled so much that my jaws ached at night and, of course, it wasn’t enough. The next picked bone was my dress. ‘Well, dear, you’re just so PALE and all you ever wear is black. Under these fluorescent lights you look dead and no one wants to buy clothes from a corpse!” (To set the record straight, I know of several people who would love to buy clothes from a corpse, but I digress.) Okay, so I caved in to their wishes that I wear pastels and sun tan pantyhose, but believe me I wanted to die or at least cry.
By the time of my June evaluation I was not afraid, because my transmogrification was complete. I was one of THEM, or so I thought. Nothing could have prepared me for what was to come. Apparently, the “secret shopper” had deemed me too melanin-deficient to properly peddle mass produced, overpriced cotton garments. I believe the term used was “unnervingly pale”. Let me get one thing straight. I am a natural red head, not a Clairol #24 Copper Sunrise or a Manic Panic make-your-parents-sweat red. A great deity bestowed upon me pubic hair o’ fire, no kidding. A potato-eatin’ Irish girl with a genetic lack of pigment.
Was this attack on me a reverse affirmative action? I offered to wear more blush. No dice. Gulp – beige base makeup? No way. Their eventual proposal? I should seek the withering aid of a tanning salon. A circuit tripped in my brain. I jumped up, knocked my chair to the floor, thus eliciting a gasp from my turquoise eye-shadowed tormentor. My inner voice reached a feverish pitch at the absurdity of her proposal. What kind of moron would think that a tanning booth would do anything but turn me into a piece of neon-red cowhide? My freckles would probably burst, my skin would melt, and my corneas dissolve! I refused to bake my organs like so much Jiffy Pop and turn my skin crimson just to work for this tanned, brown eye’d devil! I told her to kiss my pallid ass and thus severed my tempestuous relationship with the sickening world of retail. And so my soul was saved.
My sisters, let this be a lesson to you. Work at used CD shops, sell vibrators, or even take the night shift at a 24 hour massage parlor. Just stay out of the sun and refuse to work for women who call you “dear.” It could make the difference between years of beautiful skin and turning yourself into a baked potato.