1.15.2009

I Am Here

I was shopping at LOFT today. I was dressed smartly in knee-high boots and leggings, a hip smocked coat with balloon sleeves and a J-Lo worthy cap. I was confident - armed with a gift certificate, eager to spend it.

There was an obvious but subtle tone as I entered the glass doors. Someone may have looked over, but nobody acknowleged me. There seemed to be several clerks and several shoppers. I looked around every corner of the store, collecting an armful of clothes to try on. Nobody offered to start a dressing room for me. I was holding shirts up to pants. Not one clerk asked what size I was looking for. There was a young blond behind the wrap desk that kept giving me sideward glances but never smiled or said hello.

I asked directions to the dressing room. One showed me to the back of the store. She checked once to see if I needed anything. Meanwhile, in the next booth, a clerk and customer are going at it like Marie Antoinette and her servant girl. I purposely went out to the 3-way mirror in the hallway and stood looking at myself. I even lingered. I was not 3 feet from the servant, I mean, clerk and she paid me no mind. Not a "that's a nice color," or "can I get you anything." I left everything in the dressing room, unwilling to spend my money there and headed for the door.

You see, I had already gone through this routine at NY& Co next door. I was able to keep up my wall of protection, built brick by brick over the years and years of being ignored. At the deli counter, at the auto dealer, at K-Mart and at Nordstrom. Dressed well or dressed poorly. In Boston, Altoona, St. Louis and Reading. I had before that store, seen my surgeon who confirmed that I was doing well and had no reason to think that the lump he removed would result in cancer. So. Maybe it was because I was emotional, having walked out of his office knowing I had been spared my ascent to see my Maker. Maybe I was just tired of holding it all in. Maybe all that. But really? Really, I have come to internalize and really understand, really understand, that it's not me. It doesn't matter what I do, what I wear, how I act. Because I look like I do, some people ignore me, and make me, by their sin of ommission - make me invisible.

I approached the African-American clerk, who seemed to be in charge. I approached her quietly. Gently I asked, "Have you ever gone into a store and been ignored?" She gave me a subtle "sista" roll of the eyes, a tactful swagger and said in a conspiratorial tone, "Oh yeah. I wish I hadn't, but I have." I shocked her by saying, "Well, that's how I was treated here."

I am here. I will be known.

*

10 comments:

Grace said...

I love this post. And I hate this post. No, I don't. I just hate that it happened to you. It has happened to me, too. Numerous times. I think it totally reflects on the ignor-ers rather than on the ignor-ees. Shows such a lack of professionalism.
And, BTW, I have NOT been ignoring your blog - lol - I've been occupied. ;-) (See my blog!)

Grace said...

P.S. You are very pretty!

Anonymous said...

wow, you'd think the economy wasn't tanking or anything...

I've gone through that in our Stepford Town in SOME stores. I say this in the past tense because 1)I took my money elsewhere and 2)the economy tanked big time, since a huge percentage of the town works on Wall Street. Our small downtown is a ghost town, albeit one with at least 5 fine jewelry stores and overpriced yet underwhelming children's clothing. *NOW* when I go into a store (for kicks of course) I get friendly/worried/desparate vibe and I STILL refuse to buy anything.

HCG

Anonymous said...

When this happens to me, I like to think the best. That they're just lazy or rude. That they aren't ignoring me because of my race. Unfortunately, there's only so much optimism one can muster. I find this rarely happens to me in Montreal. But in the U.S.... sigh. It's frightening how Americans look at race.

It's horrible this happened to you. But it's great you said something. Usually I just walk out pissed.

mamawhelming said...

It's great that you said something. Maybe you could inform the CEO as well. It absolutely reflects on the ignorance and incompetence of the clerks.

mamawhelming said...

By LOFT do you mean Ann Taylor? Because they've been discounting merchandise and their stock is down more than 80% since May. I am sure someone in the corporate suite would be interested in hearing that a customer with an armful of clothes was ignored.

sarah said...

It was totally the hat. You are FAB, dahlin'

Katie R. said...

I love that you spoke up and in such a clever way.

Anonymous said...

Well you already know that you are my hero!!
Cheryl

JulieKP said...

Good for you! I hope my girls are as confident as you are when they are older. Then again I hope they don't have to deal with this when they are older.