To be fair, this day was a long time in the making. I just happened to be at Trader Joe’s when lightning struck, so to speak.
I stood in their checkout line on a bustling Friday. Ahead of me, the Crew Member chatted up two young women, all yoga pants and fleece, in their casually pretty way. As he finished their purchase, he switched into high gear about their long hair and how he’d love to re-shape it if they made appointments with him because he was really a stylist.
He went on and on about the salon and his talents. And their gorgeous blonde hair. They giggled.
He swept his hands through the air, leaned in close and whispered more compliments. He handed them his card.
The woman now behind me waited. We muttered to each other about the other long lines, realizing we could do no better to the left or right.
STILL, he talked. As they scooped up their bags to leave, he stopped them, desperate to extract a promise that they’d schedule an appointment. They were coy but encouraging. “I’m so excited!” he said. “You’re beautiful!”
Then he turned to me and asked how I was on this fine day.
“Better, now that you have time for my groceries,” I said drily.
He waltzed my cart forward, grinned, and said, “We give all our customers the personal attention they deserve.” His hands did not float around my graying curls. He did not lean in to murmur coiffure confidences. He did not grace me with his personal card.
What a snake oil salesman, I thought.
“I’m sure you appreciate that, too,” he said.
“Not quite as much as you might think,” I said pointedly. The woman behind me hooted.
Realizing he’d just engaged two of the witches from Macbeth, he changed the subject to the wonderful sparkling pink lemonade I purchased for my daughter. I did not go on to add that she, too, was young and looked ravishing in her size 0 clothes and had gorgeous long hair.
I was silent. I paid and walked, fuming, toward the door.
Then I decided not to let him get away with it.
Perhaps you think I was overcome with jealousy, but the young women are blameless. The problem was his conduct, trolling for hair clients in a grocery store while inconveniencing other customers. And then he assumed his charming wink would smooth my ruffled, elderly feathers. When you get to be my age, you’ve finally had your fill of dismissive male behavior.
I remembered the sixth-grade boy who was furious whenever my grade was higher than his. When I scored 99% on the Greeks and Romans test to his A-, he sought revenge at recess, bouncing a ball off the brick wall beside me as I walked along. He landed it inches from me, nothing that would get him in trouble, but pounding his rage at me with each smash.
Then there was my score on a college history test, accompanied by praise from the professor as he put it on my desk. The boy beside me spat, “I bet a girl like you never leaves the library.”
Nor have I forgotten my first job and the morning when several men introduced themselves and began telling demeaning jokes about women. When I didn’t laugh, one said, “Well, I can see you don’t have a sense of humor.”
So I stopped at the service desk and lodged my complaint, asking: “Is Trader Joe’s opening a spa? Is a marketing campaign underway?” She assured me it was not and that she’d talk to him. Then the other woman of a certain age who’d stood in line behind me stopped and said, “Good. I see you told her what happened.” I encouraged her to add her own “double-double-toil-and-trouble” two cents.
In a perfect world, the manager would have asked for our receipts and reimbursed us. Or she would have given us gift certificates. Or she would have offered an apology at the very least. But she seemed to want the moment over as quickly as possible and us out of there.
That didn’t surprise a girl like me.
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