Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
I really didn’t like when you were mean to that girl on Saturday, my boyfriend mentioned in his sweet adorable soft spoken voice out of nowhere two days later when I saw him Monday night at the spectacular DCFC concert at Walt Disney Hall.
I had totally forgotten about the whole “incident” but apparently it was bothering him so much that he brought it up again two days later to tell me that it bothered him, even though he had already told me as much right after it happened.
I asked him if the tomato soup incident to which he was referring was really as bad as all that.
I just like it when you’re nice, he said. Can you get more diplomatic than that? And yet for him, this felt like a stinging rebuke.
Was I really that awful? I suppose I was rude, but if someone’s rude to you first, how nice are you supposed to be back? Perhaps he was shocked because I’m usually a stickler when it comes to being courteous and well-mannered.
Let me explain the circumstances regarding the incident. Saturday evening, we were at a wedding reception, where the food was provided by a food truck. The reception was only from 5 to 7 and contrary to my usual modus operandi, we were perfectly on time. However, from the moment we arrived, there was a long line of guests waiting to order dinner from the truck. Because of the timing of the wedding, I had unintentionally skipped lunch, so although I was starving when we arrived, I hate waiting in line even more, so we chatted with friends for an hour and a half. By 6:30, most everyone had eaten, there was absolutely no line at the truck, and my diplomatic boyfriend and I made our way to the driveway. By the time we got to the window, it was just after 6:35 and I knew just what I wanted.
The gourmet truck had many indulgent foodie options, but being a vegetarian, my options were very limited. There was a vegetable option, which looked like a lot of cucumber but there was also a grilled cheese and tomato soup option. What are weekends for if not to indulge? I ordered my grilled cheese.
That’s just for the children. We have to wait to make sure there’s enough for all the kids.
I checked my watch again. About twenty minutes left for the whole wedding. I looked around. It seemed most everyone had eaten or was at the dessert bar. I looked back at the girl inside the food truck. She looked about my age. Maybe I wouldn’t have been so offended if she hadn’t take so much obvious pleasure in saying no to me. But there was a clear power play going on. I could understand if this was an hour ago and there was a huge line, but the party was over. Either she had enough left to feed me or she didn’t.
Ok, when will you know? I inquired. And I’m not going to lie. I said this like a bitchy sorority girl replying to a guy who just told her he doesn’t know if he can go with her to the Greek formal or not.
I don’t know, she shot back, like she was Queen of Grilled Cheese Land and she could deny any subject she didn’t like the looks of a yummy sandwich at her whim. Well, I wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction.
Ok, I’ll come back, fake smile plastered onto my face. I was going to beat her at her own game.
Do you want something else for now? Here’s the thing, having been a waitress earlier on my life, I have an incredible amount of sympathy for people in the service industry. It’s a hard job and no matter where I am or what kind of mood I’m in, I make it a priority to be polite to servers and bussers at restaurants, bellman at hotels, even people who answer calls from 800 numbers. I hang up the clothes I leave in dressing rooms. If I have terrible service at a restaurant which is pretty rare these days, I would never tip less than 15%. In fact, if this girl had taken my order in a restaurant, I still would have tipped her 15% because I don’t like to mess with people’s wages. However, if she starts it, how nice do I really have to be back?
No, thank you, I’ll just wait, I’m a vegetarian. I added this because I thought it might elicit some sympathy. It wasn’t like I had the option of having the pulled pork everyone was raving about or the jerk chicken or the other meaty things people were salivating over.
We have the vegetarian dish. I again weighed my options of vegan vegetables with bread or delicious hot grilled cheese dipped in creamy tomato soup. She was still shooting death-rays at me with her eyes.
No, I’ll just wait. My hunger wasn’t helping the situation and I knew everything I was saying came out in a tone that can only be defined at its very best as snarky.
The potatoes are vegetarian. I knew what she was doing and it was sneaky. See, if she could get me to order the veggie dish or sides, then I’d eat it and I’d be too full to come back, so she would win. But I couldn’t let that happen. Plus, as good as the fried potatoes with aioli looked, I couldn’t have that and grilled cheese for dinner. Some restraint was required.
When should I come back? At this point, she seemed surprised my determination.
I don’t know, ten minutes, she said with equal measure of bitch inflection.
Ok, I’ll come back.
My boyfriend had been behind me the whole time. We walked away and he told me as sweetly as he could that I was mean. But she had started it, hadn’t she?
I didn’t wait the full ten minutes. From the table we sat at, I could still see the truck. No one was ordering anything. I looked around for all the poor hungry children who I would practically be forcing to starve if I got what I wanted. It appeared that all the kids had already eaten or gone home. The dessert bar had been demolished. How was it not obvious, THE CHILDREN HAD EATEN! About five minutes later, I got up and marched in my high heels right over to the window.
Hi, do you have enough now?
She gave me half a fake smile and said she had to check. Apparently, I had worn her down. She came back and said it was fine. Of course it was fine! You had fed almost everyone already, I thought. I didn’t see why she couldn’t have just done that five minutes ago.
I came back to the table with delicious hot melty grilled cheese, which was so rich I could only finish half of it.
I kind of forgot about it after that. But apparently, it had so disturbed my Mr., he had been thinking about it for two days. I thought back on my behavior. Had I really been that bad? The thing was, it really felt personal. Like this girl looked me up and down and was getting a kick out of saying no to me. I had seen her take orders from other people and she used a sweet voice that she did not use with me.
But still, do we as women reserve the right to answer bitchiness with more bitchiness? I know there’s a lot to be said for being the bigger person and in many situations I firmly believe in that. But are there ever situations where it’s simply ok to be a bitch? Was there any harm in me using a tone I usually reserve for impressions of my sister as a teenager? I didn’t want to start anything, but I don’t believe in being a push-over either.
Can one simultaneously argue for confronting the world with politeness and still feel a bitchy girl deserves to be bitched at back? I like to think so. But then again, it was disheartening to feel like I had embarrassed the man I love. All over a tone of voice. My birthday is tomorrow and perhaps I’m reaching the age, where it’s time to put my inner-brat in my back-pocket. Or at least, I’m going to make an honest attempt to from now on. Perhaps, it’s not a terrible thing if I let him make me a kinder person. Plus, I can always make fun of her behind her back…
PS – Monday May 14th at 11am, I’ll be on the Dennis Prager radio show live to discuss my earlier political columns on dating a Republican. You can stream it live from KRLA AM 870 or download it from his website after it airs.
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May 4, 2012 | 9:44 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
Ann Romney raised five boys. I’m sure that was hard. So hard that to be honest, I’d prefer not to find out myself. But at the same time, it doesn’t give her the same experience as having a job that gives you a paycheck. There’s nothing wrong with her choice. I actually happen to like Ann Romney. I’ve had a special place in my heart for well-coiffed well-coutured women who speak French ever since I fell in love with Jackie Kennedy. And like Jackie, Ann seems charming and classy and whether I like it or not, I’m sure she’ll be a huge asset to Mitt. But can we just stop pretending that her “job” is just like everyone else’s. As hard as being a mother may be, I just don’t see how only ever being a wife or mother while being supported by a husband qualifies you to give counsel on economic issues.
There are some things that you can only learn from supporting yourself on a paycheck. I know because I had to learn the hard way.
Growing up, I labored under the misapprehension that I knew what it was to work hard because I worked hard at school, my extracurriculars, or internships. I grew up wanting to go to a good college so I worked really hard. All the time. I thought that was tough. I told everyone how tough it was to go from ice-skating to ballet and to keep my grades up and study for the SATS and intern for a Congressman. And don’t forget, I had essays for college to write and volunteer work to do and summer programs to apply for. And every once in a while I would work for my Dad to make some money but I didn’t get any special treatment just because I was the boss’s daughter I swear. It was not easy to have so many things to I had to work hard at.
Then I got to college and I thought that was really really hard. Man, not only was I doing twice as much as I felt like I was doing in high school, but on top of that, my parents gave me a budget. Every quarter, they deposited a fixed amount into my bank account and that was all I was going to get. I noticed the price on things for the first time in my life. Who knew conditioner could cost $40? I would get annoyed with my parents on the phone because they didn’t seem to show much sympathy when I tried to explain how stressed I was. I never had enough time to sleep or exercise. When people with jobs told me they wished they could go back to school again, I told them it wasn’t like back in their day when all kids did was party. Sometimes, I had early classes that started at 10:00 cause I wanted to double major. And Student Government was a really big deal at my school and took up a lot of time. And everyone goes out Thursday nights and to the football games on the weekends. And I had to learn if I liked Midori Sours or wanted to join a sorority or if the guy I liked hung out at the Deuce. There was no coasting for me through college.
Right after college, I moved back home to finish my novel or screenplay or whichever one I decided to start first. It was really tough to decide which to write first so I had to spend most of the time exercising and tanning and “dealing” with college being over and luckily both my parents worked so I had the house to myself to get all my work done. But my parents didn’t understand how hard my work was. One day my mom came home and found me tanning topless outside by the pool, reading the New Yorker. She started screaming at me about how she and my father didn’t spend their entire lives working hard so that I could come home and lounge around tanning. I told her I was working but nonetheless essentially out of spite I scoured Los Angeles job till I finally got hired as a waitress and moved out.
And thus, for the very first time in my life, I was supporting myself with a job. I had had jobs a few times before, but they had always been for supplemental income. At first, I was really angry with my parents for not supporting my “art.” Didn’t they work that hard so that I could have opportunities they didn’t have? But then, I looked around at my apartment and felt proud of what I was providing myself. Unfortunately, then I went to work and hated my life. And then I found out what working hard really meant.
I quickly realized I hated waitressing and it hated me. In the beginning, I lived in fear of losing my job. Early on, I got a bad “shopper report,” as in a mystery shopper came in and gave me a bad score. As I sat in my boss’s office listening to him tell me why I was a bad waitress, I nervously ran through all the scenarios that were likely to erupt if I got fired that would eventually lead to me being evicted, living on the streets, and tap dancing on the sidewalk for money. I remember getting stiffed on a table for the first time and sneaking off to the bathroom where I cried because I didn’t know if I was going to make enough money for my car payment that month. Then there was just the general rudeness I had to take all day long. When you work in any service industry job, there will always be some people who will be complete jerks but worse than that, you have to fall all over yourself obsequiously apologizing for your stupidity to them, just praying to God that karma exists. (And although contrary to popular opinion, I never once saw a server ever spit into anyone’s food, I can’t say we never “accidentally” might have kicked a chair every once in a while.) When you go to an elite university, they do a great job teaching you many things. In fact, they even do a good job teaching you some valuable life lessons. But learning how to keep your mouth shut when people at your job treat you like an idiot is not one of them.
So even though, I had worked hard all my life up till that moment, “working” took on a very different meaning for me when I realized that if I lost my job, I might lose everything. My whole life up till that point, my parents had been trying to teach me the value of money. But in retrospect, there’s nothing they could have done. There was nothing they could have said that would have taught me what it all meant. All they could do, was what they did do. Kick me out with a college degree in hand, offer to keep me on the cell phone family plan, and hope for the best.
And I think we can all agree, thank god they did. I’m not saying any of this is any better than motherhood in any way. All I am saying is that from one privileged white girl to another, it’s hard to truly learn the value of money, until you have to earn it yourself. And that’s an experience that I just don’t think you learn automatically by being a mother with no financial troubles. And while being a mother may be the most important and valuable job a woman can have, it’s a different type of job from the one that ends every two weeks with a paycheck. And I don’t understand why we have to pretend that one automatically gives you an authoritative position on the other.