When I first decided to take a serving job at a country club to support myself during my gap year between undergrad and post-grad life, I was expecting something along the lines of long shifts into the night and pouring endless cups of coffee.
I never expected the grossest thing I had to deal with would be the members themselves.
I was expecting the occasional rude or difficult customer here and there—every waitress goes into a shift expecting that—but I thought if they had anything to complain about it would depend on my performance. Not my appearance.
Every shift I have to make sure my hair is done and my makeup is applied, this is not mandatory according to my boss but it determines whether or not the table will be a pleasant experience. It cannot even be natural looking makeup, I tried that during my first few shifts but they would much rather see a full face of foundation, bronzer, brow pencil, lip color, the works.
If I come in with little to no makeup, I don't get tipped. Simple as that. As one member put it: if they're paying, they would rather have something pretty to look at.
If I don't flirt back, I'm labeled as "The Difficult One"
Being from New York originally, I already did not respond well to being referred to as "darling" or other condescending pet names. I used to show my discomfort visibly which always resulted in an attitude or an eye roll or my personal favorite—a sad face drawn on the receipts line where a tip could have been.
So instead I have to plaster a fake smile on my face as I am being told "Fetch me an Old Fashion, sweetheart" touch their shoulder as I place it down and not say anything as they put their hand on my lower back so I know lean in and listen to what they have to say:
"What here is as good as you look tonight?"
"Just stand there and look pretty for now?"
"Play your cards right and I could make you my new favorite."
I know it's just an ego boost for them, but it still feels wrong. Yet there's nothing I can do. If I don't play along, they complain, and then it's my job on the line.
My boyfriend HATES it.
He hates that I am constantly put in this position, he hates that other men look me over and speak to me the way they do. He hates that because they are older and more well off that they believe they have a right to act the way they do and it kills him to listen to my complaints of the comments and the touching every night, but there is nothing I can do.
I come home every night feeling cheap and ashamed. There are times where I can't look my boyfriend or even myself in the eye due to the number of times I've said: "I only aim to please."
There is no teaching an old dog new tricks, they were part of another time where it was accepted to speak to servers (or women) the way they do and it was just the norm to let it roll off our backs and do our work. It was their world and we were just living in it, and for the time being, I still am.
There is no biting the hand that feeds you, even if I am the one serving the plate.
Now I'm proud to say, #MeToo.
I admit I never realized just how imperative the #MeToo movement was until suddenly it applied to me. It's not OK to talk down or overpower people you feel are below you. No one has the right to decide whose life is greater worth than another.
It's too late for the generations before us but it is never too late for those after us. Movements like this change people's perceptions for the better, so hopefully there will be a day where a server doesn't have to sink down to their level in order to make a living.