24 February 2010

Can I talk to you about the wrinkles around your eyes?

Over the 2009 winter holidays I was given the opportunity to be an employee in my own shop. Kae and Kristine were on their much deserved vacations and I was the last woman standing for two days at the studio. It was refreshing to set aside my administrative duties and instead be available for customers. My job was to show up on time, receive web orders, answer emails and greet last minute customers in the store.
Everything went pretty well, but I did notice one thing. The keyboard for the office computer was carpal tunnel waiting to happen. It even stressed my right hand so bad that I couldn't knit for the first few days of my precious down time! Things were going to have to change. When Kae got back I asked her if she wanted a new keyboard (yes please!) and off we went to the Apple Store. It's in the Stonestown Mall, a rather upscale experience with all the requisite shops and those little kiosks selling all sorts of things from iPod covers to cosmetics. As we left the store we were greeted by an enthusiastic young man who wanted to compliment me on my scarf, find out where we were from, make any kind of sympatico conversation that might lead us over to his booth were he was selling eye creams and other age-reversing potions. He was nice enough, and we were nice enough, but I really didn't want to get pulled into his pitch (he also had smaller shoulders and softer hands than me, and that's just wrong.) So, when he said, "Can I talk to you about the wrinkles around your eyes?" I just smiled (they really show up when I smile), said "No thank you" and continued walking.
And it got me to thinking, I don't want to cover up the wrinkles around my eyes. I like my wrinkles as much as I like my grey hair. I don't want to look younger because I don't want to be treated as if I were younger. It took me a long time to get to 49 and I want all the cred that goes with it. It also occurred to me that I don't dress and flamboyantly as I used to. I think this is part of the same vein, I don't need to call attention to myself with things on the outside of my body, I am interesting just by being me. I've been through a lot, good and bad, and have wisdom on my side. I want you to see who I am plain and simple (aka older women are the bomb, babe!)

Now, if he had said, 'Can I talk to you about the fat around your waistline?', he could have probably sold me the whole kiosk, but that's for another day.

20 February 2010

Grand Torino-or if your are White, look down and keep going

I'm on a Clint Eastwood jag. I watched Grand Torino recently and I had a memory of growing up in Daly City, CA.
There is a scene in the beginning of Grand Torino, where a couple of African American guys have a beef with an Asian girl. Her Caucasian friend attempts to step in and is advised to move on.

These days, that's the politically correct way of saying it. Here's how it would have gone in 1974;
Black-hey Yellow, we want to talk to you.
Yellow-yeah, what do you want?
White-Hey! Yellow is with me, leave her alone!
Black-Whitey, if you want to get out of here in one piece just look down and keep going.
White-implied silence.

And that's the way it was in the multi-colored neighborhood where I grew up. Black and Brown and Yellow where always at war and if you were White the best thing you could do was look down and keep going.
This tactic worked well for me at Serramonte High School until I graduated in 1979.
But then, I had to get job.

I was lucky enough to land a job at Another Roadside Attraction, at Serramonte Shopping Center just down the hill from the high school. It was one of the first cafes to grace the scene in what is now an common place occurrence. We served Capricorn Coffee and Just Deserts in a world of MJB and doughnuts. I was hired as a counter clerk. I arrived at 7AM everyday to brew designer coffee and serve "natural (today if would be 'organic')" pastries. But I was frustrated at the fact that I couldn't get a better shift. Eventually, I confronted my boss and asked why I had the lousy shift. He paused and said, "Because you don't smile at the customers."

Oh! My safety mechanism for survival in Daly City wasn't going to work in the real world. I decided to heed the generous advice of my boss and give smiling a try. Within weeks I was promoted to waitress and had a great lunch-time shift with lots of tips. I even learned to be the one to smile first (perish the thought!) and keep smiling even when I had a cranky customer...tips! Or the "Smile honey" customer...no problem pal... tips!

Remember my story from SF Beledi when my teacher, Masha, told me to smile or get off the stage? That was actually before I worked as a waitress. But even with my real-world-waitress-smile-honey training, as I entered the world of teaching and performing on my own, I would often fall prey to "concentration face." I simply would forget to smile because I wasn't yet in the flow of letting the music move me. I was still thinking. Time for more strategy, if I wanted to attract and keep students and audiences...you guessed it...smile! It wasn't hard. The tip was still tied to the sale and I could see the results. I had to force it for a while, but as soon as it became part of my dance muscle memory, I was in.

So now when you see me in class or on stage, that smile is real. But it's not just for the tips anymore, it for the reward of lessons learned.