Smile, and the whole world’ll kick you in the ass…


Here’s a confession: I couldn’t flirt my way out of a paper bag. Seriously. If someone tossed me into a paper bag, then said, “Flirt your way out of it,” you’d never hear from me again. I lack that certain subtle quality that’s apparently required. In high school, while other girls batted their eyes and murmured whatever it is they were murmuring with seeming effortlessness to their boy–or boys–of choice, I could only manage a forthright, “So…are you gonna ask me out, or what?”*

Concede my surprise, therefore, when I found the following note waiting for me when I got to work Tuesday night, penned by my boss:

KEL, STOP FLIRTING WITH THE CUSTOMERS.

Actually, surprise is not the word I should have chosen to describe my emotions at that moment. Amazed. Astonished. Flabbergasted. Those just about do it. It took me several minutes to pick my jaw off the floor. I still have the bruise. And I spent the next eight-and-a-half hours a nervous, unflirty wreck. I buttoned my uniform all the way up to the top, geek-style, even though I can’t stand to have anything tight around my neck. I eyed each of my male customers with irritation and suspicion. They eyed me right back with what was probably amazement, astonishment, and flabbergastedness. And when my boss finally walked through the door at seven o’clock, I held up the note–clutched tightly in my fist–and growled:

“Just what the fuck is this all about?”

See what I mean about that certain subtle quality I lack?

“You’ve been flirting with the customers, and you need to stop it.”

“Flirt? What do you mean, ‘flirt’? I don’t even know how to flirt!” Then I unleashed my Paper Bag Gag. It had come to me at about three-thirty, and I’d been practicing it ever since. I’m proud to say it went over rather well, getting a hearty chuckle from my boss, the first shift girl, and the bread delivery guy. When he was done chuckling, my boss explained himself.

Apparently I smile too much, and it’s giving one of my customers–a scuzzy truck driver with no teeth whose wife recently left him–the wrong impression. Apparently he’s not used to friendly cashiers. Apparently I’m supposed to scowl at him and act like he’s got a lot of nerve coming to the store in the middle of the night to buy diesel fuel and coffee when I’ve got an important Star magazine to read, like the other overnight girl does. Apparently that would make him feel more comfortable.

Hey, I’m all for it. I’ve been practicing my scowl all week. I’ll keep practicing it this weekend. And I’ll unleash it on the asshole when he comes in early Monday morning for his diesel fuel and coffee. Because giving the customers what they want is my number one priority.

* Oddly enough, that line worked on the man who is now my husband. Go figure.

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About R.J. Keller

R. J. Keller is the author of Waiting For Spring. An avid independent movie enthusiast, she was Managing Editor of The Movie Fanatic website and created episodes of the writer-centric YouTube series, Inside The Writers' Studio, with author Kristen Tsetsi. She co-hosted Book Chatter with Stacey Cochran from 2011-2014. She lives in Central Maine with her family, where she enjoys gardening, collecting geeky memorabilia, and watching other people cook. View all posts by R.J. Keller

8 responses to “Smile, and the whole world’ll kick you in the ass…

  • bunnygirl

    When I went back to college after a ten-year hiatus, I took a psych class as part of my core curriculum. We read something about how men interpret a whole lot of behaviors as come-ons that women think are just ordinary friendliness. It sure explained a lot about how men reacted to me in my twenties!

    Of course, the flip side is that if a woman is stand-offish or acts in any way unfriendly (or if she merely has the temerity to not be smiling 24/7), she gets called on that, too.

    You really can’t win if you’ve got two X chromosomes.

  • worldofhiglet

    This really made me smile. Sometimes you really just can’t win. And the sad part is that when your boss left the message you assumed (as I would in your shoes) that you had done something wrong, and then spent hours wondering what you’d done. When, in fact, the real wrongdoer was someone else entirely.

    I’m glad you know who the culprit is and I don’t fancy his chances of mistaking the signals you’ll be giving him next time! Having said that, though, I’d get a handy list of reasons why accompanying him to the local waterhole for a drink one night isn’t such a great idea.

    Such men aren’t noted for their sophisticated interpretation of female signals and unless you actually, boldly and explicitly say “I would rather french-kiss a skunk than go anywhere with you at any time for ever and ever no comebacks getoutofthestorenoworI’llcallthepolice” he just might keep hold of the idea you fancy him *shudder*.

  • Zoe Winters

    hahaha I was the mean night girl. Well mostly when bitches came in (and by bitches I mean truck drivers) right when I was mopping the floor. Like they HAD to pee right then.

    Um, hello, you’re a boy, AND a truck driver. Pee outside behind the building. Jeez. Be all manly and call of the wild about it and let me mop.

    I was very Jeckyll/Hyde. I’d flirt with the cute ones. One particular pair I’ll never forget, these hippie type guys who were just wandering around, living in different places and taking odd jobs, and also very likely selling a lot of pot, lol. But they were hot. Of course I wasn’t stupid enough to go anywhere with them (which they begged all night saying “we’re harmless, we smoke pot. How bad could we be?”)

    But the attention was very flattering. And I was sad to see them go.

    But I’m mean and surly to anyone trying to flirt with me that I find personally creepy. And that’s just to discourage them. Because I don’t play dice with my personal safety. If a man needs to think I’m a total bitch to get the picture I’m not interested, that’s A-okay with me.

    But that was the really long way of saying, I’m a flirt, and it’s a good thing my husband isn’t a jealous man.

  • Zoe Winters

    Hey Bunnygirl, this is why men have no right to complain about women being “bitches.”

    We do that as a personal defense mechanism against the bizarre list of behaviors they think indicate “yeah, she wants me.”

    I’ve gotten to the point where I am only nice in any of those ways to a man who in some alternate reality I would consider sleeping with. If there’s no sexual attraction or already base friendship there as a barrier, I’ll just be a bitch. it’s easier on my sanity.

  • Crystal Lynn

    While in the Navy… I was very careful about showing any female type looks, flutters, or giggles, less they be construed to mean things I hadn’t thought of. Imagine my surprise when I received my annual eval one year when the CO made the comment…in writing… “that while a good sailor, PO2 LastName, is entirely too feminine” Imagine writing that on a women’s performance apprisal today….

  • Zoe Winters

    OMFG Crystal, that pisses me off. I mean you were TRYING to be “mannish.” It seems to be their problem with you was that you had ovaries, breasts, and did that pesky bleeding thing once a month.

  • Zoe Winters

    *it seems to me

  • Crystal Lynn

    It was a different time… and I fought all that crap. I managed to make it to E-6 before I got out (8 years) and blazed a few trails.
    I was the only female weather forecaster on the east coast..couldn’t go to sea though or fly any recons, or go to the Academy. As I said times were different.
    Heck when I went to college out of HS, I could NOT join the college marching band…it was male only.
    Other than a few idiots that I encountered in Navy like that CO, for the most part I was able to become something on my merits.. and I used the Regs to go it. (they were gender neutral so they couldn’t argue back a point if I had the regs)

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