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If You Can't Say Anything Nice...

Several years ago, I took a job in a high street sex store (feeling all naughty as I did so). The Brits will know the lurid pink shopfront I mean, but, for the rest of you, it was one of a chain of "fashion and passion" shops which aim to make shopping for the bedroom (or hotel room or boardroom or whatever) exciting and accessible rather than sleazy and embarrassing. No frosted glass or video entry systems here; the stores ease people in with yoga pants and floral camisoles by the door and gradually up the ante/down the cotton content the further in you go.

And that job was awesome. The people I worked with were hilarious, the products were entertaining, and - with the exception of the Valentine's Day panic-ridden stampede of men in suits - not a customer walked into that store who wasn't up for some fun. Some were shy or nervous or embarrassed, but every single one of them was shopping to have a good time - and anyone who has ever worked in retail will know how much more pleasant the job can be when your customers are in a good mood.

We had hordes of intoxicated ladies guffawing as they bought treats for hen parties. We had excited new girlfriends looking to tease and tantalise. We had older ladies adding spice to a big anniversary. We had male customers ranging from the cocky to the clueless, but all of them bothered to smile at the staff.

The only people who weren't fun to serve... were couples.

To clarify: the boyfriends were almost always pleasant and polite, but so many of the girlfriends would morph into vicious, possessive vipers the moment they walked into the store. Sales assistants would be blanked, men would be forcibly turned away from us, audible comments would be made declaring that, "Everyone who works here is a whore." Excuse me?! Since when did you buying some naughty underwear turn me into a woman who has sex for money? Or with any man who offers? I was the only staff member in that store who wasn't in a long term, monogamous relationship and I had no interest in stealing anybody's boyfriend; I had a 30% staff discount on ways to please myself.

The thing is, rationally, not all of those women could have believed that I was a genuine threat. Not all of them could have believed that, without their words of warning, their boyfriends would have been powerless to resist me, winking and waving from the changing rooms. I'm not that attractive and most men are not that weak willed.

But, of course, it's not just in sex shops that women get jealous and nasty - it was just more pronounced there. I've had plenty of girls (girls significantly prettier than me, sometimes) get all huffy and pointed when their boyfriends had a bit of a laugh with me. I've heard plenty of women hypthosise about the sexual behaviour of stunning barmaids - and never in an admiring way. I've read the trashy magazine features which encourage us to revel in celebrities' cellulite. And surely this sort of thing has to stop?

Come on, girls, are we really so insecure that we have to treat each other this way?

If you can't trust in your boyfriend's fidelity, tackle that with him - don't take it out on the pretty girl in Morrison's; she isn't planning to smuggle him into the stock room; it's not her break time; she hasn't even noticed he's cute.

It your self-esteem is low, you need to resolve your issues yourself - calling somebody else ugly isn't going to make you any cuter. We all get spots; we all have bad hair days; we're all so much prettier when we smile so why not give that a try instead?

And don't think pointing out somebody else's flaws is going to make anybody blind to your own. Stating that somebody else is slutty or lazy or slovenly does not make you a better person in comparison; it drags you down to the level of bitch. And your boyfriend won't be blind to that forever.

There are so many people out there ready to demean us women. There are so many men who still think it's okay to grope us and make lewd comments. There are so many boys ready to call us sluts and slags because there isn't a worse insult in their vocabulary. There are probably a load of people out there already judging me for having a sold a bunch of vibrators and implying that I know how to use one. So let's stop turning the insults on each other.

There is so much more to every woman than what you see. She is not just a sickeningly pretty cinema usher. She is not just a sloppily dressed stranger. She is just chatting to your bloke because she's friendly. And she is a human being who can be hurt by your nasty comments.

We are so lucky to live in a time when we can decide what we do and do not want to do with our bodies. We are free to dress how we want. We are free to date who we want. We are free to pierce and dye and tattoo to our heart's content. Let's stop judging one another for doing so. Let's stop criticising each other because our choices don't match up. Let's stop ridiculing somebody else's path through life just because our own has gone astray.

4 comments

  1. SO much love for this post. I work with two women who are like this, always sniping and bitching, and it's so hard to be around that kind of atmosphere day after day without letting it drag you down.

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  2. Perhaps I'm not typical but I like to see my bf laugh, joke & flirt. I trust him and it's only healthy. We, me and him, see the beauty in similar women. The only time I get ratty is when the service is poor because they're too busy chatting - I'm afraid that just pisses me off

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  3. Thanks Raha - I used to work in an office like that and it was draining listening to so much bitching all day.

    Anonymous - Oh, totally, manners have to work both ways.

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  4. This made me want to cheer. All VERY well said, some really good points!

    I hate those girls who can't let their boyfriends out of their sights, don't like him having female friends and 'wouldn't want to have male friends' it just seems so unatural. Don't get me wrong, boys can be just as bad when their girl is talking to a nice guy. Just seems so pointless. Life is too short, enjoy the good bits, let those around you enjoy life too and if it's meant to be it will. Controlling your partner isn't going to glue them to your seide.

    Excellent blog, hear hear!

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Please play nice.