give an apple to the teacher

My younger sister Erin just interviewed for a teaching position at a public school in Brentwood. She really wants it, and I really want her to get it, and we’re both anxiously awaiting the call of yea or nay.

I took her shopping the other day for a suit. For many years now I’ve wanted a suit for myself, but I could never justify the expense (I worked in the corporate world for exactly a year before declaring, “Screw this, I will bartend”) and now that I can afford one — something sexy-funky and decidedly noncorporate — I’m just too damn lazy to go out and buy one. But my sister needed to look the way a Brentwood school wants their teachers to look at least some of the time, so she can get this job in this pleasant neighborhood in this lovely area, instead of dodging the occasional stray bullet in certain other parts of LA, which I’m not prepared to have her do, partly because I’m not prepared to deal with constant phone calls from my constantly worrying mother back in Canada, so on Thursday I took Erin to Bloomingdales.

Salespeople irk me. I used to work in retail — I even took a two-week summer course in salesmanship while desperately waiting for a temp agency to get busy enough to discover they needed me — and although I wasn’t great at it, I know at least vaguely how the process should work. Identify the customer’s needs, blah blah blah. Salespeople particularly irk me in department stores. Either they ignore you completely while you wander around like a stricken lamb or they hover around you in all the wrong ways. This saleswoman kept trying to convince us that a Calvin Klein pantsuit fit my sister perfectly. I said, “The jacket is slightly too short.”

“That’s just the way it’s cut. It’s cut that way.”

“The problem isn’t the cut itself. The problem is that the cut isn’t right for her.” The saleswoman was not identifying our needs. Both my sister and I are tall and long-waisted; short jackets don’t look right on us, they create too much distance between the bottom edge of the jacket and the thigh. They create this high crotch area. It’s not attractive. I pointed this out to my sister, who agreed in a you’re-the-bossy-older-sister-with-the-credit-card kind of way.

“But that’s the style now,” the saleswoman said.

“She needs a different style.” We went back and forth like this until I wanted to whack her on the head with a coat hanger (but lightly; my fiction may get violent from time to time but I myself am not a violent person; I can be heated and verbal yet polite, in that Canadian way). It’s an issue of proportion. I’m an avid student of Trinny and Susannah, I know these things (Trinny herself is tall and long-waisted, so I feel an affinity).

“She looks great from the back.”

The problem was not my sister’s ass, which did look great in those pants. The suit was too expensive anyway. It took an extraordinarily long time to disentangle ourselves from the saleswoman’s little games with reality (“Actually the suit’s not expensive at all”). We went elsewhere.

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