I'm a feminist. There I said it. Accept it, deal with it and move on. But before you do, let’s clarify what this actually means.
In essence, feminism boils down to one common belief: that men and women should have equal rights. Do you fundamentally agree with this? If so, you’re a feminist too, so welcome to the club.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let me tell you about a little incident at a well known High Street fashion shop. Okay, it was Bonmarché if you must know.
I don’t typically shop at Bonmarché (pronounced Bon-marsh-eh if you’re wondering), but sometimes I have to. You see, I’m just a ‘half pint’ in real life: a whole 5ft and 1 inch tall. And us shorties never forget the extra inches.
Bonmarché is, dare I say it, a particularly good place to shop for us shorter girls – they have jeans in all leg lengths and styles, so naturally, to ensure a good fit (and because I don’t know how to turn up trousers), I usually get my jeans from there.
And because I’ve previously shopped in there I’m privy to their customer loyalty scheme, whereby I can earn stamps and receive discounts for being loyal.
The card that caused the problem
Anyway, loyalty card in hand, I picked the jeans that I wanted and headed to the till. The young girl (she couldn’t have been older than 23) asked me if I had a loyalty card and I handed it over.
After a few minutes of tapping at her till and looking puzzled, I could feel a ‘computer says no’ moment coming on.
“Er…it’s not accepting your card, so you’ll have to apply for a new one.”
“Oh…that’s strange”, I reply “It has worked before.”
“Yeah, sorry about that. I’m not sure why it’s not working. Have you shopped in here lately?”
Admittedly, I hadn’t been into the shop for at least six months, possibly 9 or 10 months, but if I could avoid having to go through the hassle of getting a new card, I was going to try.
“It must only be a few months since I’ve been in…”
Time passed and feet started to shuffle in the queue behind me. I waited patiently.
After what seemed like 5 minutes, but was probably just a matter of seconds, the cashier exclaimed: “No, sorry it’s going to have to be a new card” and promptly whipped a promotional loyalty card leaflet out of thin air for me to take. “Can I take your name please?”
“Yes, it’s Lauretta Wright” I replied, spelling it for her.
“And your title…. (and here came the killer line) – “Are you a Miss or Mrs?”
Er….do I have to have a title?
If truth be told, I rarely give my title as Miss or Mrs because I just don’t think it’s important that strangers know my marital status – end of.
What I'd really like to know is what difference does it make (knowing if I'm married or not) to buying a pair of jeans? And because of questions like this, if I’m filling out forms I’ll tick the ‘Ms’ box.
However, the cashier hadn’t actually given me the option of ‘Ms’. She wrongly assumed that I would want to be address as either Miss or Mrs. And I didn’t.
In my mind, I’m not being awkward on this – it’s just a personal preference. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the whole topic of my mini rant today.
Why are men just referred to as ‘Mr’, but women have to choose their title depending on whether or not they've got a marriage certificate? It seems unfair if you ask me. I’m a private person if truth be told, and the less people know about me, the better. And that includes whether or not I’m married.
So, going back to my verbal exchange with the cashier…
“Do I have to specify?” I asked her boldly. I wouldn’t normally take a stance on this seemingly trivial matter, but she had irked me slightly with her assumption that I would be a Miss or Mrs.
By this point I think she had clocked that I was being a little, shall we say…'fresh' with her, and quick as a flash she replied “No, no of course not, that’s fine.”
Whatever happened to Ms? I felt like asking her. Does she even know what a Ms is? What is it they teach you about customer service these days?
And while I was silently asking her these questions, she continued to tap the till with her ridiculously long fingernails. More foot shuffling went on behind me and I heard someone tut. By this time other cashiers had stopped what they were doing and were peering at the screen with her.
“Don’t do what you normally do at this stage Lauretta” I told myself silently. This would typically mean that I would revert into a typical Brit, apologising profusely, giving her my title and probably buying something extra to alleviate the feeling of guilt.
But today I was feeling nonchalant. So I waited, silently and patiently.
And then, just as I was in the middle of wondering how she managed to wipe her backside with her long nails (I know right?!), she said: “No, sorry, the system says I have to input a title.”
Bloody hell! In this day and age the till was still saying no! Talk about a drama.
She looked at me expectedly and raised her eyebrows. I didn’t like the look.
“So is it Miss or Mrs?” she said, a little too abruptly. From the look in her eye I guessed that she was silently cursing me.
“Neither”, I replied, “It’s doctor.” I paused for effect. “Now who looks thick you dumb shit? Put that in your till and smoke it.”
Okay, so I didn’t actually say that last bit, but I did tell her that I was a doctor (I'm not if you haven't already gathered), and I made sure that I told her in a voice a little louder than necessary. Just for full effect of course.
In fact, looking back, I almost wish I told her I was a Professor or even a Baroness, but given that I was in scruffy jeans and t-shirt with my hair scraped back and not an ounce of make-up on my face, this might have seemed a little far-fetched, even for someone who probably believed that Africa was a country (why do kids always get that one wrong?)
The look that said it all
I once read that if you looked someone square in the face without losing eye contact when you reply to their questioning, they are more inclined to believe your answers.
And this was now one of those rare moments when a useless bit of trivia suddenly came into its own.
I steadfastly held my gaze with hers. My mouth didn’t twitch; my eyebrow didn’t raise and I didn’t start sweating. But I did give the tiniest hint of a smirk while looking straight into her eyes.
And it was a bit of a patronising look that said: “Don’t you feel a bit silly now?”
The next 30 seconds of the transaction were surprising. As if suddenly transported to a parallel universe, my young cashier finished up on the till, the other bagged my item (without slapping on a 5p fee) and ANOTHER cashier almost appeared out of nowhere to hand me a promotional leaflet – it was the same one given to me a few minutes earlier.
It was like watching ‘flies around shit’ as my mother would say. Except this time I wasn’t a turd; I was the master of this little exchange and I was commanding authority. And boy did it feel GOOD!
And as I walked out of the shop with a spring in my step, I felt jubilant, victorious and, most of all, I felt smug.
And all because I told a little porky pie.
Mmmh….Baroness Wright …..it’s got a nice ring about it don’t you think? I have a feeling I’ll be climbing the ranks and using this one next time – who knows what special treatment I'll receive then?
A Pin For Later…