Just a Regular Working Girl: Moralistic Values Gleaned from My Time in Chicago’s Seedy Underworld
Moral #25: You Have to Feel Good About Who’s Wearing the Lingerie
My boss Caroline had a lot of lingerie. She was an escort, so it was really like a work uniform (although the government frowns at prostitution-related tax expenses). As her assistant, I helped her find all kinds of new lingerie looks that showcased different kinds of sexiness.
On one occasion, she bought a new piece that was lacy and lilac. It looked great as she modeled before her mirror. But she wasn’t sure what she thought about it.
Actually, she wasn’t sure what she thought about herself.
So she asked me.
“Does it look okay?”
“It looks good,” I said.
“Don’t placate me!” she said. “Tell me what you think!”
“Caroline,” I said. “I really think you look great. That top holds your boobs up just right. You look like beer ad.” She really did. She was 45—not a popular age for prostitutes—but she looked fantastic.
She struck the same pose she used for one of her online ads. It showed off all her curves, and hid her face behind the fall of her brown hair.
Her face showed her age more than the parts of her that had seen multiple plastic surgeries. And she knew it.
“Hmm,” she said. She turned to examine herself from several angles. “You’re right, it looks good. You need to go out and get me more of these.”
“Okay,” I said, taking out my notepad. “Where’d you get it?”
“Victoria’s Secret,” she said.
“Okay,” I said. “How many do you want?”
“They had a whole rack of them. Go through and get all the small ones.”
My pen stopped moving on my notepad. “All the small ones?” How many of these lacy lilac things did she need?
“Well,” she amended, “no. Go through and compare all the small ones, and only get the smallest of those ones.”
“So you want all the extra-smalls?” I said.
She glared at me in the mirror and put her hands on her be-thonged hips. “They don’t come in extra-smalls. But all the small ones aren’t equally small! Hold them up, compare them, and get all the smallest of the small ones! Seriously, what is so hard about this?”
I closed my notepad. “Nothing; I’ll take care of it.”
She gave me her credit card, and as I left her loft apartment, she said, “And ask if they have any small ones in the back, too!”
Moral #21: If you attribute your beauty to a piece of lingerie (or shade of lipstick, or haircut, etc.) you’re going to spend a lot of money on lingerie.
The ladies who worked at Victoria’s Secret on Michigan Avenue were glamazons. They were tall, with shampoo commercial hair, pencil-perfect eyebrows, and feet that could apparently stand in stilettos all day. I felt sorely out of place. I always felt out of place in Victoria’s Secret. It was a store that was clearly meant for women other than me.
Women like Caroline. And like those behind the counter, glaring at me like Botoxed hawks as I ruined their carefully folded display table and spread out all the small lacy lilac tops. I held the tops up side by side, back to back, looking for the smallest of the small.
I knew my efforts were ultimately doomed. No matter which tops I bought, Caroline would think there were better ones back at the store. But—like a prisoner who believes her captors won’t torture her if she is very, very good—I tried my damnedest.
Moral #22: People who ask for unreasonable things are going to have unreasonable reactions no matter what you do.
One of the glamazons sauntered over to me like a runway model, her feet click-clacking and her red nails reminding me of bloody talons. “Can I help you?” she said, sounding like she’d rather call security than actually help me.
Yes, I was clearly in the wrong store.
“I’m looking for the smallest ones of these,” I said.
She looked at the tags. “They’re all a size small,” she said.
“Yes, but I want the very smallest of the small.” As small as I feel right now.
“Ma’am,” she said. “They are all the same size.”
She was right, of course.
I’d been looking at them for fifteen minutes and couldn’t find any discernible size difference. I picked five random lacy tops and bought them. I did not ask the glamazon if she had any in the back.
Moral #23: Victoria’s Secret doesn’t sell what you really want to buy.
“Did you ask if they had any in the back?” Caroline asked, wearing one of the new lacy tops.
“Absolutely,” I said. I was never a good liar.
She narrowed her eyes and pursed her lips. She’d had lip implants once upon a time. But then she decided they looked too poofy, and had the implants reduced. Now her lips sagged, and there was no such thing as tiny lip lingerie to prop them back up. “No you didn’t!” she said.
“They’re the smallest ones they had,” I said. “Here,” I adjusted the straps on the piece she was wearing.
“THAT DIDN’T DO ANYTHING!” she said. “Go back and get the rest of the small ones!”
So I went back and bought all the rest of the small ones.
“You know we don’t accept returns once things have been worn,” the glamazon said.
“Yes, thank you,” I said. Can you say “foreshadowing” gentle reader?
“What do you need all these for?” the glamazon asked.
“A student film,” I said.
Back at the apartment, Caroline examined the lacy tops. She held them up. She tried them on. She took them off the hangers and adjusted the straps exactly the same and laid them down on top of one another. She had me take pictures of her wearing each one from different angles and number the pictures, “Top 1: side,” “Top 2: front,” etc., and then she compared all the pictures. The process of elimination was slow and grueling, and anytime I managed to get her to make an elimination, she’d change her mind about how it looked and pull it back into the running.
“Caroline,” I said, as the sun was going down. I’d been lost in lacy lilac hell all day. “All this doesn’t matter. The store won’t take any of these back if you’ve worn them, anyway. And if you like the top, why not keep all of them?” She could afford it.
“Because I don’t need fifteen of them! And what do you mean, ‘the store won’t take them back’?”
“It’s their policy,” I said.
“So?” she said.
I had the terrible understanding that my work day would not be over for a long time.
Eventually, with much encouragement and a little emotional manipulation on my part, she settled on five which she deemed the smallest. I had no idea whether they were my original five.
“Great,” Caroline said, sounding as exhausted as I felt. “Now take these others back to Victoria’s Secret. Don’t be a pussy. Just don’t leave until they refund you. Make a scene if you have to.”
So back to Victoria’s Secret I went. The glamazon sighed when she saw me coming with the store bag in hand.
She didn’t know it, but—even though she looked like a glossy magazine and I looked like a secretary who fell asleep at my desk, drooling on reports and getting paper clips stuck to my face—she and I were on the same page. I had no intention of trying to get her to take back the lingerie. She’d already told me the store policy; it was disrespectful to ignore it. I was exhausted, frustrated, and glad to get away from Caroline for awhile.
Moral #24: Try your best to respect people. Just do it.
“The student film was canceled,” I said halfheartedly, putting the bag on the counter and flashing a smile that I didn’t even try to make look real.
She tapped her talons on the counter, sniffed one of the lilac things, and said, “This has been worn.” She smelled another. “This one, too.” Sniff, sniff, sniff. “These have all been worn. We’re not taking these back.”
I’d seen a lot that day—Caroline’s breasts; Caroline trying new sexy poses for her online ads; cleaning her mirror in platforms, a thong, and bright yellow dish gloves; her breasts again; and again; and again.
But nothing prepared me for the bloodhound instincts of the woman behind the Victoria’s Secret counter, who could smell my boss’s body wash on the stretchy lace of that lingerie, and who had absolutely no patience for people disrespecting her. It was damned impressive.
I left the store with the full bag, and the promise to myself that someday, I would be as strong and smart and confident as her.
I didn’t care how pissed Caroline would be that I didn’t throw a tantrum to return the tops.
Moral #25: The thing about lingerie is you have to feel good about who’s wearing it.
This is an excerpt from L. Marrick’s memoir, Working Girl: 132 Somewhat Moral Values I Learned from a Sex Worker. L. Marrick is an author, ghostwriter, and suitcase entrepreneur—which is a hipster way of saying she travels and works from her laptop. Sexual Freedom and Slavery is where she blogs about human trafficking. Her professional website, Copy&Sundry, is where she works with ghostwriting clients. You can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter @LMarrick.
© L. Marrick 2013. The content of this article, except for quoted or linked source materials, is protected by copyright. Please contact the author at the above links to request usage.