Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Restaurant Trauma in Texas: How eating out prompted a really uncomfortable lesson about culture

WARNING: This is NOT a family-friendly post, aka the warning I WISH I'd gotten yesterday before I walked in.

Yesterday was a Holiday. I hope you heard the scare quotes around that. Yeah, when you are an adult here is how holidays work: you, same workload as always, kids WOO HOO NO SCHOOL FREEDOM. Do the equation. The result is the day I had yesterday.

If math isn't your strong suit I'm pretty sure you can still add that up but just in case let's say the highlight of the afternoon included me dumping out the mismatched sock basket and telling the children to have at it, in a way very reminiscent of Miss Hannigan of Annie.

Anyway luckily I've taught my kids that Chores are Fun! and they had a good time.

Later, I cranked up the fun-o-meter on a bank errand by dropping in the Halloween store to check out costumes, and upped the ante on "Mom needs new running shoes" by tacking on a "Hey let's eat out at a restaurant!"

My husband was able to join us and we decided to try out one of the new restaurants near the store. My elder objected irrationally to Chuy's and so we settled on Twin Peaks, which looked like a pub-style burger place, and reminded us of a restaurant we'd liked near Boston.

Until we walked in -- me, my husband, my nearly 9 and nearly 6 year old and saw this, except with lovely olive skin, dark hair and black eyes:

We all literally froze in our tracks, gaping. My husband took a step back. The kids swiveled to look at me, as if I had a clue.

The picture does not do it justice. We are, unfortunately, somewhat vaccinated against reactions to provocative photos of scantily clad young women. To be in person with this...it's an entirely different, more visceral, experience. It was nearly unbearable, and simply reinforced my objection to this entire practice -- photo and in person -- completely.

What should we have done? Well I've been Monday morning quarterbacking all day.

Here's what I did do and why...

The hostess looked at me quizzically and said, "Hello? Did you want a table? Are you here to eat?"

I looked at this girl -- yes, girl because if she was 20 I'll eat my hat -- and saw a person, a person stuck in a horrific costume that objectified her body in a terribly uncomfortable way and I'll eat my hat again if she felt all right with it, if any of them did.

And I could not do it to her. I could not turn on my heel and march out, no matter how much I wanted to.

I could not shame her.

So I walked up, smiled, said as friendly as I could, "Hello! How are you! Yes, we'd like a table, we're just trying to figure out about inside or out."

I looked her in the eye, mostly because to look anywhere else felt like visual rape and deeply uncomfortable to me, but also because she was a person who deserved the respect of being looked at in the eye. Even if she was still so young she was dewy and ended every sentence with a question mark.

"Well," she said, "There's people smoking outside? Maybe with the kids? You'd rather inside?"

The kids rushed to two tables and started bickering over which.

"It's okay?" the young hostess said, "They can sit anywhere?"

"Thanks," I told her, "We'll work it out!"

When we settled on a table, she handed us menus, including crayons for the kids and told us our waitress would be right over.

Our waitress looked just like the image above. Although her name tag read, "Bambi in Training," she introduced herself as Heather. She was as friendly and sweet as could be...really good with the kids. Like a babysitter. A teenaged babysitter. Dressed like that photo above.

My husband stared at his menu. He'll have to tell you in his own words how he felt, but I can say I felt his discomfort. I can also say he looked at me and said, sotto voce, "I think I get the restaurant name and description about great views now. I thought it was just, you know, some Colorado pub import."

"Me too," I said, "I'd wondered about the view thing, I mean, from here all I can see if the bypass and freeway, but I thought maybe it referenced Mount St. Helens or Colorado."

The kids kept gaping and staring. Finally my older daughter said, "Why are they dressed like that?" My younger said, "I can't stop looking!" Both were dismayed.

It's clear to me that our reactions were clear: we were all pretty horrified to be in this situation, very dismayed, unsure what to do.

So I reminded the children about our Number One Rule: be kind and respectful. And I asked them to not stare or point.

They colored on their menus a bit, and I checked out the rest of the clientele.

"My God, it's like a seedy dive bar sort of place," I whispered to my husband. The clientele were largely male, with poor personal hygiene and a clear love of fatty fried foods and aversion to exercise. A solid mix of middle-aged and early 20s, with not much in between or outside of those age brackets. The restaurant itself was nice, open, airy, neat lodge-like decor.

We happened to be seated at the table closest to the hostess station and front door, so I saw each group of people who entered. A middle-aged couple entered, the woman in front of the man and she stopped short, he slammed in to her, she executed a fast turn and walked back out, the man trailing her sheepishly, with a shrug to the hostess.

Quite a few pairs of young men entered, too. Some looked old enough to drive and that's about it. A few were old enough to be skipping out early from work, and they wore the tell tale uniform of NASA. I imagined a Honda hybrid parked next to the "snowmobile" spots. The young ones were shameless. They walked in, gawked at the waitresses and their brains obviously melted straight to Beavis and Butthead heh heh land. Some even requested the "blonde" or "brunette" section. To them, the waitresses were Girls! Girls! Girls! not actual human beings. That was only made worse when that actual song came on, followed by Warrant's "Cherry Pie."

I groaned out loud. My every notion about this type of "scantily clad waitress" restaurant proved.

"Mom," my youngest said, "Mom you know how we had to clean out our closets and get rid of the clothes that were too small? Maybe these girls need their moms to help them with that."

I died 234 deaths right then. Her innocence. These young women. Their innocence. The fact that they are somebody's daughters. How my baby wanted to help them, wanted someone to help them. How she knew something was wrong but couldn't put her finger on it. How she needed to fix it.

"Honey. Oh honey, that's their waitress outfit and they need to wear it here at work," I said as neutrally as I could.

"Oh," she said.

Then, a minute later, she added, "Well you know sometimes you tell me to put a t-shirt on top of or under something...maybe they could put on a t-shirt."

"What a nice idea," I told her.

My older daughter had been listening with interest. Enough older to get somewhere near it, even if not fully comprehending it, she thought it through a little longer and said, "I don't think they should show so much of their bodies. All those men are staring."

Then I died 546 deaths.

For the record.

My husband, I think, was even worse off.

A couple more men entered, adults. Traffic was picking up. They walked in and transformed from Professional to Heh Heh Dude in under 5 seconds. As they started to trail the waitress, ogling her attributes, one looked up and met my eyes. I must have been one cold bucket of water to his fantasy because the smile slid from his face and he averted his eyes, staring at the floor.

We felt shamed because it was shameful.

Our waitress was super sweet, stopping to chat with us, talking to the kids, getting them -- my reluctant ones -- to talk back to her. I wanted to run to my car, grab a jacket, and bundle her away to work where she'd be respected.

Then it happened -- it got worse. My husband and I worked hard to keep the kids' attention at our table, or on safe objects on the walls (and even that was hard as the walls were decorated with dead and stuffed animals, which further distressed the kids) while we waited for our food. I swear it took eight hours for that food to come.

In the meantime, a middle-aged man walked in with his teenaged son and the son's teenaged friend. I would put them at approximately 17. The man looked like the kind of guy central casting would book for the "creepy pervy middle aged guy" part in a CSI show. The boys looked like extras from High School Musical.

They were seated at the table near to us, practically right next to us, actually, and my Spidey Senses went on full alert with the man. He kept shifting around, acting creepy. He was, for lack of a better word, excited. Clearly. Then he got up with his phone and stood across from the hostess station, acting like he was checking texts...in mid-air. Sneaking photos of the cluster of waitresses there, I figured. He was practically trembling in excitement, and I was shaking with rage and disgust. Then he skipped over to the station, and giggled out a request. The young women hovered for a second, then a couple started to walk over to his table. He shook his head and pointed to two others. There was a pause, as one was clearly reluctant. One of the first girls grabbed one of the second girls and started to walk, but he said something. The first girl dropped the second girl's arm. The second girl took the arm of the reluctant girl and, whispering, they walked over to the man's table, where the teenaged boys were sipping sodas.

The second girl said loudly, "We can sit here," and she and the reluctant girl climbed into the empty chairs across from the boys. Clearly, creating distance. Clearly, knowing he wanted them draped on the boys.

Creepy man asked them to lean in and the girl said again loudly, "Here, like this, go ahead, take the photo."

And I lost my appetite, completely.

What a horrid, horrid creepy man. The boys laughed, like they knew they were supposed to, but I could tell they were a little uncomfortable, too. The young women left the table as fast as possible, and returned to the safety of the hostess station.

What a horrid father. What a horrid example. What a horrid lesson. What a disgusting moment.

All right behind the backs of my little girls.

My husband burst out in a shaky voice, "Girls, you will never, ever work in a place like this. Never. In fact, no waitressing. Ever."

They giggled uncertainly, their eyes round. I changed the subject to how my husband once worked as a waiter and he told them stories. He tried to redirect to my one experience in a restaurant, but I shook my head and changed the subject to why I worked (to earn money to backpack through Europe one summer with friends).

Right then, our food arrived. Served by Heather, forced to go by Bambi, and wear less than a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader. Forced to work as a sex object, doing one of the harder jobs there is (waitressing) while clientele took the suggestive outfits at their word and subjected these young women to shameful disrespect.

I don't care if the girls chose to work in this place. It's wrong. I don't care if they feel hot. I don't care if they are hot. They're on display, badly. It's wrong.

I am disgusted that this is my culture. I'm disgusted by this restaurant. I'm disgusted that these young women either think they must or can go through this.

I admire them for doing it and with professionalism.

But I hate it. I can't even mince words. I hate it.

I hate that I walked into it inadvertently, and with my kids (the worst part). I hate that I sat in it.

I sat, my food in front of me, my fists clenched, and my husband put his hand over mine, "Please don't," he said, reading the martial look in my eyes as I glared at the back of Creepy Man. Somehow, he read my intent to pick up my big red bag and whack the man upside the back of his head with it.

"I wouldn't really," I assured him.

"I know," he said, "But you know that would just make it worse for everyone."

"I know," I said, "That makes me even sicker."

I picked at my food, eating it, eventually. It was good. That just pissed me off worse.

When Heather gave us our bill she said, "This is your first time here, isn't it."

"Yes," I said.

"How did you hear about it?"

"Oh, we haven't, we just needed to go across the way to buy me new running shoes so it was this or Chuy's and someone refused any Tex-Mex. So it was here. But we hadn't heard anything about it," I admitted.

"I thought it was probably your first time in," she said, and I thought rather sadly. She didn't ask how we found out, or whether we liked it. We didn't discuss the food, the weather, or anything like that. Instead, she said, wistfully, "Your kids are so sweet, I just love kids."

And I had to fight down the urge to beg her to quit, to tell her I have a friend who needs a nanny and as much as kids beat down your esteem they do love you and respect you more than any of those girls will find in that job.

Maybe it shows me up badly. Maybe I sound unenlightened. Judgy. I don't care.

It was horrific. Really, really awful.

And I did not even know how to explain it to my kids. They seemed to understand, anyway. So we left it at that. And redirected our attention to the athletic store where we got things for exercise, to care for our bodies. To respect our bodies.

Here is what I know -- the VERY instant any of those women were "on break" they instantly pulled on a large t-shirt, much like dancers might wear, over the uniform. They walked in to work wearing baggy clothes over the top of the uniform. They were ogled, and surely grabbed, by patrons. No doubt they were bugged, too, and subjected to inappropriate comments. All while at work, doing their jobs. They were in a position and outfit that begged for it, unfortunately. And I not for one second thought any of them deserved it. Much less asked for it. Despite the workplace and outfit.

The manager and male employees were allowed to be fully dressed. The manager wore blue jeans and a button down Oxford, his only nod to the workplace was a pink cap with the restaurant name on it. He referred to his employees as girls, and was very specific to them about how and where to stand. They were merchandise.

Maybe it's hyperbole to someone else, but it felt one step from human trafficking to me.

I wanted to make this humorous. My husband assured me I'd find some humor, and could do my usual treatment of the scenario with a light-hearted hand. My hand nor my heart are light, in fact they are heavy, even today. I'm still a seething mass of emotion.

I've never eaten at a Hooters or a Hooters-like restaurant on principle, but that's all it was until now: theoretical principle.

Now? It's knowledge, experience, and personal horror.

From my husband's lips to God's ears: may my girls never know the like of that.

May we do better by our young women.

I feel rambly, not eloquent. And this is a clear sign of how distressing this entire thing was, is.

Heed my warning: Twin Peaks is not a family-friendly restaurant. It's no place for men, women or children.

I stayed, whether it was right or wrong, because it felt worse to walk out. I let my family sit down, order food and eat because it felt worse to walk out. I looked my waitress in the eye, treated her with my best courtesy and respect, and left her a huge tip. I ignored the costumes and addressed the human beings. But I was so very uncomfortable. And appalled.

49 comments:

Liv said...

which pretty much sums up why i don't go into a hooters. people who create a company, deliberately creating a scenario for women to look this way, and subsequently get treated *gulp* however they inevitably get treated are sick. i don't think they're cool, mavericks or innovators. they're sick.

Nicole said...

And then, there is this: http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Sexy+should+part+mandatory+dress+code+restaurant+association+says/3532201/story.html

Becky said...

Wow. Eww. Ick. Sounds like a good place for a protest.

Major Bedhead said...

Because working in the service industry isn't bad enough, what with getting treated like you're below average intelligence, but to then be forced to dress like that, it's just awful.

This was excellently written. I was squirming with discomfort just reading it; I can't imagine how awful it must have been in person.

Nonsequiteuse said...

I feel your pain & then some. I watched the ABC show Undercover Boss when the CEO of Hooters was featured. One segment had two waitstaffers (yes, Hooters Girls) with him on the sidewalk near a restaurant, trying to hand out free wings and attract customers. Women mostly explained why they would never eat there & why the women shouldn't work there. The CEO feigned shock - shock! - that people didn't find his family business as wholesome as he does. At least one woman said that she couldn't imagine her daughter having to work there. Creepy CEO later said that he wanted Hooters to be a place his daughter could work. Yeah, in the back office, because what father would want his daughter hung out like a piece of meat?

I totally understand why you felt you couldn't walk out. Those women are human, and the woman who waited on you was probably incredibly thankful that she had at least one table that didn't spend the night trying to sneak pictures of her breasts. But what a price to pay for a teachable moment.

Thanks for sharing.

mr lady said...

You know why staying was the right choice? Because you were probably the only table she had all night that treated her like a human.

And yes, you should go back, give her the name of your friend who needs a nanny, or give her my husband's info.

He always needs good people. And he dresses them in tuxedos.

Julie Pippert said...

Liv has it in one word: sick.

Nicole, that's so disturbing. I see why people want the law to protect them, but I'm afraid it doesn't in this case. I just don't think you can legislate class or morality. I wish our culture didn't make this a good business model.

Becky, it feels like between a rock and a hard place: our waitress drove there to work from three towns over, she was glad for the job. I can't patronize it and will encourage others not to, but I hate to cost them their jobs as much as I wish the jobs never were!

Major, thank you. I'm so glad it came through, how distressing it was. And you nailed it.

Nonsequiteuse, I watched that episode too, and I wanted to PUMMEL that CEO when he was SHOCKED that one of his managers forced the waitresses to eat like dogs to get off their shifts!!! Is he stupid? OF COURSE the men treat these women like merchandise or animals. And then to not fire him? OMG I wanted to send my wrath to him. But thank you for getting why I had to stay and did, anyway, despite.

Mr Lady, thanks, yes, that's it exactly. I am so, so tempted...like COMPELLED to go get that sweet girl a new job. She was a GREAT waitress, ftr. She'd be adorable in a tuxedo. Bless your husband. I feel a little less heart-heavy thinking of how he dresses and treats his staff like professionals, with respect. Give him a big hug and thanks from me.

WordyDoodles said...

Oh Julie, thank you so much for sharing this. It made me want to scream and scream. I have two little daughters too (2 and 4). As I kept reading, my palms were actually sweating. What a horrid situation.

Mr Lady said...

You give her my email address. Not kidding.

Loralee Choate said...

I want to hug you for staying in a difficult situation to avoid shaming someone who likely gets more than her share of it.

xo

SUEB0B said...

When I was a cute young thing, I did customer service. I got to dress modestly - I usually wore a polo shirt. But I was still always surprised at the number of men who thought, because I was nice to them - as I was bound to be, as a customer service rep - that I was "interested" in them and wanted to spend extra time chatting or to go out with them. I got asked out so many times it was kind of crazy.

I can't imagine how badly that situation is compounded when one is scantily clad and forced to bend over to deliver food.

Becky said...

Go read the restaurant site on the Internet. Ugh. I mean ... oink, oink.

needsnewbatteries said...

You are very, very good parents and very gracious human beings.
I can't think of anything else to say. You could not have been more gracious or acted more lovingly, at cost to yourselves, no doubt.

Julie Pippert said...

SueBob, I believe you because BTDT. When I think back on how many times I was treated that way, well, maybe it explains my reaction. And yes, how it must be compounded when forced to dress that way.

Loralee, thank you! I am so happy to have so many people understand.

Becky, I am afraid I visited their Web site. It just proves me every point, doesn't it.

Mamas, please don't let your sweet precious baby boys grow up to be asshats!

Ed T. said...

Oh Julie... I don't know whether to laugh or cry (so I'm doing a bit of both.) I know it sounds trite to say "Been there, done that", but... back when I was in high school (and my younger sibs were about the age of your two), we were on vacation in Amsterdam, we got turned around, and (unfortunately, I can no longer remember exactly how) ended up in the middle of the red-light district. And yes, they really *do* use red lights. And have very *graphic* advertising. Dad was mortified, Mom even more so, since Dad knew (and was right) that the quickest way out of there was to continue through to the other side. Fortunately, we all knew that when Mom and Dad were upset, silence was the best response.

Don't feel bad about your writing style, to be honest it added a reality to the story that would have been missing otherwise (and it certainly brought back memories, as you can tell.)

I won't say that God used you to minister to those folks (well, actually I guess I just did), but I suspect that the wait staff you dealt with (and several of the "customers", too) got an experience they weren't expecting.

Oh, and thanks for naming the place - it is definitely on my "do NOT eat there" list.

~EdT.

(Who has been to a Hooters - once. Don't plan on going back, I can get better wings in the frozen foods case a Krogers. And the "hooters girls"? They're like my son's age. Talk about ewwwwww.)

Emily said...

I am without words, except to say that this is the best post I've ever read of yours.

painted maypole said...

*shiver*

I have never gone to a hooters or the like either. i don't care if their wings are the best ever.

Nicole Pelton said...

My BIL & nephew go to hooters all the time, he's still a little boy and treated like your kids. The waitresses are sweet & kind to the kids, so what's not to like? Ugh. They live in Dallas and I just cannot even imagine taking my boys. I trust my nephew will grow up sweet & kind thanks to his lawyer mom (who dresses much more conservative than me )despite this.

alejna said...

Wow. Ugh. What an experience. I felt uncomfortable even reading about what you and your family sat through. Good for you, though, to stand your ground and treat the waitstaff so respectfully.

Also, your younger daughter's comment about the girls needing to clean out the clothes that no longer fit made me laugh out loud. It was beautiful comic relief.

(I typed up a comment before, but it seems to have gone away. Sorry if I repeat myself!)

Mary G said...

Well said!

Magpie said...

I'm speechless, and a little weepy, and horrified. Oy. It's so gross.

Christine said...

oh julie--as the mother of a daughter AND a son i am sickened by this all. and i am also in love with you b/c your heart is so big and full of love. you showed these young ladies love and respect and they will remember it. xoxo

Caroline said...

This post blew my mind. Its not as if - what did someone call it? - breastaurants are anything new in my world. But your experience and perspective as a mother... with two girls watching it all unfold... there really aren't any words Julie. This post is IMPORTANT. I hope it is read over and over and considered somehow somewhere. Little optimistic me thinks maybe it even has the power to shift things. Off to share...

Elizabeth said...

My husband has been an unfortunate, frequent eater at Hooters and/or The Wing House. He doesn't get to pick the restaurants and that's where everyone likes to go.

He says, though, that the requests to go there have been dying down because he simply will not participate in anything that he considers disrespectful of the women involved or me. One of the guys who insists on eating there has three daughters. P looked at him one day and said, would you want some guy looking at your daughter that way? Stopped him in his tracks and they've started eating somewhere else when it's just him and them.

We were going to hire one of the young women as a nanny for our kids, but she felt like she could make more money where she was. Made me sad, but the opportunity to get out was there for her if she wanted to.

Anonymous said...

I, for one, would like to endlessly thank you for letting us all know about Twin Peaks. I am a daddy to 5 kids ages 6,5,4,2 and 1. 3 of them are girls. I have seen Twin Peaks and often wondered if it was a good place to eat, but I NEVER knew it was a place like THAT.

Thank you so much for giving us all a heads up. My heart truly hurts for those young ladies.

Jeff said...

My Lord I didn't know there were so many hopeless prudes in the world. There are dozens of these types of restaurants and the girls make great money most of which goes to their tuition. Do you want to ban NFL cheerleaders too for wearing similar outfits or the Mavs dancers? Just put your kids in a religious compound and don't let them see anybody or watch tv, that'll solve all the problems of the world like Twin Peaks.

Julie Pippert said...

Jeff, you utterly missed the point, which I don't find surprising at all. But kudos to you for at least putting a name to your comment -- even if it's not a link. I find your high level of defensiveness intriguing. Says a lot about you.

Bill said...

Hey, that sounds just like Saudi Arabia! Burqas for everyone!

Julie Pippert said...

Hey Men...and Whoever...respect. Post a constructive comment or stick back over at Digg. if you want to discuss a point, I'm glad to do it if you comment intelligently. Snarky insults aren't clever, nor do I tolerate them. It's clear my post hit a population that's got itself all riled up and determined to come and fling insults. That's how blogging works. But, this is my yard. I'll enforce private property.

Julie Pippert said...

Elizabeth, that's the sort of model that's so needed! Kudos to your husband!

Caroline, I don't know what I hoped for in the beginning, but now I hope that too!

Christine, moms like you make me take heart!

Julie Pippert said...

Magpie, Mary, Alejna and Nicole, thanks!

Alejna, no idea what happened to your other comment! Glad you reposted. yes, it was a little comic relief in the situation, too.

Nicole, I hope so too but sometimes it's these little endorsements and rationalizations (it's okay, we're just here for the food, the girls are here by choice) that shape us more than we intend or realize. I'm so appreciative you don't take your boys and teach them that message.

Painted Maypole, thanks!

Emily wow, I'll take that compliment humbly -- thanks!

Ed, once again, so very glad to know you! thanks for your story! And thanks for being a Good Guy.

Bill said...

OK, I will reserve my particular brand of wit for other sites. But I have to ask, if you and your husband are such paragons of virtue, why didn't you walk out rather than contributing to the profitibilty of such an establishment. I googled it and there are no less than 4 other restuarants in that parking lot.

Erin . said...

Sigh. This is hard for me. For several reasons. I'm a woman, the mother of a daughter. The mother of a son I wish to raise to be a respectful man. I've also eaten at Hooters and been to strip clubs.

There is a line, a fine one, between personal choice and exploitation.

There is a line between teaching your kids sexuality is healthy and sexism.

I toe this line a lot. Empowered by using my sexuality to turn a man or woman into putty in my hands and knowing it's not as important as my smarts.

While your family was put in an uncomfortable situation and you handled it well, you also discount those of us who would put our boobs on display willingly and for fun and pleasure.

Do I want these young girls objectifying themselves for a buck? No. Certainly not. Or these skeevy men who bring in their teenage sons... bleh. But I don't want to discount or disrespect women who really do enjoy and find empowerment in this sort of atmosphere.

Now, as for the messages it sends my kids. Tough. Very tough. We want the best for our kids. And it's hard to accept if what they want is to be oogled.

Admittedly we all like to be oogled but perhaps not at this level. Perhaps one of those waitresses was working on her Phd and knew exactly what suckers these men were. Perhaps one never had supportive parents, was less than bright, and got the attention she craved by short shorts and wings. Who knows.

What is great is we can talk about this with our daughters. Our sons. Our husbands and dig deeper. Not feel shame over our bodies, or our desires. And finding healthy ways to act them out. Is Twin Peeks or Hooters a healthy way of doing that? I'm not sure. But at the very least it's being discussed.

Julie Pippert said...

Ok Bill, that's a fair question.

First, let me say I disagree with your premise: at no point do I hold anyone, including myself, up as a paragon of virtue. I hold myself up as a human being who found herself in a difficult situation, did her best, and was distressed by what she saw and experienced...thus wrote about it.

I think being troubled by sexual objectification of women and being distressed when men treat those women really poorly is simply being a human being.

So your question: why did we stay and give such a place our money?

I discuss this multiple times within the post itself, but I'll try to explain differently since somehow you weren't able to find the answer within my explanations above.

This scenario was an Inkblot Situation -- the kind of thing where many people see many different things. And not any of us are per se wrong or right.

As I said, there were a lot of possible "right things to do" and I spent a lot of time "Monday morning quarterbacking" through them.

In the moment, you get a split second to choose and when I evaluated it, I decided that although walking out was an option, it would shame these young women and for us, that was wrong. For us, my husband and I handled it correctly: we taught our kids to treat people with dignity and respect regardless of garb, and we let them lead the discussion about what happened.

I believe when we think and care, we do our best, and that's as right as it can be.

We will never go back and I hope to spare other families this innocent mistake.

Jennifer said...

You are right. Women shouldn't be displayed like that. Ever.

Julie Pippert said...

Erin, I hear you. That's the same theoretical place I was at before actually being in the place.

Now, having been at the place...it's not theoretical, it's very real. And in that place on that day in that situation, there was nothing awesome about it, except for the degree of awful it was.

Should men and women alike be empowered with healthy sexuality? Sure. Absolutely.

I've never written a post about bathing suits. Bikinis. Workout clothes. Tank tops. Skimpy clothing of any type.

Why? Probably because anytime I've seen it it's just been personal fashion choice.

It's not in this restaurant.

Why was this Twin Peaks place so bad? I'm going to C&P a conversation from FB between me and a great guy wherein we both changed our minds about why this is so wrong:

Stephen E Southwell I'm okay with friendly flirting between waitresses and customers, but I guess the thing is that it needs to not be from a position of disrespect or forced objectification. Telling the waitresses where and how to stand, and tolerating overt ogling or worse just goes over the top.

Julie Pippert I think I agree...but...What's friendly flirting? I guess flirting has an implication to me. If you mean: friendly byplay where there is friendly chatting, sure, that's called being friendly and working on a tip. I'm not okay with flirting, like people do when they are attracted and want a sexual encounter.

The problem with the waitress and customer scenario is the customer has the power. The waitress MUST be friendly to you, MUST keep you happy...that's her job.

We have no idea if she really wants this intimacy with a customer, and so it just shouldn't come up. Ever. That's because customers come and go in large numbers and if they all want to flirt and feel special...well, they need to check their personal life, not expect that fulfillment from a waitress.

Most times it's "customer is always right" and the power is in their hands, as is the tip, which servers really count on.

In a place like a breastaurant (hate that term) the scales are even more unbalanced because upon walking in, the men's expectations are set, about how the waitresses are to serve (not that far from service) them. Imagine spending your entire work shift with men thinking they are so funny and clever and special and you just want their "attention." So in essence, I agree with you and your point, but with a caveat. I'm afraid in a place like that "flirting" as I mean it is expected and is very wrong.

Stephen E Southwell And because of the points you raise in your post, I don't think I'll be going to any more of these.

Julie Pippert Stephen sending you a BIG virtual THANK YOU handshake and hug because you have restored my faith in mankind (though my husband did a lot of that last night too).

Stephen E Southwell My flirting definition doesn't approach propositioning, but then again, I know how to behave. Come to think of it, it's really hard to define "flirting". I guess it's one of those things that you know when you see. But again, looking at reality, lets say a waitress had 20 tables on her shift, and all of them were well behaved but one or two, those would be enough to really screw up their day. I'd hate to think about someone having to work at one of these places, hating it, and having to stay out of desperation.

/C&P

I think Stephen brought up maybe one of the most CRUCIAL points and eloquently discussed it. it firmed up for me -- as did the countless women who weighed in with stories about how as waitresses, customer service reps, secretaries, etc. simply by being kind and friendly to a man, he inferred that they were "interested" and "wanted something from him." And that's not dressed this way.

Cynematic said...

OMG. If you died 546 times, mine was the 547th death. Bless you for giving your waitperson a huge tip, and bless your husband for preventing you from committing a homicide and for deciding that his daughters will NEVER EVER work in an establishment like that.

Glen said...

I agree with Jeff, Bill, & Erin, very prudish of all of you, don't take your kids to the beach or a Texans game you might see worse! That happens to be my friend Katherine you've shown a picture of, I'm sure she will quite (not) enjoy you using her picture for your blog and your categorization of her and her friends as exploited young girls.

Julie Pippert said...

Glen, like Jeff, you've missed the point. Also you've completely misunderstood Erin's comment.

This isn't about being prudish. I have talked about the *circumstances* I found at the restaurant. It's too bad that's eluded your comprehension. I have not addressed skimpy dress in general. I've never blogged about bikinis at the beach or tank tops at the track because *that's totally different circumstances* with completely different results.

To endeavor to be crystal clear: It's NOT ABOUT THE CLOTHES -- IT'S NOT ABOUT SEEING SKIN OR CLEAVAGE. It's about THE SITUATION and what comes from it and the clothes are, yes, a part of it, but it's not the briefness of the outfit it's the CIRCUMSTANCE.

Also, I'd welcome your friend Katherine to come and share her experience and perspective. I'm sure she'd be confident enough to come comment with a verified identity instead of a cloaked one, too.

Glen said...

As to the cloak, I am not a paid professional blogger like you and I don't need 50 prudish women (minus you of course, you only died 500 times every time you saw something there) and 1 crying man to berate my email with your opinions. I suppose you are right, I don't get the point. So it is about having the appearance of a "family" pub? Then when you discover it, walk out. The women won't be embarrassed, it happens. What SITUATION? Who doesn't get told what to wear and how to act at work?

Julie Pippert said...

Glen, if some man walked into my office where I worked and told me to "pose sexy" with some minor boys for a photo session, he'd be in trouble. If I did it, I'd be in trouble. Under some circumstances, that trouble would probably be legal. That's the SITUATION.

But a man has never done to me that because it's generally understood that at work (barring some notable exceptions) we act professionally and treat one another as people, with respect.

These young women are at work, professionals doing a challenging job.

The point is how our society treats young women and the trouble this sort of situation can cause if someone, unlike the cool guys Stephen and Ed above, doesn't know how to behave.

Clearly, you see something else here. That's exactly why places like this, Hooter spinoffs, thrive.

No matter how freely a woman does it... And again NOT ABOUT THE CLOTHES, it's about WHY the restaurant wants these women dressed this way...it makes the woman an object. No matter how much fun she thinks it is, how stupid she thinks the patrons are, how above it she thinks she is, how nice some of the guys are, how many women eat there too, how proud she is of her body...

It's making a woman an object.

That's not good.

It's not cool to mock how I felt as a parent, but honestly, that's just another thing it's clear eludes you. I love my kids and other parents got that's what that hyperbole was about: that intense feeling you get when you feel so proud of your kids for being so amazing while being appalled by the circumstances in which they showed such grace and awesomeness.

(Also, nobody pays me anything to write this blog, but thanks anyway for the compliment.)

Robyn said...

The irony is overwhelming. She's going to be upset that her photo was put on display? If anyone who agrees with this post (raises hand) is simply a prude, and "Katherine" is perfectly happy with her choice of "profession" (the oldest one), if she is "empowered" and willing, then she will have no objection whatsoever to being "displayed." After all, that is what she does. Display herself.

But if WE are right, then she might be embarrassed. Which is highly ironic.

FTR, I went to the website and send a nice, friendly outline of my opinion of the objectification of women and how it contributes to sexual harassment and violence against women. When women are viewed by society as nothing more than objects for sex to be used and discarded, women become nothing more than chattel. I would never allow my minor daughter to work in such a place. And I hope I raise her to have more self-respect and self-confidence to choose to do so when she is an adult.

jennifer said...

Gah. You know, back in my younger, more naive days, I was such a pro-sex feminist. And to be so I had to convince myself the world is basically a good place, people basically are kind, and at heart want to treat each other well and look out for each other.

And there are some good decent people out there. And I've got two little boys I'm trying to raise to be good, decent men, and not just balding adolescents. I've banned them from watching football in my house. I'm certain I'm trying to hold back the tide here. I'm certain they'll be exposed to countless images of female-as-less-than-equally-human before they hit puberty. But my sons will know, should they make the choice to treat any woman with less than absolute respect, their mother will be ashamed of them.

Ed T. said...

GLEN spaketh thusly:

Who doesn't get told what to wear and how to act at work?

We all do. However, my employer has NEVER told me to pose in a suggestive manner with an underage minor. A risky thing, that: should community mores shift slightly, or a DA need a public case to help ensure his/her re-election, the adult(s) involved could find themselves in a heap o' trouble. I can certainly understand why the young woman was "reluctant".

And BTW, I would much rather be "Mr. Weepy Man" than "Mr. CREEPY Man". Just saying.

~EdT.

Coco said...

Julie, what a thoughtful and compassionate response to a sad situation.

I don't comment here often enough, mostly because of my issues with Blogger (or should I say my firewall's issues with blogger), but I read, a lot.

I love that you expressed your outrage at the environment while being so aware of the young women who, out of economic necessity (or their own personal reasons), are forced to dress in a demeaning, overly sexualized manner. I love that you and your husband talked to your girls about it in a very sensible way.

You are a delight. Thank you.

MommyTime said...

Not only are you thoughtful and eloquent in this post about your discomfort (and why we all would -- or should be -- similarly uncomfortable there), but you are gracious in your comments even in response to people who seem intentionally to be obtuse. I admire you so much on so many levels.

And I sincerely hope you do take Mr Lady up on that offer. I know she means it.

Angela said...

There is one of these in Albuquerque and us, like you, didn't know it was that kind of establishment. We were with our good friends. We walked in and walked out and it was actually our husband's who didn't really want to go in. And honestly, I know men are men and they had we not been there they may have stayed...but in talking as we left they genuinely embarrassed that the girls were dressed like that (we all were!) and really didn't want to go in. I can say that my husband does have a respect for women and I was really proud of him for walking out and making that choice.

Besides, like you said, the whole place was filled with disgusting men drooling over the girls and it just makes it disgusting and who wants to eat in a place like that.

Eve said...

Thank you for your post. My husband frequents this restaurant, against my loud and frequent protests. The waitresses are encouraged to sit down and visit and flirt with the customers. In some cases, exchanging phone numbers, emails, etc. I agree with everything you have said and yet I don't know what to do with a spouse who wants to go there and yet I think it is very disrepectful to women and to me as well that he goes there. You are lucky that your husband felt uncomfortable. Three years ago, we were in the same situation and walked out. This year, however he has turned over a new leaf and is going through mid-life crisis and it is now his favorite restaurant.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I feel exactly the same way about Twin Peaks. Unfortunately, that place is about to cause a divorce in my family. My husband spends more time there than at home with his family. It's an evil place filled with satan. And I don't really feel sorry for the women because THEY chose that job. It's just so disappointing.