High Class Problems Are Real Problems Too


I learned a lot while working a series of shitty, low-paying jobs. I don’t care how often I hear the same joke, I can still muster a laugh. That skill came during my time at French Connection. At least one katrillion times a day, a customer would point to one of our F.C.U.K. shirts and say, “Has anyone ever told you that looks like FUCK!?!”

I would slowly glance over, look away, do a quick double-take, then chuckle real authentic-like. “Sharp, broseph.” Sometimes I would wink or give a thug respect nod (head bobs slightly upward instead of the standard downward motion of a regular people nod), but it really depended on my mood. My paycheck wasn’t going to reflect those little extras. A non commission-based rate of $7.75 doesn’t come with a lot of Give-A-Fucks.

I learned the art of dodging phone calls while peddling beauty products at Crabtree and Evelyn. My manager, a decent lady with an extensive collection of sexually-provocative hosiery, often ignored the shift schedule she created each week. She also didn’t have a lot of Give-A-Fucks because she would repeatedly call until that employee answered the phone, then she would badger the person to come in right now. I’m not good at saying “no” so I became good at turning my ringer off.

Also, Evelyn is pronounced with a long “e” sound (eee-vuh-lin), not “eh” (eh-vuh-lin). When my spirit of volunteerism hits, I still go to my nearest Crabtree and Evelyn and just mill around, waiting for someone to mispronounce the store name. I’ll correct them, and then I let people know it’s okay to make mistakes because each mistake just adds to our unique patina as Earth beings. I know I’ve made a difference in people’s lives, but it’s the classic conundrum of any Giver: How far-reaching is my kindness? How many people will be affected by this one small act?

You’ve heard of the Butterfly Effect, yes?

The most important thing I learned while blackening my soul as a cog in the retail machine was this: Do not make assumptions about people based solely on their exterior. (I also blackened my soul working at non-retail establishments like a dry cleaner and a tutoring center, but I can’t go into all of that right now because I don’t keep alcohol in my home.) I’ve assisted customers who looked “young and broke” or “two steps away from homeless” who ended up spending way more and treating me with a lot more courtesy than customers who were “of a certain age” and “dressed impeccably.” That’s not always the case, but it happened enough for me to understand the value of giving each person a baseline level of respect. Well, until they got sassy with me. Then I would fuck ’em up and no, I’m still not sorry about it.

I’m now the customer, and I wish more sales associates would adopt this way of thinking.

I am often ignored when I walk into stores. Maybe I’m not dressed well enough. Maybe I look broke. Maybe I look subversive with the streaks of color in my hair. Maybe I look like a drain on society because I seem young and a teenager keeps calling me “Mommy” so I most likely receive public assistance and why the fuck am I looking at hand-stitched handbags with a two-year wait list? I might be getting ready to steal it so make sure the security guard follows me around.

Harv didn’t believe me at first when I told him that this is A Real Thing that happens to me. About four years into our marriage, he witnessed it. He has never been marginalized because of the way he looks or carries himself, and although he didn’t actually say these words, I’m pretty sure he thought I was being sensitive or high maintenance.

I walked into a store about 20 steps ahead of Harv because he was finishing a phone call. He had an unobstructed view as I crossed the threshold, becoming the sole patron. No one greeted me. No one asked if I’d like assistance as I was rifling through a pile of sweaters. When Harv walked in, the two sales associates who had previously glanced in my direction but remained silent warmly welcomed him. As he came to a stop by my side, one SA said out loud, “Oh you two are together.” She looked at my Air Jordans and my JESUS IS MY HOMEBOY t-shirt, and then at Harv’s buttery loafers and lavender bespoke shirt. I recognized the look (Judgment) because I sport it on my face about 40% of my waking hours. I’d like to think it’s one of my more finely-honed skills.

Y’all seem like the type of people who can handle this kind of information without getting all up in my face about what a pampered housewife I’ve become or threatening to revoke my hood pass: High class problems are real problems too. Sure, being ignored in a store that sells key chains which cost the equivalent of 7 welfare checks I used to receive is no big deal when I think about the really dark and life-altering moments I’ve encountered. But in the world of things that don’t matter, this shit is legit.

One Ivy League dollar is worth 100 pennies. One Thug dollar is also worth 100 pennies. Please don’t ignore me because you think I’m not valuable according to your standards. Fuck bitches. Get money.

If Fuck Bitches, Get Money is a philosophy that resonates with you, you might want to subscribe to blog posts via Feedly or Bloglovin. You’ll be the first to know about my high class problems.

If wasting time during the day is one of your more finely-honed skills, “like” the Flourish in Progress Facebook page and follow along on Instagram (username: flourishinprogress) which has a picture of my ratchet hoe thigh-high hosiery at a Hollywood club. I don’t know how long it’s going to stay up. Probably until the next time Harv checks my Insta. 

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  • RaisedByCulture

    I tend to play with this a lot too only because I have the money (but not that much) to dress a little nicer and on days I’m slacking it will throw on my momiform (Vans, Obey shirt and Crooks & Castles snapback) and I always get treated differently.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      I’ve never heard “momiform” before. That’s a totally money term.

      Also, Crooks and Castles has some dope hats. I wish my head shape could support a hat. lol

  • http://misslayesen.tumblr.com/ Mel

    I promised myself the large Michael Kors Selma tote if I graduate with a summa cum laude this May. As high-end handbags go, this one is more mid-market, but it’s far enough out of my normal price range that it’s still an aspirational item for me. Also, it goes with everything I already have, and the workplace I’m going into has a lot of MK-wearing girls (I wanna fit in, dammit!)

    I might just walk in with the frumpiest outfit I have without any makeup and buy that shit in fives and tens.

    • Kait

      Oh please do. That would be amazing.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress


      Also, I am so proud of you. SO proud. You done good, Mel.

  • http://desertgirlsvintage.blogspot.com/ Lori and Rebecca

    God, I have a crush on your writing!


    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      *fist bump*

      Thank you.

  • Guest

    I get completely feel you on this subject…it happens to me everywhere I go. And then when I purchase a high dollar amount and pay with cash out of my fancy wallet that is stashed in the pocket of my largely oversize parka (don’t judge…I am always freezing) people change their tune and suddenly I am such a lovely customer and they would like to gush over me and offer me quality customer service. Oh and if I bother to actually carry my handbag it is fancy and matches my wallet…Jerks. Point is I learned a long time ago that there is no point in looking at the exterior to make a judgement on who they actually are. And I don’t feel like wearing my fancy suits when I am leisurely shopping…I like to wear yoga pants. My suits are reserved for clinical days, office hours, and board meetings.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      I am always freezing too. I always need some kind of sweater or long sleeved shirt handy in case I get cold. People kind of look at me weird, but hey, I do me and you do you, boo.

      Isn’t it FASCINATING how quickly people change their attitude and level of service when they think you might drop some serious bills?

  • Lynellekw

    I made one wedding-dress-shopping-trip when I got married, at the insistence of a bridesmaid. We trawled the Bridal Boutiques on a rainy day, just the two of us, and it was only after a couple of shops that I realised other brides-to-be were there with an entourage of aunts, cousins, sisters, bridesmaids, etc… I didn’t mind being left to myself so I didn’t notice the attitude of the sales assistants. Until we walked into one place and started browsing their display when a woman came up, asked a few cursory questions about the wedding date (still deciding), whether I had anything in mind (still deciding), then leaned in and lowered her voice to ask whether I’d set a budget for a dress. I told her (in slightly firmer tone) that I was still deciding. She leaned closer and whispered, “…because the dresses in this room start at $2000, but there’s a sale room across the hall…” She practically mouthed the last bit, like a sale room was a dirty secret she didn’t really want to have to talk about in public. My one bridesmaid and I gave her the most dignified looks we could manage, then touched all her fancy dresses before trooping across to the sale room.

    In the end I didn’t buy a dress from any of the Bridal Boutiques. That much money for a one-day dress? Couldn’t bring myself to do it.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      Oh man, when I read this, I suddenly had flashbacks of all the times I went to restaurants and the hostess would ask me if I wanted to take a look at the menu before I sat down….I guess in case I couldn’t afford to eat there?

      It made me think of all the time I spent feeling like I was “less than” because I allowed others to define my worth. Fuck that shit.

      $20 or 2K, I bet you looked stunning. I think happiness always makes us look beautiful.

      • Lynellekw

        I bought a much more affordable dress from a shop that sold medieval-style clothes, and I looked SPECTACULAR. I wore the dress I eventually chose on another occasion as well, and eventually gave it to a costume designer friend. So I feel like I got good value.

        • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

          Wow. I like how you think outside the box. Also, I like how you know about a store that sells medieval-style clothes. We need to hang out and you need to teach me some stuff.

  • Cella Fit

    I don’t know where I found your blog but I am so glad I did. I worked in retail for almost 8 years, left, came back recently. This shit is no joke but it’s one of my get money jobs at the moment ;)

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      Amen. That shit is no joke, and when I feel less than satisfied with any retail experience, I try to remind myself what it was like to be on the other end. What type of retail? I’ve done clothes and beauty only. I was about to work at Williams Sonoma, but French Connection offered me 50 cents more. It seemed like a big deal to me at the time.

  • Sheriji

    I’ve experienced this too, and I’m a WASP-ish looking white woman who made the mistake of walking into a Talbots once on my way to a yoga class. It was like I wasn’t even there.

    Don’t shop at Talbots anymore. Of course, they don’t actually know this, so it only makes me feel better, but one can only do so much.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      LOLOL. You know what? I do shit all the time which really only serves to make me feel better but the party I’m doing it to doesn’t know/ doesn’t care. The important thing is that it makes me feel better.

  • Carly

    This is inspiring me to not feel pressured to end every problem I present to others with the hashtag #firstworldproblems. I would literally SAY “hashtag-first-world-problems” around people to set them at ease, because it’s what they were already thinking. Forget that!


    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      Don’t apologize for your feelings/thoughts, homette. Can’t please all the haters. ;)

  • mommyonthespot

    You know what sucks? That how a person treats you says more about them than about you, BUT it still hurts a lot.

    I think you should walk into the store like Julia Roberts from Pretty Woman and go all, “Big mistake. HUGE!”

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      I really need to watch that movie again. That store scene is one of my favorites. I just get so proud and shit every time I watch it.

      And….so true. I always say I’m going to “be like rubber” and let that shit bounce off me, but uh, that’s only a saying for me. I’m more like glue. A lot of stuff sticks even when I don’t want it to.

  • Melissa Burton

    This post reminds me of my favorite line in the very over the top show, “Absolutely Fabulous”, “You only work in a shop, you can drop the attitude.” People suck in every strata of life and I say in my head to all of the ones that suck the most, “Piss off”.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      This one line makes me want to figure out how to turn on my television so I can watch that show.

  • Misty

    Who knew that you were officially Pretty Woman? Damn, girl. Living the movie star life!

    I’ve experienced this many times. If I have to stop somewhere on the way home from work, and I’m in a suit with hair and make-up did, then I get immediate attention and respect. If I am Saturday afternoon shopping with jeans, sweatshirt and baseball hat, it is like I’m invisible.

    Many years ago, I wanted to buy my hubs a very expensive watch for his birthday. I went into a huge jewelry store in the mall and was the only customer, but was dressed schlubby and I couldn’t get ANYONE to help me. There were about 5 employees and just me, and when I finally got someone to come over, he treated me like I was dog shit he was trying to scrape off his shoe. It goes without saying that I did not make a purchase there. Don’t be judgin’, peeps. That’s all.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      My life parallels that character in so many ways…I mean, not the “pretty” and “woman” part, but all the seedy bits about that character.

      I’m not good at standing up for myself, but I’m much better at it for my friends. Had I been there, I woulda thrown up some signs and shouted NO ONE TREATS MY FRIEND THAT WAY. Then I would punch a display and run out. Then you would have to act as my counsel. See how that all works out?

  • alexandra

    My husband was so untouched by the ugliness of life until he met me. And I mean that in a very real way. He grew up white and in the suburbs with a mother who was home during the day with 2 boys, 2 girls. Mark and I met, married within the year, and I told him that I’m treated by retail like I don’t have a nickel in my purse. To prove a point, I did just what you did. I let him walk in feet behind me at a clothing store. I was ignored, he saw it. He also saw how they flocked to him. He couldn’t believe it. So I did it again, this time with my mother. I said watch how they treat an older person, and an older person who is Hispanic. She was a ghost. (loved this post, love your blog)

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      Most the time, I am relieved and happy that my husband grew up in a very different way than I did. But sometimes, I accuse him of not being able to understand me/my needs/my thought process/my actions because he grew up so “happy and privileged.” That’s the kind of awesome wife I am…I begrudge my husband his happy past. That poor man. He’s mos def doing the Lord’s work by being married to me.

  • Johanna

    Ummmm, this post made my day! Finally…a blogger who is articulate and witty. Praise Jesus. Love your blog!

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      This compliment made my day. Thank you for taking the time to be so kind. You’re legit, homegirl.