Why I don’t have tattoos:
Because everything eventually stops being as cool as it once was and the “ironic” little mermaid tattoo that’s real hip right now and looks great with those high-waisted shorts and Peter Pan collar will eventually be the equivalent of that lady in Walmart with the tweety bird tattoo. Just thinking ahead.
Day 5 no soda.
I don’t trust male employers who require that their female employees wear high heels.
As I began last week what will probably be the longest phase of my life and started a job that I hope will become my career, I had to say goodbye (for the most part…hello Sunday brunch) to what just felt like the longest phase of my life, and that’s waitressing. It’s something I’ve had a lot of feelings about for a few years now. In some ways it has defined a huge part of my life, and that’s because at times it was the only way I knew how to define myself, lacking the confidence I have now.
It would be impossible to detail all of my experiences over the past two years and 4 restaurants all right here. But I owe it to myself and to the people who have experienced parts of this journey with me to pause here for reflection.
I started off thinking that waitressing wasn’t good enough for me. It was just a layover on the way to what I was actually going to do with my young-adulthood. It was easy to think that. At the time, over half the people I worked with were at the restaurant through a work release program in jail. I was a junior in college, and constantly reminded myself and everyone else who would listen that as soon as I graduated I was going to get a “real job.” Let me pause here. I’ve used this term to serve as a contrast to my job as a waitress almost constantly. And of course what I meant when I was thinking about it consciously was a job that would somehow have to do with what I went to school for. One that I couldn’t get without having gone to college. One with health and dental plans. What I meant without even realizing it was that I wanted a job that the people around me couldn’t have gotten because they weren’t going to college like I was. This is what I saw as their crucial mistake, and what I used to elevate myself above them.
Obviously the purpose of this was not to talk about how I’m better than the entire restaurant industry. I slowly began to get to know people who calculated what they needed to make each day to pay their rent, and didn’t leave until they got it. People who took full advantage of what I didn’t even see as a “real job” to buy their kids food and school supplies. They were some of the hardest working people I had met, without lunch breaks or benefits packages. That’s “real.” By seeing it as anything other than that, I failed to give my coworkers the respect they deserved.
So far I’ve used the term waitress. This is no longer the generally accepted term thanks to feminism. It may surprise you then, that it is the term I use the majority of the time. And the most simple reason for that is just because the official job title is “server” doesn’t mean most men don’t still see it as a very specific power dynamic that should still resemble a much older model of male-female power dynamics. That’s a whole other discussion I have a lot of thoughts on. But put simply, everyone still thinks of the job as waitress rather than server, and it was more identifiable to people than saying that I was a server.
But as a waitress/server, what I didn’t expect was to learn to serve. Not as in the person who serves you your beverages, salads, and entrees, but as in “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant.” So what I’ve learned in the past few months that I struggled to learn over the past two years prior to that was pretty humbling. I had to stop looking at waitressing as a job and start to look at being a servant as a calling. There are tons of different ways to do that, I’m sure I will learn. That was just the one way I was called to do it for the past two years.
That’s the best way I know how to make sense of what turned out to be a pretty hard job in ways that I could have never predicted going in. I learned a lot, and I think I changed for the better, but I am ready for the next phase.