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Donuts In Hand
Alex Frank / Spoon

Ode to a Donut

I have become accustomed to talking to strangers.

I can make conversation with just about anyone who steps foot into the bakery. I have gotten used to creepy old men wanting to spark a conversation, grumpy gray-haired ladies who want a free slice of cake, middle-aged fathers who don’t know how to control their children, and even the mother that insists her children eat sugar-free, even though she just ordered a sugar glazed and deep fried apple fritter. I’ve become good at reading people. There’s the immature teenager who still has her mom order for her, the grandparents who insist their grandchild have the MOST sprinkled donut, and the over confident business man who shouts their order. My personal favorite is the person who just gets it. This rare, overly nice, and patient person (who is probably a waitress themselves) that just understands what it’s like to listen and serve people all day long.

My least favorite and unfortunately most popular customer is the condescending old man who insults me much more with his so called compliments than his sly, sexist remarks. His compliments are always the same.

“I wish I had that head of hair.”

“You have such pretty eyes, are you sure you’re just a waitress?”

They laugh thinking that their comments radiate creativity and originality, even though I’ve heard them millions of times before; it’s predictable. Almost as if someone wrote a book of bad dad jokes and gave it to every white man over the age of 55. For some I think it’s the highlight of their day. For others, I think they like to see annoyance in a younger girl and then blame it on the age gap or “generational differences.” I nod, smile, maybe even laugh, but only if they have a large bill. I can picture them getting into their cars thinking how I don’t understand what they mean, something along the lines of: 

“She’s too young, too blonde, or maybe even too dumb.”

It’s not my imagination that creates these stereotypes and ways that men think of me. I can see it on their faces when my friendly and customer pleasing smile turns to irritation and exasperation. I can see their faces drop when I’m not charmed or pleased by them. I can see them roll their eyes and treat me as another “Gen Z feminist” I think to myself,

“When did feminism become a bad thing? When did equality for women become something that men find comical or even just annoying?”

I let the comments roll off my back, the words meaningless as they ring in my ears. I’ve learned to not let it bother me. I have learned to listen to the harmless compliments about my blue eyes, freckles, and naturally blonde hair. I’ve also listened to people tell me things like:

“You look so much older,”

“You’ve grown up nicely,”

“The boys must chase you!”

I have learned to ignore the insulting comments of the old men, who clearly think they have more leeway than reality should allow. They are fearless in their statements, as if I would just drop the tray I was carrying and melt into a puddle of affection. 

“You’ve gotten bigger,”

“Long legs in short shorts.”

*winky face*

“Have a boyfriend yet?”

I have been working since I was 13. A scrawny girl with red glasses behind the counter is adorable and treated kindly.

I am now 18. A well-developed and mature woman is objectified and rarely treated with the respect I deserve.

Still, I don’t let it bother me. I don’t let it bother me when my younger brother is given respect in any situation, when I am treated as a bimbo. I don’t let it bother me when customers only hold validation in the words that come out of his mouth. I don’t let it bother me when I bend over and catch the thirty somethings with meaningless wedding bands on their ring fingers stare down my shirt. I don’t let it bother me when my brother gets tipped more for doing the same work, he doesn’t have to flirt or laugh at degrading comments to get tipped. I don’t let it bother me when the gray haired grandpa requests that my brother helps him over me, even though I am more experienced.

I suppose that writing this would make me a good bull shitter. I’ve learned to become one. 

I have learned that being a woman – no matter how intelligent, powerful, or resilient we may be – is way harder than being any mediocre man. 

My experiences are not unique. In fact, they’re more universal than I would like to admit. Not once has my brother been condescended or treated inappropriately by customers on the job. You can walk into any bar, restaurant, or service industry and fill notebooks of stories and experiences that women like me have encountered. 

“You look prettier with your hair down.”

“How old are you again?”

“Does your husband like you working here?”

I have learned that most men approach me with respect and kindness. And by no means am I saying that all men stand for these stereotypes and blatant inequality. 

But to the ones who do:

I have learned to shut down these back handed compliments.

I have learned to stand up for myself and become confident in my professionality. 

I have learned that there are far more people who respect me than those who don’t. 

I have learned that the lump of old men who are used to treating women with disrespect become disheartened at the sight of an empowered and intelligent woman.

I have learned to be as bold as these men are to me. 

I have learned that women are more powerful than men would like to believe.

I have learned that being an educated woman is enough to send most older men running. 

And to that, I say cheers

English and writing major running on espresso and reddit memes....
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