Tuesday, September 7, 2010

All Brides Are Not Created Equal

So now that you have heard some of what it takes to work here, let me tell you another quality that is very helpful: diplomacy.

I'm not talking about diplomacy as it may pertain to the running of interference between a bride and her quarreling mother. Oh no.

I am talking about a rare and very dangerous form of the word, where failure to be the perfect Switzerland can mean the difference between peace and lawsuit.

Let me explain. Our business, the selling of beautiful and ornate gowns, attracts a lot of people. Some of them are brides who are envisioning themselves in these beautiful dresses. Some of them are fashionistas, for whom being around such opulence is its own pleasure. And some of them, a very small minority, are shopping in our store to fulfill a need other than love of man or dress.

I was working at the counter one day when an individual came in and announced the desire to make an appointment to try on wedding gowns. I brought the homely "bride" downstairs to look through the racks with me at the styles available and to look at the appointment book at what appointment time might be available for trying on dresses. As this long-haired, heavily made-up and lipsticked, skirt-wearing bride browsed through the gowns I noticed something about her. Her hands. They were sturdy hands. Strong, actually, like she might do some sort of manual labor. Upon closer inspection, they looked a little hairy on the knuckles, but stubbly, like they had been shaved. Such a shame, I thought, that this bride felt so self-conscious that her hands looked like they belonged to a man that she felt the need to shave them... wait a minute, is that an Adam's apple I see?

Fabulous. Here I am in the female-only part of the store where the brides walk around in a state of half-undress, with a man clearly dressed as a woman. What do I do now?

As a social liberal, there is part of me who feels like this poor confused individual deserves the same dignity and service that I would give to any other bride who comes into my dressing room. My empathy told me to make an appointment for him.

But the legal questions abound; am I compromising the rights of the women in the dressing areas by allowing this man to be in their midst? And can I ask one of my consultants, or even myself, to dress this individual should he decide to try something on, would that violate the consultants' rights? Remember, it is the store's policy that, in order to protect the merchandise, a consultant must help each and every customer into the dresses. No self service allowed. Will that violate HIS rights, to insist that he be dressed by a consultant of the opposite sex?

And either way, do I acknowledge that I have guessed the true nature of this bride's gender? It was not shared with me, and I do not know whether acknowledging the truth would be hurtful or not. What if he thinks he's beautiful and the epitome of femininity, and that he's got the whole world fooled. The last thing I want to do is offend anyone.

What would you do in this circumstance? I'd love to hear your thoughts, and then I'll share the true ending to this story.


Amy said...

I think I would have booked him (her?) for a brief appt and assigned two consultants to the task.

Madison said...

You mentioned you were in the female only part of the store. Do you have a part of the store that isn't female only and could you have serviced him there? (ooh poor choice of words, but you know what i mean.)

Fiorella said...

Good suggestions, Amy and Madison! And you aren't too far off the mark! Let me see if there are any other thoughts from readers before I reveal my solution...

And, by the way, I never said that I was perfect, or that my solution was a rip-roaring success...

Fiorella said...

Well, I decided that I wanted to treat him (her?) with dignity, but without infringing on anyone else's rights. I offered to help him myself (therefore not putting anyone else in an awkward position) and suggested we try on the gowns in a dressing room in our tux department. A diplomatic solution, maybe. But not acceptable to him. He insisted that he wanted to try on gowns by himself in the ladies area. I didn't even have to argue with him about ladies vs. unisex dressing rooms because when I told him that it was the store policy that he be helped into the gowns, and that exceptions were made for no one, he made big scene. He stormed through the store and threatened to sue. I was saddened, but not frightened of his threats, because I was already well aware of our rights legally to set this policy that protects our merchandise and to enforce it no matter what the circumstance. I have had girls remain almost fully clothed while trying on gowns because their religion prevents them from being naked in front of anyone other than their husband. Anyway, we since learned that he was NOT getting married, and just liked to stir-the-pot, so to speak. It's a difficult situation, and one of those where there's no easy solution.