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.