I have a wedding to attend in a couple of weeks and was out yesterday shopping for a dress and shoes. I lucked out and found both pretty quickly, but the shoes I liked were a little out of my price range. I decided to mull it over for a bit and check out Payless on my way out of the mall. Since I already had something in mind, I walked in and went right over to where I might find shoes I was looking for. I saw a pair of black pumps that could work with the dress I bought. I pulled the left shoe out of the box and put it on the ground – I always try the left shoe first because my left foot is bigger (first world problems). I took off my flip-flop and slipped my foot in.
“You aren’t going to wear socks?” I turned around to see a small, old, at-least-70-years-old woman looking down at my feet.
“Socks? With heels? Nah…” I responded. I imagined myself wearing thick white athletic socks and heels.
An employee came over to ask if we needed any assistance. I said no, thank you and continued on to try the right shoe. The woman said something about me not wearing “socks” – the nylon booty things they make available for anyone that wants them. The employee told her that it wasn’t a requirement. I’m not a germ-ophobe or foot-aphobe by any means so I just went about my business trying on my shoes.
I thought that was the end of the interaction, but the woman went on to voice her concerns about “crud” on my feet and “crud” on other people’s feet. I didn’t fully understand what was going on, so I told her it doesn’t bother me at all and tried to joke that luckily me and her don’t wear the same size (or style). She kind of wandered away mumbling that she hopes anyone that tried those shoes on before me had “crud” on their feet too – cause it would serve me right. I heard a “I guess that’s what the world is coming to” but was still trying to ignore it.
She ventured into a different aisle but she eventually came back over to where I was standing to tell me that I was beautiful – “but you’re not beautiful on the inside” she said. My most awkward face came out and I mumbled a confused “whaaaatt??” under my breath. At that point, I decided it was time to give up and walk away. You win, lady. This homegirl don’t play that game.
The employee witnessed the whole thing and came after me to apologize. She offered me a discount for the “abuse” if I wanted to come back after the woman was gone. I told the employee that it wasn’t her fault and thanked her for the offer as I left the store.
You can’t make this shit up. I thought I was freaking crazy as I left. Did that really just happen? I was in the store for less than five minutes, and this woman just would not stop hassling or insulting me. An old freakin’ lady! I didn’t do anything to initiate a conversation with this woman or provoke her or offend her in any way (other than trying on shoes in a shoe store). And it really wasn’t even that big of a deal to me until she sought me out a second time to tell me to my face that I am ugly on the inside. Huh??
I’m not offended and I don’t take this woman’s words to heart. She doesn’t know anything about me – other than my offensive barefoot shoe habit? – and I know that I do my best to be a good person. If I wasn’t a good person (also know as “not beautiful on the inside”), that old woman would have gotten a big fat earful from me about what kind of person she seemed to be at that time. She gets a pass because I don’t know her either and I have no clue where her actions are coming from. The word “bullied” might be a little dramatic but there is no question what the woman was trying to do. Unfortunately, stories like mine or this recent one happen all the time. I think I handled it appropriately but that isn’t always the case. Its all completely unnecessary and I won’t ever understand people that go out of their way to try to make other people feel bad. What is up with that?
So please, be kind. Walk away when it’s time. Think before you react. And really…if you don’t have anything nice to say, you know what to do.
Greatest thanks to that Payless employee for going out of her way to be nice. And thanks to that old lady. You provided an excellent reminder of exactly the type of person I don’t ever want to be.