Last semester, I had the privilege of teaching an introductory creative writing course at GMU. Today, I wanted to share a particularly excellent piece on non-fiction writing by one of my students, Kirsten Cooper. Throughout the course of the semester, Kirsten discovered that writing about women’s issues was a common thread in all of her work–poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. Kirsten wrote about body image, eating disorders, sexual encounters, the virgin/whore dichotomy and stereotypes, and about her experiences working at Hooter’s. I share with you below Kirsten’s lyric essay about Hooter’s–one that I admire very much, in addition to the rest of her fine work.
“Hooters,” by Kirsten Cooper
“Order in!” I shout that at least 50 times during a shift. I scurry away as I hear the cooks in the distance shouting, “diez breaded hot y diez naked mild.” I scan the restaurant and see eight other bright orange shorts and white, skin tight, tank tops. All meant to accentuate our “assets.” I see men; so many men. They sit and crack the same jokes, make the same snide comments, ask the same typical questions. I have the same conversation at least 12 times a day.
“So, where do you go to school?”
“What’s your major?”
“English with a minor in mild disabilities. I’m going to be a special education teacher.”
“Oh you must have a lot of patience. I bet you get a lot of practice working here!”
I fake a laugh and let him believe he is the first man to ever say that joke. It is all so familiar.
I walk into a tiny room we girls call the “fluff room.” Immediately I am smacked with a cloud of hairspray, and cough as I begin to suffocate in the midst of the aroma. There are three girls who look just like me. One is teasing her Rapunzel-like golden blonde extensions. Another is touching up her jet black mascara. The third is adjusting her cleavage to make sure her “girls” look extra perky. Extra perky equals extra money. Our manager walks by and I hurry away as I hear him bark, “Girls, get out of the fluff room and onto the floor!”
Thank God I escaped his wrath in time. My manager is usually a hilarious ball of fun, but we all know that if he gets behind the kitchen, that means trouble. I cannot help but laugh to myself as I think of him shouting, “Whose damn buffalo shrimp are these?!” so loud that an entire half of the restaurant stopped what they were doing to stare back at the crazy man in the kitchen.
I glance at the door and see my prey, a few middle-aged men standing wide-eyed, taking in the view. I snatch them up and bring them to my table. They seem extremely pleased that I have decided to play with them. Men are all the same, so easy to please. You give them a little attention. Flirt and tell them they are hilarious, and you get 20 bucks. I move on to second table of the night. It is a family; two young sons and a mom and dad. They are my regulars. They love me. This family is a blast and I thoroughly enjoy their company. I joke with them and catch up on life. Finally some relief from the same vague conversations I have time and time again.
“Kiki, order up!”
I quickly jump up and give an apologetic glance to the family as I prance away to get the table of men their food. By this time they are two “Big Daddy” Bud Lights deep and hungry for some chicken wings. I set them on the table and they immediately start to devour their prey. All I can do is stare at the men and think to myself how I am so thankful I am not those chicken wings.
Finally, after countless conversations and aching feet, all my tables have cashed out. The girls all sit around and wait for the last bunch of drunken assholes to leave. They can see we are waiting for them to get out, but what do they care. After twenty more minutes and a pitcher sucked dry, they decide to make their fashionably late exit. We rally together to do our closing chores, and then finally, the moment I have been waiting for all night. We file into a line as we walk to the managers’ office. He is sitting in his chair waiting for me to hand him my check-out slip. We exchange a few words of small talk.
“So, get any creepers tonight?”
“Oh, just the usual. Luckily my regulars came in tonight.”
“There you go,” as he hands me my money, “see you bright and early.”
I walk away and count my earnings.
Successful night. This moment always reminds me of why I am a Hooters Girl.