Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ask the management

As we all know, I work part-time as a waitress. In a few short days, I'll also be filling in as a manager.

"Oh, really? Moving into management, huh? Good for you!" people keep telling me, encouragingly.

"No, no, no," I rush to explain. "I'm just filling in for the real managers while they are away in Spain for a week, doing research and development. They're my friends, I'm really just doing this as a favor."

Fact is, moving into management is the last thing I want to do. I don't mind filling in, especially because the managers at Toro work so hard, do such an amazing job, and totally deserve this working vacation. But managing sucks.

First of all, there are all of these little things that you have to take care of starting before service begins at 4 p.m.-ish and continuing well after all of the customers have gone home at midnight or 1 a.m., like making sure the bar has the bank and the IPod by 4:30, dimming the un-labeled lights to the right level lest the restauarant look like an operating room ("Is that the back bar I'm dimming? Or the back hallway? Who knows?"), and making sure the hosts have enough menus and that they all contain the correct, spell-checked, properly priced information. I could write press releases and marketing copy for days, but somehow formatting those menus is beyond me.

Fortunately, all of these rote happen-every-day-type tasks can be easily accounted for - I'm making a list for myself. Plus, if the manager forgets to handle any of these items, the staff is pretty swift to remind you, and it usually sounds something like this:

"Kitty, where are my menus??? It's 5:05! They're still not done yet?" or,
"Hey, manager! Do you have a bank for me tonight? Or am I just going to give the drinks away?"

Then, in addition to handling all of these hateful little tasks, there is all of this other stuff that someone in a management position has to deal with, the problems that come up during service, the seemingly unsolvable things that you have to somehow find a way to fix. Everyone comes to you with them since you are in charge - kitchen, bar, back-waiters, servers. It sounds something like this:

"Kitty, we only have 25 napkins left for the rest of the night and I don't have enough roll-ups to set the dining room," or
"Kitty, we're almost out of bread" at 9 o'clock p.m. when the restaurant is full.

And I haven't even crossed the angry customer bridge yet, where I have to smooth over some awful situation with a pissed-off guest.

"I'm scared," I told one of the managers. "I hope that doesn't happen to me while you're away."

"Oh, it will," she said. "Trust me. And get ready for what people will say to you. I heard someone refer to the general manager as 'that little girl' once."

"No way! I mean, she's short, but that's so...rude. Ugh, I can only imagine what people will say to me. People already treat me like I'm a stupid blonde as a waitress."

"I know. It sucks. But hey, maybe you'll get some good material out of it for your blog!"

Yes, maybe I will. Hopefully it's nothing too good.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Baby names

My mother called me on Thursday afternoon while I was finishing up some office work and about to run out the door to go to Toro. I was too busy to talk, so I screened the call. I know it's terrible to screen your parents but I felt it had to be done. I picked up her message after leaving Toro at midnight:

"Hi honey, it's mom. Just wanted to give you a call. Umm...give me a call when you get this, okay? I'm going to be on my way to work soon, but will be around tomorrow if I miss you. By, dear."

A nonchalant message to the casual listener, but I was slightly alarmed. Let me translate: my mother has it in her head that I am the busiest person in the world, and always humbly assumes that I am far too busy and important to actually call my parents back. She never actually requests that I "give her a call" unless something is up or wrong, like when our dog Happy died, or when she had that little breast cancer problem. Ordinarily, mom just says, "Just thinking of you, hope you're doing well, talk to you soon." Because I'm so busy and important (ha.)

Since mom's tone was decidedly even and calm, I thought it was probably okay to give her a ring at the end of my busy Friday afternoon.

"Hi Kirsten, how are you dear? Are you busy? Did you have a busy week?" my mom asked.

"Yes mom, it was a busy week. I'm sorry I missed you the other night, but I have a minute to talk now. What's up?"

"Well, I just wanted to call, and give you the news...your cousin delivered the baby on Wednesday." This is my younger cousin, who I found out was pregnant until last month. I'm just six years older than her, but since we mostly only ever saw each other when I was a teenager, said cousin is fixed in my mind as an 8 - 12 year old girl. In light of this, I was surprised to learn that she with child...and even more surprised when my mom said she was practically due.

"Oh, that's great! Boy or girl, mom?"

"Girl. And guess what she named the baby?"

"Um....I don't know, mom. Mary (after Grandma)? Liz (after her mom, my aunt)? I'll never guess. Just tell me."

"She named her...Kirsten Elizabeth."

"But...really? But...that's my name. Does she know that's my name, too?"

"I'm pretty sure she does, honey. People keep asking me if I think you'll mind. You don't mind, dear, do you?"

"Mind? No, not at all, of course I don't mind. I'm ridiculously flattered!"

And it's true: this news, which I felt certain would be bad news, has turned out to be some of the most flattering news I've ever received.

And a strong reminder to reconnect with this side of my family.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

6 Questions with Sascha de Gersdorff of Boston Magazine

When I told the lovely and talented Sascha de Gersdorff of Boston Magazine about my Undercover Blonde project, she instantly got it. Sascha has also traversed both sides of the color wheel in the name of research while editing the magazine's much-beloved "Best of Boston" issue.

Here's a little glimpse into Sascha's take on blonde- vs brunette-ness:

Kitty: Are you a natural blonde? If not, how long have you been dying your hair blonde?

Yes. Well, natural enough. I was very light blonde as a kid, right up through my teen years. I started getting highlights in college, not because I really needed them but because it was the thing to do—and a nice escape from the class-bar-class-bar routine. I probably got a partial twice a year (shout-out to Joseph’s at the Carriage House in Syracuse!). As a “grown-up,” I get highlights three or four times a year.

Kitty: A few years ago you conducted an experiment for Boston magazine that required you to dye your blonde hair brown, then back to blonde. What was it like to be a brunette all of a sudden? Did you like the experience? How long did it last?

Sascha: I loved it. Alas, I was the only one.

I had my hair dyed very dark brown in November; it lasted through March (albeit somewhat faded). Being brunette was great. Almost immediately, people took me more seriously, especially new acquaintances. I’m aware of all the stereotypes, but it was amazing how much people played to cliché. It was like I had a sudden anonymity—no cat calls on the street, no lewd stares—which, again, was surprising in the fact it seemed so scripted. I wavered between missing the attention and reveling in looking “brainy.” Of course, it was also somewhat annoying as the great majority of blondes I know are smart, intuitive people, and blonde is a hair color choice, not an intellectual status meter.

The biggest (and only) compliments I got were about my skin and eyes. Most people told me both looked much smoother/striking surrounded by brown hair. But just about everyone I talked to said he/she preferred me as a blonde. Period. Now, when I mention going brunette again, I’m met by a host of sighs, eye rolls, and quick dismissals.

Did the color changes affect how you saw or felt about yourself? Or was it mostly an external thing?

Sascha: No. Ok, maybe a little. It’d be hard to measure but I’ll say I might have been slightly less outgoing as a brunette. (Another huge-but-unfortunately-somewhat-true stereotype: Blondes will be forgiven anything.)

Having experience both ends of the color spectrum, what did you like and dislike most about being blonde or brunette?

Sascha: Blonde: I feel/look like myself.

Brunette: It was nice to step outside my physical comfort zone for a while, switch it up. I thought I looked like a totally different person, which was fun while it lasted. The worst part for me was the constant re-dying. Because I have a naturally light base, the brown would fade after my first hair wash. Going to the salon every three weeks proved way to high-maintenance (and expensive) for me. Also, I had to wear double the amount of makeup I typically do to keep from looking washed-out.

Your best friend is about to dye her hair blonde for the very first time. What’s the one thing you think she NEEDS to know about how her life will be different before she reaches for bleach?

Sascha: People will stare. Or, at least, stare more than she’s used to. I won’t guess at the sociology behind it here but, in my experience, there’s something about blonde hair that draws the eye. If you’re not comfortable with attention, don’t go for superblonde hair. My advice would be to take it slowly and make sure your skin tone can handle the change.

Kitty: Who are your picks for best color & corrective color (going brown to blonde again) in Boston? Anyone you’d refer a girl to in a heartbeat?

The best colorist in Boston, in my opinion, is Jeffrey Lyle at Emerge on Newbury. No one does natural blonde like he does. I’m not sure Emerge does color correction, though. When I wanted to strip out all my brown I went to Umi; they did a great job.

Sascha de Gersdorff is Executive Editor of Boston Home and Boston Weddings and editor of New England Travel, as well as travel editor for Boston.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Thanks, and Happy New Year!

Thanks to everyone who stopped by and commented on my rather melancholy last post.

I spent the first half of my New Year's Eve at an amazing yoga workshop last night. I did a bunch of soul-searching while there, as you do when you spend four hours om-ing and chanting on a yoga mat. In the midst of all this New Age-y-ness, I rediscovered my energy for this project. I'm inspired to recommit to it in '09, and to you, all of my supportive readers.

I spent the second half of the evening guzzling champagne, so for now it's back to the couch, with plans to start fresh in 2009 tomorrow.

Happy New Year to all!