Several years ago I knew a girl who used to say, “You better work” all the time. We decided to be roommates in Manhattan after we finished school in Dallas. I barely knew her, but she seemed very demure and let’s face it, not too many people are willing to move to the big city from Texas.
Shortly after I had sold everything I owned and moved in with her, I became privy to her lifestyle. She met trainers constantly, was always flying somewhere or going out until all hours of the morning at private clubs or parties and shopped on Madison Avenue constantly. I didn’t understand how she could afford to do all that, since I never saw her go to work.
Hanging out with her was rare, due to my schedule at work and her lack of one. Also the financial difference was a problem. I made assistants pay and she seemed to have an endless supply. She wasn’t one to offer to pay or help you out, as money was something she coveted as much as I did her shoes, but every now and then she would be generous and offer.
This would entail a night out. She always invited me because she said I had good sense and would tell her when it was time to leave. It was seldom that I went, but when I did, the evening would always be something out of a movie.
Velvet hot pants and Karl Lagerfeld pumps were the name of the game, so while she helped herself to my clothes, I helped myself to hers. You thought the hot pants were hers? The pumps were, but those hot pants were mine and she loved to wear them. And the men loved to see her in them! Oh my God! They would get neck lash from staring at her.
There was no place that she didn’t feel at home at. She would direct the cabbie to a hot spot with a line going around a building and proceed to walk to the front, flash a coquettish smile to the bouncer and we were in. I would say, “there’a line of people, we can’t just cut.”
Lines were for losers (her words not mine), only an idiot would pay for their own drink (also her words) and if some poor unsuspecting guy happened upon her who wasn’t wearing what she deemed suitable attire, she simply looked at him and said, “I’m so not impressed” and he would walk away shamed probably never approaching a woman again.
She had an energy about her that was off the charts confident and equally chaotic. If there was drama going on, she was the director. One night she called me from an after hours place and asked me to come and get her; that meant take a cab and escort her home. I obliged. I knew she had no one else to count on, despite the fact that she had many acquaintances, many admirers, many hanger-on-ers.
When I got there she had a broken nose. The people in the place wanted to go home but she was frenetic as one could only imagine, and was in shock. They only wanted to be rid of her. I calmed her down and wiped her face of the blood. She was distraught and scared to death of what the break might do to her looks. She told me that she had called some guy a loser who had been sitting with her and some girl because he expected them to pay for his drinks.
I once questioned her safety with the choices she made, especially the mouthing off to men, to which she replied, “I pity the f-er who ever crosses me!” I admired this about her. She called it knowing her worth. She said I didn’t know mine. That I didn’t know how to ask for what I wanted or required. I didn’t agree at the time and was upset about it. She didn’t care. Her words were her currency and she had a lot of them, and it, because she never stopped speaking her truth.
I stayed for almost a year being an apprentice at a bougie salon to a complete prima donna and decided to return to Dallas with the knowledge I had gained. I worked there for many years and we lost touch. It wasn’t until I was returning to Manhattan to open a new salon that we reconnected for a brief moment.
She told me that she was returning to Arizona where she was originally from. She said she was going to become a teacher. I wondered how a person who worked it could ever possibly work, but as she sat there packing her bags and talking about how tired she had become of working it with people who didn’t know their worth, I could see that she was ready to go to work and wished her well.
My old friend may have known how to work it, but in the moments where we were together in our one room at the women’s home, she showed me a vulnerable side to her that no one else ever saw. She treated waiters with kindness and cabbies too and had a keen sense of when others did not. She watched people; observed them like they were some species under a microscope. More importantly, she knew who valued themselves and who did not.
She was right about me. Back then I didn’t know my worth. I settled over and over again for less than what I was worth. I accepted crumbs, disrespect and disregard time and time again. She knew her worth so well, that men who didn’t know theirs, would be willing to do just about anything for a moment with her. It’s how she was able to see this flaw in me; the one who would accept the unacceptable in hopes that it would lead to more.
We’ve all seen people who accept the unacceptable. I saw this recently when I was in Florida. There was a young woman, probably 24, sitting with an older gentleman, probably 50 by the pool. She kept taking selfies and ordering things from the waiter, and entertaining herself as though he was’t even there. She would hand him her drink as she snapped away and then swam to the other side of the pool and threw him a bone, as she spread her legs poolside, taking more photos. She wanted people to notice her and I gather he did too. The pool was quiet and elegant and she had no respect for anyone around her, not even the families with children. It was such a spectacle! I felt sorry for him.
At some point you gotta ask yourself: Is this enough for me? Am I willing to keep making choices that cost me my self esteem? Am I willing to keep spending time with people who only measure my worth by what I am doing for them or what I am giving them? Or do I love myself enough to want more? Do I love myself enough to know I deserve more? That maybe, just maybe, there is somebody out there that will tick all the boxes for me, but maybe in order to have that, I need to tick them myself.
If we are working it; meaning putting on a mask, pretending to be all that, bringing a player vibe, then we will get exactly what we are being; transactional. But if you are working on it; meaning yourself with all your issues, then you won’t require anything from anyone because you can give it all to yourself.
Waiting for someone to save you, to see your worth, validate you, make you feel special, or to fill a void, are sure signs that you’re working it. Because when you’re working on it, you don’t have to pretend anymore. You just get to be you.
So, are you working it or working on it? Because one is a whole lot more empowering than the other.