When I was twelve years old, my mother married a man and moved us to a farm. Yes, you read it correctly… a farm. I lived in a small, rural town and when we moved, we were next door to my stepdad’s parents. They were the type of family to grow their own veggies and raise their own animals to slaughter, kill and eat. Nope, we were not the family that was attached to the pigs and chickens because their purpose was not our entertainment rather our nourishment.
I spent many afternoons sitting on my step grandparents back porch peeling peas until my thumbs turned purple or shucking corn. At the time, the tasks seemed unbearable but those are some of the family memories that stand out in my head most vividly. Seeing the pride this family took in being able to provide for one another helped me to understand that it isn’t always about what or how much you have rather what you do with it. It also helped me to develop a strong work ethic and desire to provide for myself and not to sit around waiting on someone to give me what I wanted.
Needless to say, at the time, I wasn’t so fond of farm living. Somehow, somewhere I was always a city girl deep down. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy those still nights where I can sit outside and look up to the vast array of stars or letting my son go outside and roam around our acres of land but the draw of driving five minutes instead of one hour to the mall is still extremely tempting.
Fast forward to January of 1996. I am a freshman at Vanderbilt coming to the realization that working in a clothing store is not the best job for someone with a tendency to spend the majority of their paycheck on building their seasonal wardrobe. During my winter break, I was talking to one of my girl friends about my problem and she was like, “You should get a job at Hooters.” I thought that was a ridiculous idea. I could not imagine walking around in those short shorts and a tank top serving chicken wings and beer.
Upon returning to school, I knew my job situation had to change and my first attempt at rectifying the situation was applying for a job at Target. I did check the newspaper listings and saw one that was interesting, a lingerie model: try on lingerie for customers, but something about that just didn’t seem right (lol). Anyway, I go to Target and they were kind of mean to me. Just like, “thanks, we will call you…” I don’t think they ever called. I went to a few other places and received a similar response. Then I thought about what my friend said and figured I would give Hooters a shot. What did I have to lose?
The managers were so nice to me; I received an interview on the spot and was on the schedule to start the next week. I’m not sure if it was my winning personality or youthful assets that won them over but I was grateful to have a job. I looked around a couple of times while I was there and wondered how I would feel in the outfit but suppressed the thought from my mind.
That worked until my first day when I had to put on the “Hooters Uniform”
- a crisp white tank top (at the time we were tying them in the back to show off our assets, now they have lycra)
- a white bra with ultimate push up power
- nude panty hose (many people ask why the pantyhose, but honestly would you want someone serving you food in short shorts without pantyhose?)
- clean white sneakers
- white socks that come above your ankle
- tight orange shorts
- a perfectly made up face and
- your hair did (no pony tails or sloppy hair style)
We were supposed to be the All-American girl next door. I stood in the bathroom getting dressed with all of the other girls who had no problems disrobing in front of one another wondering if I had made the right occupational decision. This little girl from the farm was about to go out and show it all off.
Upon looking back, I can honestly say that working at Hooters was one of the best decisions that I have ever made. I met some of my closest girl friends while working there. We would walk around harassing our customers and psychoanalyzing our lives while sneaking and eating chicken wings at every turn. We were considered “local celebrities” and had VIP access to almost every club even though most of us weren’t old enough to drink but most importantly, it helped me to establish my independence. Many teenagers and young adults want the power to make their own decisions but you have to pay for that right. I felt great that I didn’t have to ask my parents for money to cover my rent each month or my books each semester. I was able to bring my brothers and cousins to stay with me during the summer and expose them to things that they would not ordinary see in the small town that we lived in.
At one point in my life, I didn’t want people to know that I was an ex-Hooters girl because I worried about what they think or say about me. I am arriving at a point in my life where I am accepting all of my past, the good and the bad. I don’t consider working at Hooters to be a bad part anymore, in fact, I am proud that I held down a full time (working almost 50 hours a week) job for 3 ½ years while graduating from Vanderbilt University in 4 years with the classmates that I started with. I missed out on some of the college experience but hanging out with my Hooter friends definitely made up for it 😀