Monday, October 10, 2016

Accessory Lady

I'm dedicating this post to Kevin, who gets the world's biggest kick out of the fact that I once worked in a women's accessory shop.  So here's the introduction to the story, à la Sophia style:

Picture it.  September. 1988.  A handsome young man involved in a relationship finds himself with lots of spare time on his hands so he decides to apply for a part-time job.  He answers a few ads in the local newspaper (you did that back then) and received a call from a young woman, asking him to come in for an interview the following night.  The young man and young woman meet and an instant friendship is born.  

That handsome young man was me.  And that young woman was Barbara, or Barbie as she was known.  And the part-time job was working sales at Accessory Lady in Tyson's Corner.

So to back up, I was living with Ex#1 in Sterling, VA.  He accepted a job as a manager at The Body Shop, a new store that was coming to Tyson's.  To train for the role, he worked in the Broadway store in NYC for 6 weeks while the Tyson's store was being built in the mall.  I didn't want to come home to an empty house every night, so I decided to get a part time job.  I was already working at my day job as an Administrative Assistant for a realty tax service in Annandale, VA.  So since Tyson's was on my way home, it seemed like an easy idea to just get a job there.

I applied to a few jobs in the mall at women-centric shops.  I really just wanted to work with women at that time.  I was only 22 years old and mostly just wanted to be myself as much as possible, so I figured working with a bunch of women would just be easier.  Accessory Lady was a store that sold high-end costume jewelry, hats, handbags, scarves, and some clothing.  It was a much-more-upscale Claire's.

So on September 27, 1988, I went to the interview and met Barbie, a beautiful Korean-American woman around my age.  We talked and learned that we were both from western Maryland and instantly bonded.  The part-time job would be in her store, currently being built in Tyson's II, the Galleria Mall.  She hired me for the job and within a few weeks I was helping to stock the store with merchandise for its grand opening.

Ex#1 returned from NYC just before Christmas.  His 6-week stay in NYC had been extended to 13 weeks due to staffing problems at the NYC store.  This long separation did not bode well for our relationship.  I had only visited him once in that amount of time and for some reason, and I can't remember why, we didn't talk on the phone.  Perhaps it was because long distance charges was a thing back then, and his living in a hotel and having to pay high phone charges didn't help the matter.  I remember sending him his mail every week along with a note, but I don't remember us talking during that 13-week period.  We must have, but I don't remember.  Needless to say, our relationship dissolved on, of all nights, New Year's Eve 1988.  But that's whoooole 'nother story.

Barbie and I had lots of fun working together, and after my breakup, she and I would hang out together just about every night.  We'd go clubbing and had a set routine of where we would go on any given night.  Sometimes I would spend the night at her house and we would go to work together the next day.

Barbie and Me at work
1989
I was the only guy working in the store.  The company had approximately 200-250 stores nationwide and there weren't too many men working in the company.  So when I got laid off from my day job due to downsizing, it became a big deal when I accepted Barbie's offer to be an Associate Manager full-time,  And then the push came for me to be manager of my own store.  A new store was opening in the newly-built Pentagon City Mall, and it was to be my store.  Accessory Lady hyped the idea that I would be its first male manager.  And then - I don't know - I guess it all got to me.  The reality of the situation hit me like a ton of bricks.

I didn't really care to be working in women's accessories, I just wanted to hangout with Barbie.  And this was never supposed to be my job job, just something to keep me busy at night while my boyfriend was out of town.  And frankly, I didn't even want to be in the DC area anymore for fear of running into Ex#1 out and about.  So I gave up my $19,000 a year job and just quit one day.  I had gone too far on this side journey and I needed to get back to the main road.  I didn't warn Barbie or anyone else about it, I just quit.  I wasn't the most responsible person back then.

Barbie and I were estranged for a while after that, and rightly so.  I've of course gotten much better at dealing with good-byes and ending situations, but at 22 years old, I was still emotionally immature.  I remember we eventually met and talked about things, but since then I had moved back home and was nowhere near DC anymore.  So the friendship, in its most recent form, dissolved.  

But Barbie kept trying to chase me down over the years.  She called my parents to find out where I was and how I was doing.  She invited me to her wedding, but I don't remember ever receiving the invitation, which could have been lost at Mom and Dad's at some point.  We lost touch, mostly because I was either too unstable in my living situation or was just lazy at maintaining contact.   Add to the fact that I HATE talking on the telephone.  I always have.  But then, years later, Facebook brought us back together,

Barbie and Me, 2016
Barbie and I met recently for lunch in Tyson's Corner.  It was the first time in 27 years we'd seen each other.  We reminisced and caught each other up on our lives, our marriages, our parents, her daughter, our careers and our families.  In many ways, she was exactly the same as I remember: same movements, same voice, same speech patterns, same face.  In turn, Barbie said I was completely different, that I was much more calm now, much more settled.  I chalked it up to simply being older and wiser.

By the way, working at Accessory Lady was Job #12.