Have you ever watched the movie Pretty Woman? There’s just something about the story that sucks me in every time. I absolutely love the idea that a man can see past what a woman looks like into the riches of her personality and the value of her being. Don’t you just smile when Julia Roberts gets to go back to the stores that rejected her and rub in what a mistake that was? I know that it was just a movie; but it always makes me wish that we didn’t live in such a superficial age, where an awkward, average, minimum-wage-making woman is often judged to matter less.
Why the soap box? Because once upon a time, I was the main character in a similar scenario…
Brian’s mom is a sweetheart and offered to buy us a couch as a wedding gift. The arrangement was that we’d do the shopping and she’d do the purchasing. She hoped we’d shop at Shewels because she already had an account with that store. So Brian and I, 21 years old, embarked on our very first furniture shopping escapade. Shewels had already closed for the night, so we found the Roomstore instead. I remember walking in wearing my favorite ripped jeans with a brown/pink/furry/flower-embroidered/hippy-looking coat. I don’t recall exactly what Brian was wearing, but I’m sure he looked like a skater boy. As we walked around the store, we plopped ourselves into and tested a variety of couches. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a salesman watching us; and he was chuckling under his breath. This was not an aww-aren’t-they-cute? chuckle. This was a what-are-they-preteens? chuckle. A condescending chuckle. Yet this was the salesman who helped us. I use the term “help” very loosely here. We picked out a couch and he “checked on it.” Except when Brian’s mom returned to order the couch, apparently it was backordered. Not being sure if that was okay with us, she decided not to buy that couch.
Commence Round Two (this time solo). The second furniture store was Grand Home Furnishings. I stepped inside and proceeded to walk a lengthy, complete lap around the store. These people work commission, right? Not ONE. SINGLE. IDLE employee offered to assist me in any way. I wasn’t impressed with the selection anyhow, so I moved on to furniture store number three, Shewels, the originally requested store. Same story. Walking around. Not impressed. Okay. I’ve been to a total of three furniture stores. I’m running out of options! I need help! I must’ve had a sign tacked to my back that said, “I’m just looking. I’ll never buy,” because, again, no one offered to help me. Odd. The store was practically empty of any other customers. I tracked a salesman down.
Me, “I’m looking for a leather couch.”
Salesman, “If you’re looking for a leather couch, you might want to go somewhere else. It’s going to be pretty expensive here.”
Julia Roberts flashed through my head. Did he just…? Am I in the twilight zone…?
Me, “Okaaaaay. Well, I’ve already been to two other stores. Do you have any books that I could look through?”
Salesman, sighing, and clearly bored with me already, “Yeah. But it’s going to take a while…”
Um, did I look like I had more pressing engagements? After flipping through the books, I asked him to photocopy a couple pictures so that I could take them home to Brian. I might as well have asked him to personally draw the pictures for all the hassle he seemed to be enduring.
What on earth? What do I have to do to get someone to sell me a couch around here?
I did check out the “somewhere else” that Salesman referred to. It was a dump. I was so sick of shopping for furniture and being rejected that Brian and I decided to wait for the original couch (but to work with a different salesman). And then I stewed… and stewed… and stewed some more… for the next three days… until I couldn’t take it anymore.
I drove back to Shewels and asked to speak to the manager.
Me, “Have you ever seen Pretty Woman?”
Summing up the entire experience was much less satisfying without the comparison. Regardless, he was ashamed of his employee’s behavior and gave me a home decorating book to comfort my hurt pride. Though it really is wonderful book, what I wanted wasn’t tangible. You see, my indignation was fueled at the thought that I’m not the only one. This just as easily could have been my mother a few years prior on welfare. This just as easily could have been my sister who merely decided that you really don’t need to dress up to go couch shopping. And while my confidence is in the Lord and not myself, my heart hurt at the thought of someone a little more fragile in spirit walking through the same experience. Personally, I figured that if Jesus could endure being mocked and dismissed, then I could, too. What I really wanted – more than a home decorating book – was to make this world a little better, a little kinder, a little more loving and a little less externally-focused… if even for a minute. Maybe if we weren’t so busy looking at everyone, we could begin to see them. Don’t you want to be seen from the inside out?
In spite of all of this, I still love that movie. Perhaps even more now.