Things have been slowly but steadily changing at the restaurant where I have worked for the last five and a half years. When I started working there, it was a bit of an unregulated party. I remember telling one of my friends where I was going to work when I moved to Portland, and his response was “you are going to be sooo drunk.” He wasn’t wrong.
A lot of the the changes have been smart, especially from a business standpoint, although every change has been met with resistance from the staff. The first thing to go was the unlimited shift drinks. Getting silly with the entire staff after work was fun, but this is a completely understandable change. We surfed along for a couple years on a one-shift-drink policy, but the MOD could often be coaxed into a second (or third) anyway. The difference was the asking permission, and the fact that the answer was sometimes no.
The next significant change was the loss of tips for some of the kitchen staff. When I started working there, the three arguably hardest-working jobs in the kitchen were tipped out evenly by the waitstaff. It was right around the time that I had worked my way up to one of these sought-after positions that the policy was changed: all kitchen tips would be given to the expeditor (the one kitchen position who communicated with the customers), whose pay would be reduced to minimum wage. This was of course done to save money, and while few restaurants tip out as many people as we originally did at this place, I don’t think it is ever a good policy to take away a benefit (or what is quite literally part of someone’s pay) that the staff has become accustomed to. This one rankled me in particular, since I had only enjoyed a handful of weeks in my tipped position. But I digress.
Next went the parties. We used to have 3-4 staff parties of varying insanity throughout the year, including one overnight camping trip. Reducing these is another choice that I ultimately agreed with, but now we are down to one relatively tame afternoon party in the fall, and that isn’t quite enough. We’ve missed our holiday party a couple times, including this past year, and I think that one is the most important.
Finally last year, following an irresponsible incident, shift drinks were eliminated entirely. The most we can hope for these days is that the bartender pours a mistake beer at some point in the shift so a couple people can sip it semi-warm from the sweaty glass an hour later.
Composting and recycling came right on the heels of the shift-drink removal. I’m one of the few that is psyched about the effort, despite a little more work. It’s really more just different work than more work, but it is difficult to get people to adjust happily, especially since you’ve just taken their shift drinks away. It’s been over a year since the efforts were begun, and people are only just begrudgingly accepting it.
This summer they have begun tightening their belts on dress code. The required dress code is actually pretty relaxed, but this is a place that, when I first started working, people could wear any old thing, from tee-shirts with multiple, giant holes in them to the most cleavage and/ or booty-bearing dresses. So, this is another adjustment. The only rule that has been a bit of a problem is that shorts are now required to extend at least three inches or so from the crotch, which seems reasonable enough, but try finding women’s shorts that follow these requirements, and I will show you some rather unflattering shorts and/ or capri pants.
The latest change is that which has been irking me and has forced me to make a decision which I would rather not have faced. They’re cracking down on body hair. Which frankly I think is none of their business. Let me first talk about types of hair that are visible, yet unaffected by the new rule:
Head hair: Generally the longest of hair, any style is acceptable. If the hair extends past the shoulders, the employee is sometimes encouraged (especially if their male, which I’ll admit is unfair) to tie back, but often as not the hair can fly loose.
Beards and moustaches: plenty of employees have these, which are for the most part kept well groomed, although I don’t think that is a rule so much as a point of personal preference by the wearer. No one wears beard-nets, not even in our open kitchen.
Arm hair: negligible, but everyone on staff has it, some cases more prominent than others.
Leg hair: primarily worn by the men, some of it quite prodigious, never questioned or sanctioned by the higher-ups.
With all this taken into consideration, lets compare the following two photos:
The new rule is no visible armpit hair. This affects pretty much only two of us, as I’m (I think) the only woman on staff who didn’t (until now) shave her armpits, and there is one man on staff who wants to wear tank tops to work (this man also happens to have very long head hair, and rather a good crop of arm, leg, and visible chest hair, all of which is allowed to stay as long as he removes his armpit hair. Think about that foe a second). I was told by a very apologetic manager that I could either shave my armpits or stop wearing sleeveless outfits to work. She gave some vague explanation about how I’m working with food and so its inappropriate. I don’t blame her - the message came from above her. But frankly, it’s bullshit. If hair is getting in food (which is not a common complaint at this establishment), it is very unlikely that its coming from my armpits. It’s actually the only type of visible body hair that spends the majority of its time encased in a safe pocket, away from food. Also there isn’t very much of it, and it’s rather short.
Here are things I love about not shaving my armpits:
It keeps my armpits less sweaty. That’s right. The hair absorbs or deflects or I don’t know what, but I’ve compared the two states of hairy and not hairy, and hairy is less sweaty.
Shaving is a pain in the ass, one of the more likely places to cut myself because the skin is soft and oddly shaped in there, and it only lasts a few days before you have that ugly stubble that looks a lot worse than a healthy crop of hair.
People think I am cool and empowered. Maybe I am. Or was.
My boyfriend likes my armpit hair.
But, summer is hot and it’s much nicer to work in sleeveless things, especially when you are running around a crowded restaurant. So now my armpits are bare.