Department of Younger Women

Department of Younger Women
The bodacious Caitriona, my Very Best Friend, visited from London last week and contrived a reunion at Hooters with me, her old Boston roommate, Tom, and their friends Tim and Mike. When I first moved to Manhattan, I lived near the Hooters on 56th and Broadway. I was tickled by their sly billboard when Clinton moved to town—’Hi, Bill,’ winked the spokesmodel—but it hadn’t enticed me in.

What does one wear to Hooters? I confess I spent some time on this question Friday morning. It was vital that no element of direct competition with Hooters could be detected. Something slinky, black and effortless was called for.

Hooters girls wear truly odd outfits, it turns out. From the back, they look like the kind of misguided Florida seniors who talk about ‘youthing, not aging’. Skimpy singlets and very short black running shorts, combined with orange tights and white socks and sneakers. As I grew drunker, I fixated on the notion that these orange legs could be snapped off sideways, like Barbie dolls. Each girl had long, center-parted ’70s hair, which our waitress tossed as she flirted clunkily with the campest member of our party. Tom pretends to be jealous and gets all Bahston on us. ‘Hooo-daz!’ he bellows. At the end of the night, our check was signed ‘Thanks!!!! People from Ireland and Mass. ROCK!!!!’

Caitriona had been a waitressing legend in Boston. Once, our boss at Cecil’s took me aside and asked if the homeless people gave her money, too. Like a good hairdresser, she had a following that trailed after her from restaurant to restaurant. One of her tricks was to hunker down at the end of the table and beam up at customers while she listed specials in a reinforced brogue. It worked: anything less than a 40% tip was a failure she took personally.

She and I felt severe professional jealousy at Hooters. We didn’t need to jiggle for tips (not that we couild in our baggy t-shirts and starched Oxfords). We would never have scribbled dopey messages on checks. Like a pair of Norma Desmonds, we savaged this new generation. It was unfair, of course. They remembered our drinks from round to round, and pressed more on us cleverly enough. And they dealt with arse-pinchers with more dignity than I’d ever managed.

We left a big, guilty tip when we closed the bar down.

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