Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Arty Hallie

I have been thinking a lot about the art of manipulation because I have been blatantly confronted with it lately, and I have come to a couple of conclusions. 

First of all manipulation is at the heart of every sales transaction.  For instance, I was recently at one of my favorite stores, Cheesecake Boutique, when I went in looking for something to go with this weird bedazzled shrug/bathing suit top I found at T.J. Maxx. (In my defense, it was Alice + Olivia, one of my favorite brands, that is too expensive for me, so I snatched it up, and then realized that it would only be appropriate fort a twelve-year-old runaway prostitute who appreciates high fashion.)  Well,  I ended up leaving with three pieces (albeit, three integral staples for my wardrobe) that in no way, shape or form went with my underage hooker bathing suit top.
Couldn't even sell it on ebay.  Any takers?  Ask your kids.

This was all due to the salesperson who played upon my insecurities by becoming my best friend while I was trying on clothes, and then dropping me like a hot potato when I told her that I was not sure if I was going to buy any of it.  Here is how the conversation went at the end.

I was trying on the second of the two Michael Stars (another fav overpriced brand I love!  Ooooo, but oh so soft and pajama-like.) blue tops that she had brought to me.

"Oh, I don't know.  I think I like this one is more ME."  I was clearly enjoying her effusive attention.

"Is this a decision moment?" She inquired.

"Oh, I don't know.  I should really probably edit, you know?" I responded.

"Well, do what you want."  She turned abruptly around, as I heard the bell of the door and greetings from the other employee in the background.

You must realize that up until that point, I thought she had adopted me, and was my new "Columbus Mommy" and then, just like any Foster parent who has received their last check from Social Services, she quit me like a bad habit, and moved on to her new foster kids that promised the one thing I could not provide her with - future income -  that had just entered the boutique.

I stood there in the dressing room half naked, as I waited for her to return and say something reassuring to me about how I needed all of the things she had so lovingly provided me with, and how to justify each of these extravagances, and all I heard were the electronic bells that sounded off when a customer entered or exited the store.  After at least 10 minutes of this exercise in nothingness, I realized that she was not coming back, so I put my clothes back on (which for some reason are always sweatpants), scooped up the clothes she had picked out for me, and (wait for it) actually tapped said salesperson on the shoulder and told her that I was, in fact, going to BUY all of the things that she had recommended I buy, (I know, CRINGE) and then she shrugged me off and said smally, "Oh, good," and then turned her back to me, again. 

I am pretty sure that I had a similar interaction at my locker in seventh grade once.  It was awful.  To add insult to injury, I actually purchased each of the three items (which ARE awesome, and I have worn a ton) while I kept my eyes on her during the entire transaction.  She neither acknowledged me nor thanked me, as I walked past her and exited the store.

Whenever I look at the clothes I purchased that day, I get an iron-like taste in my mouth, that I can only describe as bitterness (think aspirin residue).  You see, I was manipulated, and at the time, I KNEW that I was being manipulated on some level, but I lent myself over to it, because I wanted this woman's approval.

I am not so insecure that I would have purchased the items if I did not like them or wanted them.  But, I think I would have been more pensive and less desperate about the purchase, had she not run her game on me.

I have come to realize that there are two types of people in this world - people who manipulate and those who are manipulated.  I am clearly one who is easily manipulated.  The irony of this, is that my former career was in sales.  To be good in sales, is to be skilled in the art of manipulation.  If I were truly honest with myself, I was only good at selling things that basically sold themselves.  Whenever I had a new drug I was to push in pharmaceutical sales, or was trying to sell a product in advertising sales that I did not believe in, I was a total failure.  Therefore, I usually am the type of person who does not buy something that I do not want, and I especially do not buy from someone that I do not like, even if I am interested in their product.

But this was a new situation for me, for I was buying something I wanted from someone that I liked, and that I thought was genuinely invested in my happiness, and then just as I wavered on an item, even though I had committed to buying the other items, she dumped me as if I had offended her, and then I bought the items anyway.

I'll be honest, I love that store and every time I have entered it empty handed, I have exited it holding one of their cute polka dotted bags filled with polka-dotted tissue paper.  I have gotten some of my favorite pieces I own from that store, so I am not trying to sabotage them, or defame them in any way, I am just siting an example of manipulation that has been haunting me, along with some others that have revealed themselves recently.

Just because I am not a manipulator does NOT mean that I do not have my issues.  MY forte just happens to be denial.  I am simply highlighting yet another nonsense conversation that has been going on in my head for your pleasure.

Another hilarious instance of manipulation and sales, involved my eldest daughter, Hallie.  If you read this blog, you are familiar with my artsy, Shake It Up, sparkly black Converse boot lovin' Hallie.  So, anyway, we were driving somewhere recently, and she has taken to sitting in the front seat with me, (which I love because I do not feel like I am drivin' Miss Daisy around as much) and a radio commercial came on that advertised something about an audition for Disney or something.  They then asked us to text "EVENT" to a number, and all of the sudden Hallie was begging me for my phone.  I was involved in dropping someone off or picking them up or going through a drive thru or something, and the next thing I know, I have this overly perky teenager in my ear, confirming Hallie's audition for Saturday at 3pm.

Being the star-fucking Momager that I am, I committed hard and fast to what my gut was telling me was a total scam, all the while setting my 10-year-old up for a major disappointment.  I am kidding, of course.  I confirmed with Brianna on the phone that the audition "process" (red flag - totally unrelated video below, but had to share) would only take an hour and a half, and that she would, in fact, have an audition, where she is taped, and then Hallie would have an interview with an agent.

Why not?  Right?  It was free, up until this point, and maybe she would learn a little about how creepy child stars and Hollywood are, in spite of herself.  And then, there was that very BIG chance, of course, that they would whisk her away, on the spot, in the private Disney jet, to Orlando, where she would immediately be given her own sitcom and fashion line at Target.

I prepped Hallie, by making her do her routine she had just learned from "Mr. Eric" in Hip Hop class for the 60 hours before the audition, natch.  Patsy Ramsey had nothin' on me, God rest her soul.  Seriously, my stipulations for the audition were (1) if it looked like a huge cluster and a four hour ordeal,  or (2) if any money had to leave my account before she could have her interview or audition - we were OUT.  Hallie agreed.

"Let's just have an adventure," I told her, "and the rest will be Disney history, of course!" Hallie laughed, but Brad thought I was playing with fire.

So, we arrive at the Westin hotel, which at least was not a Motel 6, and we check in.  I inform the person at the front desk who directed us to the conference floor upstairs to "remember this face because the next time you see it, it is going to be on a billboard."

We go upstairs and luckily this thing was extremely organized and creepy from the getgo.  Everyone was all headphones and dark suits and hair product, and I had the gag reflex right away.  Hallie's colored bands on her braces were fully displayed.  She could not have been happier.  We were ushered into this room after no less than three people referred to us as "Hailey" and "Johanna".  I decided right then and there that Hailey was to be her "stage name".

Next came the pitch.  Apparently, we had signed on to audition, not for Hallie's favorite show, "Shake it Up" but for "The Event," which is a sort of conference for kids (who have made the cut, that is)  in Disney World the week after July 4th,  that is jam packed with "events" that include auditions, talent contests, coaching sessions, and Hallie's favorite thing on Earth - DANCE PARTIES.

There was an agent, based out of Cleveland, (I know, oxymoron) who was about my age, but had all of the style elements of a teenager.  Hair sticking up in the front, hip clothes.  He spoke for about 20 minutes about how he needed a commitment, not only from the kids, but the parents, if our children were given a callback, and were chosen for The Event.

We were shown a rather extensive video highlighting each of the categories mentioned above, and then actual footage of past Events, in which cash prizes and awards are given out for the most talented.  What made the greatest impact on me in the video was the highlight reel of children who were accepting cash awards (those big cardboard checks that miff me) as they broke down and thanked their parents for their sacrifices so that they could achieve their dreams.  At one point, the host (a well known adult male Disney sitcom star,) actually became overwhelmed with emotion, himself, and had to "take a minute".

As I am thinking, "what a bunch of horseshit,"  Hallie turns to me with her big blue eyes, and says, "Mom, promise me that if I make the cut, you will let me go to Disney World."

I had already perused the brochure they they had provided us with, and found the "Commitment Page"  which I turned to and showed Hallie that the minimum amount they were asking us to commit to was just under $2000, for two events.  The biggest commitment you could make was $10,000, where you were coached by an actual Disney star, albeit one that is now addicted to heroin, and not currently working.

You see, The Event is responsible for the career of a handful of child stars.  They hold "auditions" in cities all over the country, recruiting for the talent agents and managers that attend The Event in July.  That is the part that the children in the seminar hear. Apparently, the Cleveland agent (Bitch, Palleeaazz) does the Event so that talent agents and managers in Hollywood do not have to travel around the country, when he refers Midwestern talent to them.  I am imagining, he gets quite the cut from the Event, as well, from the thousands of children that don't get a cardboard check or a contract.

I explain to Hallie that if she is the huge discovery that they keep talking about, that they will PAY her way to Orlando, not the other way around.  The only commitment I agreed to make before we even got there was to let her interview and audition, and let her wear whatever she wanted.  I explained to her, again, that we were there for the experience, and nothing else.

So, we went to the interview first, where we were asked a few questions regarding Hallie's fledgling entertainment career, by a young woman who was a dead ringer for Sandra Oh (Grey's Anatomy).

"So, Hailey, what makes you think that you have what it takes to be successful at The Event?"

Hallie later said that she used the same answer that she used when campaigning for Student Council.  She said that she is very responsible, detail oriented, and achievement driven.  I was immediately surprised at how grown up she suddenly seemed.

"Now, let's see, " Sandra continued as she adjusted her "hipster girl" glasses to focus on Hallie's talents she had written down.  So, you play the guitar, and the violin, and you dance, and you like acting, correct?

Hallie nodded, "Yes."

"So, how long have you been dancing?"  You need to understand there was a room full of Jon Benet's running around with their hair stretched tightly on their heads, topped off with glitter hairspray.  It was unnerving.

Without blinking an eye, Hallie responded, "Um, four weeks."  I almost burst out laughing.  Sandra adjusted her glasses on her nose.

"So, which would you want to do the most in life?"  She is Hallie's straight man at this point.  I knew what was coming.

"Dance.  Definitely Dance.  Hip Hop, specifically."

I was standing in the background,with my arms folded, as if I were her bodyguard, when Sandra turned turned her sights on me and said, "And Mom, what makes YOU think that Hailey has what it takes to be successful at The Event?"

"Um, It's HALLIE," I began.

"Oh, I am so sorry.  HALLIE.  Here let me make a note.  Ahem.  What makes you think HALLIE would be successful and should be chosen for The Event?"
"Her name."  I deadpanned.  Hallie got it and started giggling.  Sandra just stared at me and wasn't processing.  "Um, sorry.... I believe that Hallie can be successful at whatever she sets her mind to."  Hallie's eyes were trained on me now.  I needed to straighten up.  "She is definitely an over acheiver."  Read:  But I'm still not gonna shell out ONE PENNY for this bullshit, if that's what you think. I'm still pissed that you wouldn't validate my parking.

Sandra thanked us for our time, and told us to email her the next day between 3:00 and 4:00, to see if we were getting a callback.  Call me crazy, but I have always heard that a callback involved the person with the job, calling the prospective job applicant, not the other way around.  I told Hallie later that we were not going to email, because I was sure that Hallie had "it" that they kept referring to.  "It" being a valid credit card.

Hallie and I, then, proceeded to the videotaped audition that was broadcast on the gigantic big screen at the front of the room.  They were given a three line script for some product for a commercial.  She was told to smile and look into the camera by the washed up actor from some show on the Disney Channel that neither, Hallie nor I, recognized. I am convinced, to this day, that he was hyped up on a cocktail of  Adderol and Redbull.  NO one has that much energy naturally.

Hallie reads the script in ernest, careful to look up into the camera every third word, and then at the end, she remembered Creepy Von Creepsburg's instruction to smile, and she flashed her neon yellow and hot pink braces at them.

That, alone, made the trip worth it, to me.  I watched her do this on the big screen, and it just filled me with love for her.  I had made a memory with her, that she later recanted in her letter to the Tooth Fairy, as one of her favorite moments of the year.

But, make no mistake.  I am one of the few fortunate ones.  More than half of the people, adults and children, alike, clearly did not have the money to pay for The Event.  My guess is that they did not have the education, either, to realize that for the most part, The Event, was a huge money-making scam, that preys on the dreams of children, and the parents who love them and want to give them opportunities, like we all do.  It is so easy to tug on the heartstrings of a parent who wants to please their child, and maybe has delusions that they will be a big star one day.  There are umpteen (my Mother's vocabulary, again) reality shows with overzealous parents and starstruck children on the Fall TV schedule, devoted to illustrating my point. 

Let me be clear, though, I am not any better than these people, and I obviously have my own issues with being persuaded to do one thing or another.  I also believe that it is important to not go through life paranoid, and operating under the under the assumption that everyone is trying to get something from you.  (Although, I think that people from New York have adopted this behavioral pattern.)

I guess, as with anything in life, it is valuable to have a balance between the two.  For instance, I should have gathered up my clothes that were in a puddle at my feet in the dressing room and walked out of the store, just based on the principle that I do not buy things from people that I do not like, but I didn't. 

I guess my recommendation to you today is to open your eyes to manipulation.  It is everywhere.  You may want to ask yourself if you are a manipulator or the manipulated, as well.  I firmly believe that they are two distinctive personalities.  You either are a person who anticipates responses based on stimuli you provide, or you are not.  It is as simple as that.

The second, more positive, recommendation is to do something with your child that they really want to do, even though you think it is complete horseshit.  It is so freeing and it is completely gratifying to see them so happy.

I, personally, took Hallie to that audition because it is something that I would have LOVED to have done when I was little, and also, something that my parents' would have shut down faster than I could have said the words "THE EVENT".

I can imagine my Dad saying, "Listen, this is the REAL WORLD, not some FANTASY LAND that you and your friends have dreamed up.  There is no MAGIC in Louisville, Kentucky.  There is just SCHOOL and WORK and if you are lucky, SOFTBALL, and then there is JAIL, for people who don't wanna follow society's rules.  (Jail was always an important part of the equation in all of my Dad's lectures.)

My parents obviously aren't all that bad, though, especially in the "dreams" department.  My Mom and I were talking on the phone just last night and she told me that she just gotten a "retirement pay out" from the company where she worked for the majority of her career.  She described it as the "other half" of the her total retirement.  When I inquired as to what she did with the first half, she said, "I took it out to send you to college."

There was an uncomfortable guilty silence on my part, because I am a parent now, and I get it, and then she added, "You know, so you could go to school and go on later to blog on the internet."


1 comment:

  1. Thanks as always for putting a smile on my face today! My husband did it for me yesterday when he sent me a picture. So it may not really pertain to you very thoughtful QT with Hallie but it made me laugh since I was have one of those days. I will post it on your FB page.