Dear readers, please click on the comic above to read it at a reasonable resolution. Not to tiny, not too giant. xoxo n.g.

Dear Nicole,

I am a server at a chain steakhouse restaurant. I’m wondering
what kind of advice or suggestions you might have regarding sexist
comments that customers make. I’ve heard it all: getting back to my
woman’s work in the kitchen, being thanked for being some thing pretty
to look at, inappropriate comments about a ‘time of the month.’
Obviously, calling them out on it would not be acceptable and would
probably get me fired (and not to mention a bad tip). I feel guilty when
I just laugh it off with a huge smile on my face. Is there any other
polite way to handle this without making me feel like I’m just
reinforcing bad female stereotypes?



In case you’re unable to read this comic, here’s the same advice in writing:

Dear Outback,

I’m so sorry you have to deal with any of this, especially when
you’re just trying to do your job. At the tender age of 19, I got a job
at a coffeeshop. This seemed luxurious after years of slinging Subway,
Pizza Hut, and phone surveys. My coffeeshop was right down the street
from a facility that housed men who hadn’t seen a woman in a long, long
time. Ours was the only place they were permitted to visit and we lady
baristas were their target practice. I dodged poorly aimed requests for

“Hi, can I help you?” “I bet you can, sweetheart.”

“Can I take you for a drive in two weeks?”

“Do you like to dance?” “Sure.” “Do you ever dance barefoot?” “Oh.”

I avoided uncomfortable questions and swallowed down irritations as men commented on every stitch of clothing I owned.

“That’s my favorite dress on you.” “I’ll burn it.”

As I tried to pull the one million shots needed for their giant, iced mocha depth-charge drink requests.

“Hey, can you make that a breve, honey?” “Sure. Barf.”

I should mention one female customer who inquired, “Does someone have
her grumpy pants on today?” (which made me feel murderous, but I
abstained, as one does.)

Anyway, Outback, I couldn’t afford to lose that job or tips any more
than you can. So I staged a casual revenge. On April Fools Day of the
year 2000, I served decaf to every customer I disliked. The men
commenting on my body? Decaf. The assholes who never tipped? Decaf. The
fucking “Irish Cream Latte Guy” who couldn’t force himself to thank me,
even if it killed him? Irish cream decaf. Decaf Americanos, decaf quad
mocha depth charges. It felt good. It was the little thing that helped
me get through the day and the nugget of memory gold I could revisit
when April 2nd rolled around.

I recommend revenge. Not revenge that will injure your customers or
get you fired, but some way to entertain yourself, pass the time, and
feel some sense of minor justice. I couldn’t change the people being
a-holes, but I could change my perception and how I responded to their

A few more ideas, as told to me by two of my experts:

1)   A-Hole tagging. When Natalie was a waitress, she would gift bad
tables with something called “The Hate Kustard.” Hate Kustard = ketchup
bottle with mustard lid on top. “It was a signifier to all the staff
that those people suck.”

2)   Turn it into art. Keep a secret blog (change details to preserve
your anonymity) or diary that you update whenever a customer is foul or
sexist towards you. The worse the behavior, the funnier or more
interesting the entry will be and the more delighted you may be to see
your most unruly clients.

3)   Comebacks. Service wizard and feminist genius Matilda gets this a
lot and recommends responding in a way that highlights the fact that
you are at work, attempting to provide a service in exchange for money.
You are not a volunteer target for their shenanigans. “Haw, women’s
work!” “I take pride in my work, and in serving you. By the way, did you
know there are male waitresses? They’re called waiters, I heard they’re
all over.”

Good luck, Outback! I hope you dose all the jerks with decaf.