On dressing mannequins

Ann Taylor occupies two floors in Boston’s Faneuil Hall historic shopping plaza. On the second floor, there are narrow shafts for window displays that are only wide enough for my 23 year-old petite body to stand very still. Problems ensue when I am tasked with dressing one of the mannequins (size 2, all of them, because when have you seen a mannequin holding a hamburger?). My managers at Ann Taylor never say, “Oh, Kendra, can you go simply drape this fetching scarf around the neck of a mannequin upstairs?” They never ask, “Could you be a dear and quick like a bunny change out the broche on that one’s blouse up there?” They are prepared to exploit me for their big window dressing asks, like a child with tiny fingers taken out of school to sew sequins onto gowns. Only I am being paid a fair wage. And am not denied an education. (Forget the child labor comparison. I was being hyperbolic.) My managers see that I am scheduled to work and order the full rack of tweed blazers steamed and for the mannequin in the upstairs windows to don the new angora turtleneck and wool pants with no zippers.

Photo by  Fancycrave  on  Unsplash

Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash

I am a visual assistant at Ann Taylor in the hours before the shop opens. Except I am not assisting anyone, per se, besides the mannequins out of their naked Barbie doll ignominy and into the season’s latest couture. This early shift is an absolute idyll for an introvert. It’s so peaceful up in the window shaft. I get to watch the cobblestone paths of this Boston tourist destination come alive. From the second floor window, I see a queue of New Bostonians preparing for their citizenship swearing in outside of Quincy Market. I observe flocks of pigeons pecking at last night’s stale popcorn. I wrestle the mannequins and watch the sun come up. The best and worst part is: not a soul bothers me.

So when I get stuck in the window, no one can hear me banging. The door to the window shaft has suddenly swung shut and I cannot seem to bump it open. I knock on the window, but no one looks up from below on the cobblestone because it is mainly just pigeons and a hungover security detail. Actually, no. That guy doesn’t work security. He’s a leftover from Cheers last night. No one inside the store can hear me yelling, because it is just the manager and I and she is a volunteer gospel choir director, so she is most likely opening up the cash wrap downstairs and practicing, “I Surrender All” while I am upstairs singing, “Here I Am, Lord!!” and hoping that a merciful god/manager lets me out of here soon. I begin to think about how little air there really is in this window shaft and how sad that I may spend my last Christmas on earth with the Madame Tussaud’s rendering of my junior high nemesis and just as I begin to feel tears pooling, Nestor, the custodian, just happens to be swapping out a broom upstairs and hears my plight. Nestor does not speak much English and my Spanish is mostly garbage, but!! That day, Eso dia! He heard my cry for help and answered the call perfectly. I won’t be spending Christmas as a mannequin in rigor mortis after all. Praises be!

Drunken Walking and the most important thing I have done in 2018

The other day, whilst walking Puppy, we passed a group from a daycare that had planned an epic trip to a football field. I could imagine the teachers discussing this voyage they were about to mount, and how it was the perfect day to be outside and feel the warmth of the sun and a little crisp breeze on the air. How if they left now, right after morning snack and just before lunch, they would be able to totally rock the field without any ornery tots falling asleep or jonesing for goldfish crackers. How if they just turned these kidlets loose on the open field, it might be the best day of their entire wee little lives.

I suspect it was. The best day of everyone’s life. Because for me, merely a spectator, I was completely intoxicated by the unbridled joy in their ruddy little faces. Oh my. The sweet reckless abandon of their little wobbly gaits, a bit drunken looking and still finding their sea legs. They darted in all directions. Some of the sturdier tots were taking to a plastic ball, giggling and kicking it back and forth like they had invented soccer just in that very moment. Others had not yet learned to walk so they were crawling, excitedly caterwauling across the football field toward touchdown territory. Maybe they’d done this drill before.


I beheld this tableau of humans at their best and most unadulterated and it moved me in a way I cannot overstate. I thought about how God presents us with opportunities, wide open football fields full of chances and new experiences, but too often, instead of running arms flailing eyes wide tongues peeling out of our mouths excited toward the Wide Open Wonder, we are content to stay strapped into our strollers, chilling and checking our e-mail, sated by the endless scrolling of endless screens.

I wouldn’t normally have been strolling past a football field at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday, except for the fact that I have a Puppy who needs to get out the zoomies sixteen times a day and I live at a boarding school where athletic turf is a common sight. I can well promise you that I considered all this an interruption, though, before we traversed the football field. Because Puppy is the most stubborn creature on four legs, I am typically dragging/lifting/shlepping/bribing her across great expanses of terra firma. On this particular morning, though, she was walking me, and I was also being held. Held by a God who sees me and sees my agenda and crinkles his eyes and laughs uproariously at all the things I think I am meant to accomplish, that carry such weight. He holds me still for a moment and turns my face to see the sun and the patchy grass and the little drunken munchkin prophets speaking life into my raggedy heart.

I have done some things in 2018 that have earned my work a spot on the refrigerator, but by far the best thing I have done is adopt this stupid cute Puppy. She forces me out into the world and forces me to be neighborly. She has interrupted my work and my sleep and completely foiled all the plans I had made to not notice the matchless beauty, to not feel the warmth of the sun.

How to Adopt a Dog in 21 Easy Steps

  1. Daydream your entire life about Getting a Dog. (Like DNA for eye color, dream is transferred to offspring (dominant gene)).

  2. Promise kids that you will buy them a dog when you move back to Boston, like you are the freaken Obamas moving into the White House and can just bandy about promises like that.

  3. Evade questions for first year in Boston about Getting a Dog because you live in an apartment that doesn’t allow dogs (and even the hamster was a stretch).

  4. Once moved into canine-friendly quarters, continue to evade questions about Getting a Dog such that if the kids in the backseat of the car even hint at asking a question, quickly change the subject SHAME ABOUT HOW LUNCHABLES AREN’T ON SALE ANYMORE.

  5. Begin researching breeders; promptly fall in love with every puppy on breeder’s websites.

  6. Realize cost of purchasing puppy from breeder could also send 10 children to space camp every year (via an actual rocket ship) until the end of time.

  7. Pivot to looking at rescue shelters.

  8. Fill out shelter applications that are tantamount to trying to emancipate a prisoner from a war camp.

  9. Learn from Nice Lady at Bus Stop about shelter that is reputable and local.

  10. Fill out application and book appointment for visitation to shelter in self-same day.

  11. Go as a family of four to “look” at potential puppies.

  12. Fall bum over monkeybars in love with all puppies at shelter and begin to deduce how to afford/fit all 28 in backseat of car.

  13. Go to PetSmart and Buy All the Puppy Things.

  14. Go back to shelter and claim Schuyler the Beautiful Mutt because she seems the most chill.

  15. Bring Schuyler home and realize she is chill most of the time and also has an alter-ego, Devil Dog, who chews everything including but not limited to: brand new television remotes, all the zippers on all the hoodies, all the shoelaces on all the shoes, every last shred of your dignity as you become the Loser Lady who Lives Outside with Her Puppy Dog on a Leash.

  16. Learn that you should throw out everything you learned about sleep training and potty training small humans; all the sticker charts and all the cry-it-out methods and cloth diapers are obsolete in Puppytown; what you need now are treats. Treats are dogs’ love language. They must all be related to your grandma because they are singularly focused on food. Weird.

  17. Lose so much sleep because of tiny dog bladder needs; fear may never experience sessytime with mate again.

  18. Train children who begged and pleaded about Getting a Dog that this nippy furry slobbery friend is The Fulfillment of Things Hoped For their entire lives, so stop watching glitter glue slime videos on YouTube and play with the puppy.

  19. Start to celebrate landslide victories such as “All morning! FOUR HOURS IN A ROW. No accidents!” and crowning achievements such as, “Gave dog bath [though have not personally showered in four days].”

  20. Start to become That Person who asks their dog all kinds of asinine questions twice in a high range that is embarrassing for everyone, “Puppy Want to Find Pee Tree?” except you can’t stop.

  21. Feel grateful every day for the Werther’s Original on four legs who rescued you after all these years from not knowing what it was like to Get a Dog.

Schuyler the Rescue Mutt