How to Sell
by Tara Dorabji
As a woman, being smart is dangerous unless you cut it with sexy. It seems trivial, but chalk it up to the thousands of unspoken but shared truths between mothers and daughters. This goes against all of what I’ve taught you, but you will need to learn to walk in heels, too. I know. I refused to let you buy your own pair. You are only twelve. They will leave blisters on your feet, aggravate your athlete’s foot, and destroy your posture. But in your 30s, heels will be essential to closing any deal: pharmaceutical, salary negotiations, even editorial board meetings.
When your foot grows to my size, I will give you my heels. By my 60s, I should’ve sold enough that I can wear comfortable shoes again. Frugality cannot be overrated in our family. We’ll pass the heels through generations: mother to daughter.
Your cunning will guide you, but never underestimate the power of curb appeal. Show the right amount of skin. ‘Sexy not slutty’ is imperative for success. Men want to feel that rush when looking at you, wondering if you are wearing any underwear. Stand with confidence. You cannot be bought. Your attention must be earned. They will like this.
When negotiating with a man, always start with his need. Be soft. You are decorative first. This will make him feel comfortable when you start to show your intelligence. If the idea is powerful, let him think he thought it first. Top negotiations generally come back to men. They hold a monopoly on global power.
Pay particular attention to tone. Appear gentle. You must never be a threat. It is okay to take charge. Men love it when you do the work, as long as you are working for them. Let him offer you advice. Tell him that he is right. Smile. Cross your legs.
You have good genes, giving you smooth skin and a disposition toward thinness. Be thankful for this. It will save you time. It is a myth that you have to wear makeup. Remember most facial products are loaded with carcinogens. However, if your lips are faded, skin is blotchy, or your lashes are not defined enough – you will not be able to survive without it. A woman cannot succeed without defined features. So far, you are lucky here. Use this to your advantage.
Always wear makeup for photo shoots or videos. This is non-negotiable. Pay for professional photos early on. We live in a digital world. You must be strategic about your online presence. By the time you are an adult, the material world may be fully absorbed into cyberspace. Stay away from prints and heavy jewelry in photos. Natural light is more powerful than artificial. This will remain true into the future. Never forget the power of the sun.
You are not for sale, but you must market yourself to succeed.
Make sure to shave. Nothing can botch a deal like body hair. This was a tough one for me. But let’s face it–armpit hair is unprofessional and showing that much skin is generally appropriate, often required. You may become defiant. For years, I didn’t shave. Youth brings natural sex appeal. Try to possess it fully. You can get away with a sloppiness that will no longer be allowable as you age.
Try not to be afraid of your power.
You cannot sell anything when you are afraid. I learned this early on, canvassing door to door. People decide in the first half second when they open the door whether they will give you money or not. Your pitch is important, but not as important as your confidence. You must believe they will give you money. This accounts for 96% of sales.
As a woman of this world, things are stacked for you to do 75 percent of the work, receive 10 percent of the pay, and own 1 percent of property. You will defy these odds, but you must use everything you have to do it. I will help you.
In America, liberation is having our bodies airbrushed on billboards. We have the right to wear a string bikini as long as we wax our pussies, ripping hair from the softest of spots. Pain that sears and pops. Remember this will bring you pleasure. This is what we must tell ourselves: We wax for ourselves cause we like the softness. But really we do it to feel desired. After childbirth, you may need to wear a push up bra, to flaunt your cleavage. Just enough to be admired during a business meeting, but not too much that it is vulgar. Suggestiveness is key here.
Your body will be legislated. You will fight for birth control options that you hate. Your employer’s religious views will determine whether you have access to reproductive choice. If you have a child, your birth options will be limited. In California, the legislature struck down women’s right to self-determination in homebirth. Your entrance into the world is now illegal.
Fear is your biggest enemy. Never let yourself be the victim. You must not let them take from you. This will become more difficult in the years ahead. You will likely be broken. You may already be broken. You are twelve. You are a girl. We live in America. You might never tell me, your mother. Though if you have been hurt, it was likely by someone we both know. I have been terrorized by this fear since you were born. Men are mostly the threats here. The ones we are closest to.
You do not have to allow inappropriate behavior or comments. This will take time to learn. You are still too young.
You have been groomed to please. There is no single person to blame. It just happens to girls when they are young. We could blame commercials, or music, or your upbringing. It is a matter of survival for a woman to please. This will leave you vulnerable.
Men will rub themselves against you in crowded buses. They will grab your breasts in broad daylight. You will want to believe it was not intentional. They will deny that they were ever hard. They will tell you that you are crazy. You may never find the words, anyway. You may start to think that you imagined it. You might start to think that it was your fault. Somehow, you led them on.
Do not apologize after being raped. This may seem ridiculous to you, but it is possible. Believe me. Do not apologize after being raped.
It is okay to walk out on a man after having sex, particularly if you made it clear that you weren’t in the mood. You can leave while they are sleeping. You can just pull your jeans on and walk out the door. You don’t have to say anything.
You may choose to drink during this time. You may get tired of saying no. You may eventually fall in love, but be careful. If you have been broken, it will be easy to become the victim. You will find yourself trivialized. You may be showing too much skin. You will wake up ashamed in the morning.
It is easier to maintain your power when you have not been violated. You will not be afraid. You will not acquiesce as easily. You will be able to be coy and smooth, thwarting unwanted advances.
You will peel hands off your ass. You will learn to keep your elbow out on the bus. You will cram your elbow into his bulging stomach to keep him from pressing his hardness into your ass. You will learn not to be shy about this.
You will push men away when they get close, whether you know them or not. You will not let seemingly old harmless men touch your biceps, because that is too close to your breast and you have learned that they are never too old to grab you.
Men are never too old. You will never be too young. It is a timeless law. Only a few of them will actually touch you. Many of them will make jokes about you, sitting on their lap. They will talk about how delightful it is to be around beautiful, young girls. Some of them will want to dance with you. They believe it is their right. You won’t know how to keep the right amount of distance. You may not have words for the hardness that you feel. You will feel ashamed. Most likely, you will be silent and try to forget.
You will get older. You will become of legal age. It doesn’t matter how old they are. They will always believe they are entitled to leer at you. You will find the joy of having your own man. You will get lazy and adjust to the ease. You will adorn yourself for him.
You will understand his pleasures. He will uncork your passion. You will make sure that you smell sweet. You will start to age. Time must be spent on cultivating your beauty. The birthright of youth ages. You will pluck your hairs.
I will be an old woman then, and I will give you my heels.
Tara Dorabji is a writer, strategist at Youth Speaks, mother, and radio journalist at KPFA. Her work is published or forthcoming in Al Jazeera, Tayo Literary Magazine, Huizache, Good Girls Marry Doctors (Aunt Lute 2016), Center for Asian American Media, Mutha, Censored 2016, So Glad They Told Me (Spring 2016), and Midwifery Today. Tara is working on novels, set in Kashmir and Livermore. Her projects can be viewed at http://www.dorabji.com.
Image Credit: Sheila Menezes | http://www.sheilamenezes.com
Oh man, I love this. You are an exquisite writer Tara.
I absolutely love this. Underneath its snarky exterior, it’s so life-affirming. The website points to a novel I’m serializing with a character, Marita, who shares these ideas. I’m not sure how your article popped up on my screen, but I’m so glad it did. Brava!
I like that paradox: the need to market oneself if one is not for sale.
Intense. A few images stay…the girl sticking her elbows into a man’s stomach to keep the hardness away…exfoliation.
I came across your article while researching online for journals where I could send my submissions. Your article is wonderful, not to mention astute, penetrating and nuanced. I could see so much of my experiences in it.
Growing up as a girl in India is never easy. However I feel there is an underlying solidarity among women worldwide, almost as if we brought all of this on ourselves. Most people perceive it to be so.
I particularly liked how you wrote about people at large trying to fit women into predefined boundaries. I belong to the privileged section of educated women in India, fortunate enough to be independent but much of my working life has been spent has been spent in debunking stereotypes. It’s tough, all of this. To be so strong is at times exhausting. Most of the times, I fight back, sometimes I need to accept. It is painful then. No one teaches us that as women we would be required to make hard, uncomfortable choices. Men gaze at a beautiful body, then sneer when they find out her frugal eating habits. As u said aptly, we can all wear string bikinis only if we wax our pussies. The contradictions rage on, long enough to fill a tome. I hope that someday we might stop passing on our “heels” to our progeny.
Thanks for sharing this lovely piece of work.
awesome…u painted life of women all around the world … i could so relate to very word and line there