I’m Working On My Charm
I’m Working on My Charm” written by Dorothy Allison is a story of a southern girl at a party consisting of Yankees. It brings her back to the time when she was sixteen and working at a counter with her mother. Her mother had taught her the tricks of being a well-tipped waitress while serving to a variety of customers. The waitresses each played a game where they would guess the tip their customer would give before ordering. Yankees were the most difficult customer, whom no one would bet on because they were inconsistent with their tips.
The narrator soon learned to “work her charm” on the Yankees in order to please them. At the party, she continues to use her southern charm to win the people over. The central idea is that people judged by their stereotypes will conform to society to please others. The main character is the narrator who plays as a stereotypical southern girl. She puts on a sweet act for her customers to receive tips. “I just smiled my heartbreaker’s smile and got the man his sandwich,” the narrator stated when an old man left a five dollar bill.
When serving to early morning tourists, she learned that “if you talked softly you never got less than a dollar. ” The northerners fell for her charm in the work place. “We have so much to learn from you- gentility, you know, courtesy, manners, charm, all of that,” a friend of the director of the organization she now worked at, had told her. The narrator uses her stereotype as a way to please people and give them what they are asking for. Mabel, a friend of her mother’s and a coworker at the counter, played as a role model to the narrator.
She taught her exactly how to work her charm for the customers. “Talk like you’re from Mississippi, and they’ll eat it up,” she’d tell her in order to handle the Yankees. Mabel knew exactly what to do and say for tips. She often puts aside her own self-worth to keep her customers satisfied. The main conflict in the short story “I’m Working on My Charm” is the judgment of the southern stereotype versus making the stereotype work for the narrator’s benefit. The Yankees have a belief that all Southerners fit their stereotypical role, so the narrator plays up her charm for them to
make them believe as if they were right. She knows that the Yankees have a certain perception of people down south and uses that against them to get exactly what she wants from them. The short story’s point of view is told in first person by the narrator. “I’m Working on My Charm” is told by a daughter who learns and exercises the advantages of the southern charm. “It made her heavy bosom move dramatically, and I remembered times I’d seen her do that at the counter. It made me feel even more embarrassed and angry,” the narrator stated.
In the quote, it shows that the narrator is uncomfortable with the way the waitresses interact with customers just for tips. She doesn’t think it is fair to compromise her dignity, but still does it to make her money. By the point of view being told in first person, the reader is able to read the thoughts of the character to understand their feelings. The setting takes place in two opposite places. One took place in 1966 at a counter back of a Moses Drugstore planted in the middle of a Highway 50 shopping mall, and the other was years later at a party for the narrator’s job located in the North.
At that time, segregation had ended which influenced the thoughts people had on the South. People from Northern states believed everyone from the South didn’t have any education. Although the narrator was now living and working with the Yankees, they still judged her from where she had come from. They judged all southerners by this stereotype, which influenced the narrator to own her role and make it work for her own benefit.