I went home and scrubbed the mascara off so hard that I ripped out a few lashes. I started dressing even sloppier and lying about my age, saying I was younger, thinking they’d be less likely to hit on someone underage.“I like 16-year-olds,” a supermarket worker told me in response.I kept my hands in my pockets until he left so he wouldn’t see that I was shaking.But I didn’t quit. Neither did any of the other sample girls I got to know.Every few weeks, I’d meet up with them to pick up my paycheck and talk about the job. One day our manager, who was also a sample girl and a former classmate of mine, asked us how it was going.“Has anyone hit on you guys?” one of the girls asked.“Some guy sniffed my weave—I think he thought it was hot,” another girl said.I remember her cringing and patting her hair.“This old dude wanted to know if I was legal,” I told them.Another girl sighed and said the same thing had happened to her, too. We asked our manager if we could work in pairs, or if someone from the company could talk to the people running the supermarkets. She said she’d look into it, but she never really got a response. One of the girls reminded us that we weren’t actually being touched, and that there weren’t many jobs out there for us anyway.
"Every time I felt uncomfortable I’d remind myself that I was making more money than I had ever made before; that it wasn’t so bad—I was only being harassed, not touched. Sure, people had gotten in my face, but at least they hadn’t grabbed anything other than my hand."
As a journalist, I wouldn’t complain about being harassed by a source for an assignment. I haven’t complained about feeling unsupported or overwhelmed or undervalued, either. Those things haven’t happened often, and they’re still better than being regularly harassed, I reason.The experience affected me for a long time, but eventually I realized I shouldn’t brush off harassment. It took deep conversations with friends and several viral hashtags for me to really reflect on that first job— and why I had spent so much time trying not to think about it.Even now, while working two jobs and freelancing, I remind myself that it could be worse. I could still be handing out ice cream samples.Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.
"That first job made me feel like I won’t get help, even if I ask for it. And it was frustrating to feel so disposable—especially after being fired. It felt like I could be let go if I complained about anything."