I’m at Hooters, you tell me when I call, and I make you repeat it because I’m sure that I misheard. But on your third attempt, I catch the word. Oh, Hooters, I say, and wonder if this is the beginning of the end. And the waitress is there, trying to take your order. Can I call you back? Sure, I say and hang up. Go ahead, ogle her, in her little orange shorts and white tank, pulled tight, those owl eyes bulging. She’s probably flirting with you now, the way they’re trained to do, commenting on your accent, asking you where you’re from. And I know she’s not pretty or even beautiful, but gorgeous, because I knew a guy who worked construction at the franchise before it opened, who watched as the girls came in for their interviews, and there was this one who smiled at him, and he remarked to a co-worker, she’s hot, but the other guy shook his head and said maybe, but she wasn’t Hooters-quality gorgeous. And just after college I met a Hooters girl named Stephanie who was a few years younger than me. And as we sat in the Italian restaurant with our mutual friends, an older man stopped by our table to call her that very word: gorgeous. Envy prickled in me, not because I wanted to work at Hooters, but because I probably wouldn’t make the cut, what with the little bump in the center of my nose, my eyes set a bit too close together, not to mention my cup size too small for their requirements. But that was nearly twenty years ago. Even Stephanie the Hooters girl is now past forty, as are you, sitting there waiting for some terrible food to be delivered as you watch the parade. What’s next, I wonder, strip clubs and lap dances? My old boyfriend Dave had a drawer full of other women’s numbers. Is that where we’re headed? The phone rings. You should come here, you say. It’s such a typical American spectacle. I laugh. I’m good. While shopping at Target, you got hungry. Outside, the first thing you saw was Hooters. Of course, I reply, those big eyes. In college, the opening of the restaurant sparked many a debate in my women’s studies classes about the objectification of the female body. But now I’ve accepted the fact that women will continue to objectify themselves. If anything pisses me off about it anymore, it’s that they’ve co-opted the owl. You tell me you’ll try to come by later. But later you call again, your stomach aching. Too much salt on that chicken breast sandwich. You’re going to bed early. Poor baby. I hope you feel better, I say, and mostly I mean it. I look out the window, thinking of owls, the real kind, like the one I saw last week flying from a dark eucalyptus, over my balcony into the canyon; the sound it made, less of a hoot than a harrowing shriek as it flashed a momentary silver then disappeared into a copse of black trees.
—from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
Tribute to Love Poems
Jackleen Holton: “I was trying to write a poem for a class I was taking. I think we had five different prompts that week, and I was coming up with nothing. So, to distract myself from the task, I called my boyfriend. From his first sentence, ‘I’m at Hooters,’ the poem sprang forth and, by the end of the evening after he called me back with a stomach ache, it had pretty much written itself.” (website)