Help me come up with a sassy quip in response to people's sexism.
May 17, 2013 7:32 AM   Subscribe

I work in a small shop in a male dominated trade. I am 26 but read younger (by up to 10 years if you have a weird idea of how teenagers look) small, blonde, and need to dress casually (jeans and a tshirt and sneakers) due to the nature of my work. Customer's ask me on a near-daily basis if I'm my boss's daughter. I hate this, I feel it undermines my value as an employee who has worked hard to be in the position I'm in. I'd like to think of a response that makes them feel like a ninny for one second, without offending customers.

Despite my relative youth and "cuteness" I've been at my job and in my trade a long time. I'm lucky, but I work hard and am a fast learner and am creative to the point that my boss has a lot of respect for my opinion on how jobs should be done, and in the interest of me taking over the business has started introducing me to customers regularly. My job is great, I've been lucky to avoid most of the sexism in the male dominated (but changing) industry. It's a complete non-issue to my boss, which I love.

But, upon my being called downstairs from the studio to meet customers, about one in 3's responses are "oh, is this your daughter?"

I haaaate it. haha. but I don't want to offend. I just want to maybe poke their awareness in the direction of "oh, geez, that was pretty sexist and ageist of me, wasn't it. of course a young woman could train and work hard for a career she wanted in a male dominated trade and not just have it being a matter of following her father's footsteps."

it can be soft enough that if someone isn't aware of those kinds of attitudes being a problem it could roll off them. I don't want to piss people off, I'm usually quite good at the jibber jabber, but despite this being a common interaction, it hurts, offends and floors me every time and I just stutter "um... no."

I realize it may not be worth alienating someone by actually saying these things, but even if I knew one and I could repeat it in my head and make myself feel sassier, I'd enjoy that.
posted by euphoria066 to Human Relations (47 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I would probably smile and say, Nope! I was hired because I'm good at this. Let's get down to business, show me the (whatever).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:37 AM on May 17, 2013 [16 favorites]

I think a simple "Hi, nice to meet you, I'm Euphoria, and I'm the Junior Head Honcho/I manage XYZ" is the most appropriate response--it is polite, but emphasizes that A) you have your own identity and B) that you have authority within your trade and a role within the business.
posted by epanalepsis at 7:38 AM on May 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

The tricky bit here is that these are customers, and witty zingers can sometimes completely backfire, which is no good to anyone. As someone on the receiving end of similarly insensitive questions (nothing to do with age), a quick and firm "no" is probably the most professional response.
posted by jquinby at 7:39 AM on May 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

I mean, any quip you might make, no matter how innocuous, runs the risk of offending someone, for whatever stupid reason. If you want something nicely cutting to say in your head, how about, "No, I'm not. Are you his grandmother/grandfather?"
posted by Rock Steady at 7:40 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Don't worry so much about rubbing someone's nose in it. Just answer the question, "Gosh no! I've been training at this trade for X years." Be polite.

I was a sales engineer when I was the only chick for miles. I've had people ask me to get the coffee, copy the agenda, take the minutes. I simply said, "I'm rather integral to the process here, perhaps we can get an admin in here to do the admin work."

You don't win anything by being rude or condiscending. By being the professional that you are is education enough.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:41 AM on May 17, 2013 [37 favorites]

You could say, "Haha everyone asks that, but no." Which would at least give you a way to tell them, indirectly, that they've fallen into a stupid and common assumption that they maybe should have thought about for a few more minutes.

You could offer a confused, crinkled-eyebrow frown and say "No" in a manner that suggests they've just asked a really weird question.

It might help to reframe this in your head a little -- there's definitely sexism involved in their assumption, but mostly it's just a clumsy attempt by people to be friendly and make conversation. It's meaningless small talk to them, so brush it aside as quickly as possible -- it's a stupid thing to say and it doesn't deserve more than a second of your time, you know?
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:41 AM on May 17, 2013 [17 favorites]

Could you say something along the lines of "Thank you! I'm actually his mother" or "Oh! I'm just so proud of my son" to illustrate the point without being offensive?

That's a really frustrating situation to find yourself in.
posted by a halcyon day at 7:41 AM on May 17, 2013

My suggestion is to get your boss on your side up front and make the jokes for you. Have anybody who is bringing you down to meet clients just say in a jokey way that you're not related to anyone in the shop before you appear, but that everyone thinks you have the same nose.

This nips that problem before the client gets a chance to make the comment.

(If you went to university, you can also have someone mention where or you went or what you studied which will give a clue to your age.)

If you can't head the comment off at the pass, just brightly say that you're the "job title" and you've "been working at XYZ for __years."
posted by bilabial at 7:41 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think I would just, very neutrally, say, "No." And then wait a beat, and if they don't fill the silence, ask "How may I help you?"
posted by MoonOrb at 7:43 AM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

"No, but I can do the shop's secret handshake and everything."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:43 AM on May 17, 2013 [6 favorites]

Ask your boss why they are doing it.
posted by BenPens at 7:45 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another way to head it off would be to shake hands with the customer and introduce yourself by first name and last name:

"Hello. Euphoria Questioner. How do you do?"

Do it right off the bat and no one should make the immediate assumption that you're related to the boss. Unless, of course, his last name is also Questioner, and then it's something like:

"Hello. Euphoria Questioner. No relation. How do you do?"
posted by jquinby at 7:45 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Only in spirit."
posted by Garm at 7:46 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Oh, doesn't he wish. Then maybe he wouldn't have to pay me so much."
posted by jon1270 at 7:51 AM on May 17, 2013 [20 favorites]

Not everybody can do this but this is a perfect opportunity to throw a look at them. Sort of an amused, perplexed, ever so-slightly offended (but not so much that you make them defensive!) glance that shifts between the person saying the "is this your daughter?" and the boss. And then just move on to meat and potatoes. You don't address it but you DID address it, and it is clear that no, you are not his daughter and piss off for asking, but that ultimately it isn't a big deal and that it would be best for all involved if you just got to business, which you can very well. Because that's why you are here.
posted by dirtdirt at 7:57 AM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

That's such a weird question. (Unless, I guess, you have the same last name or your boss actually has a daughter who you resemble.) I would react primarily to the randomness, the same as I would if they asked me if I was Bulgarian or any other assumption that's not negative but bizarre. So I agree with Narrative Priorities:

offer a confused, crinkled-eyebrow frown and say "No" in a manner that suggests they've just asked a really weird question.

You could also add, "Why would you think that?"

The problem with answers about how old and well-qualified you are is they don't really address the weirdness. I've known women of various ages who were very well educated/trained and also happened to work for a family business.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 7:58 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

hey, I'm 26 AND I work in a male-dominated industry!

epanalepsis has it. jokey quips aren't really appropriate in a customer/client interaction. while they're CLEARLY being rude, it won't help your image to be cute or adversarial about it.

just a cool but polite "no. I'm [firstname last name] and I'm [title of role] here. look forward to working with you." should get the facts across, and your tone can do the rest.

seriously, cultivate the most polite, refined, icy tone you can muster (I like to emulate Claire/Robin Wright in House of Cards for this). you'll see the asker shrink two sizes and it'll make you feel way more powerful without actually being unprofessional.
posted by dynamiiiite at 8:07 AM on May 17, 2013 [16 favorites]

It sounds like your response to the assumption that you're the daughter of the owner is being interpreted by you as a failure to be recognized and acknowledged for your talent, skill and hard work. Especially galling considering it's a male dominated field. Being the daughter implies you are where you are based on "daddy's favor". You know this isn't true, and your boss knows your value. Your customers are blundering based on assumptions. This will be a common theme in your interactions, do you intend to make a polite example of each?

What your customers say is condescending and sexist BUT -- making a statement that conveys such seems like a lot of energy being directed at a thing mostly outside your immediate control. Your response can be something like "I get that a lot" which is the common refrain of people often confused for being someone else, or encounter repetitive obnoxious comments and "social grace" dictates the response be tactful but also recognizes not every moment can be instructive.

I can sympathize a lot with your situation, people refer to me as a doll and strangers often touch me, even my face or hair. At work. I would say that part of becoming a seasoned master of trade will result in greater confidence, peer recognition, a wider reputation but also, stupid things people say will eventually have less of an effect on you. This will be a part of your normal experience and I think as obnoxious as it is to be treated such, directing your focus on internal coping skills will serve you better in the long wrong unless you plan to add "Putting people in their place as politely as possible" is something on your list of accomplishments.
posted by loquat at 8:10 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

A two-second pause before smiling and saying "No, I'm [First name] [Last name], the [job title]. It's nice to meet you! Shall we get started?" is a blisteringly effective way to go about this. The pause clearly indicates that they've misspoken, but the rest allows them to recover quickly and move forward. And best of all, it requires no emotional maintenance on your part. The pause works in *your* favor, too, because after that "FFS not again" or a similar thought passes through your mind, you can allow the event to pass, acknowledged. Internal coping mechanism obtained and utilized!

Sometimes, grace beats sass by a lot. You can "swallow" other people's poisons without upsetting your stomach.
posted by Ashen at 8:25 AM on May 17, 2013 [28 favorites]

IMO a quip would undermine the image you're trying to portray. A cool, professional "no" and maybe a statement of your position, then "how may I help you?" would be the way to go.
posted by gaspode at 8:28 AM on May 17, 2013

I think you should go ahead and start dressing a little more professionally. You can still wear jeans - how about dark wash jeans, a shirt or blouse in a style you like, and shoes that aren't sneakers - maybe some cute and comfy flats? You can add a bit of polish without having to sacrifice your desire for comfort.

Or if you're in a business where you're literally getting dirty, and that's why you need jeans and tees - maybe keep another set of clothes for meeting clients, or just a jacket you can throw over your regular ensemble. Couldn't hurt.
posted by cartoonella at 8:30 AM on May 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'd go with something along the lines of "Oh, no, he's not my father! But I do think he's been a great mentor to me over the past [x] years I've been doing this professionally."

That simultaneously conveys the answer to their question, the fact that you are a professional, that you've been in the business a long while, and that he thinks highly enough of you to actively mentor you and groom you for greater things.
posted by trivia genius at 8:36 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I want to add that I think the responses suggesting feigned confusion or surprise, nose-wrinkling disapproval and iciness are off the mark. Just as a puppy is unlikely to interpret being stricken with a rolled up newspaper as 'Oh that's right, I should've peed outside! D'oh!' your pointed rebuke (however subtle you imagine you're being) of a customer's thoughtless remark is unlikely to make them think 'Uh oh, my patriarchy is showing' or ask themselves, 'Why am I behaving like part of the Old Boys' Club?' More likely, it will just breed resentment, whereas genuine humor can simultaneously make them aware of their mistake and make you seem magnanimous for being kind about it.
posted by jon1270 at 8:36 AM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

If it makes you feel any better IN THE SAME DAY I had one person ask if I was my boss' daughter and one person as if I was his wife. People are not awesome at gauging ages.

I really like Ashen's response.
posted by magnetsphere at 8:38 AM on May 17, 2013

I would try really, really hard not to take this personally. You're assuming their comments mean they believe that a young woman couldn't possibly be doing your job, but honestly...they didn't put that much thought into their comments. The comments weren't premeditated. As a very youthful-looking young woman, you probably *do* look like you could be someone's daughter - and they're just trying to be friendly and make conversation. The best response is a friendly smile and "Nope, I'm [your name] and I work here, how can I help you?" or something to that effect. *Definitely* don't be rude or snide or do anything else that will potentially hurt your career and your relationships with the customers. Be proud that you're a young woman breaking the mold in your field and kicking ass at it, and show the customers how awesome you are.
posted by whitelily at 8:42 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

This would drive me up the wall, but I agree that being polite to customers trumps putting them in their place in this context. I have "one of those faces" and people often think they know me from somewhere and "I get that a lot" works pretty well and can be adapted to include a laugh or a scowl depending on the interaction.

If your workplace & customers are the type you can joke with, I'd say something like, "Huh, I get that a lot [laugh, shake head goodnaturedly]. Must be the [real or invented resemblance OR ironic non-resemblance like "must be the hair" if your boss is bald.]"

Unfortunately, this is one of those subtle things that's difficult to call out in a customer, so you may have to rely on the old retail/customer service worker standby of knowing that you really mean "Oh, crap, it's him again" when you're saying "How nice to see you again" with all the friendliness you can muster.
posted by camyram at 8:46 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Despite my relative youth and "cuteness" I've been at my job and in my trade a long time.

In that case, your experience must tell you that a "sassy quip" is an excellent way to turn a customer into an ex-customer. If you say them in front of your boss, it can even be a great way to turn yourself into an ex-employee.

While the customers' questions may be unduly personal, I think it may be uncharitable to view them as sexist. If you were a young man, they could just as easily speculate that you were the boss's son. In any event, I think the best practice would be to politely say that you are not a relation and then proceed amicably from there.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:48 AM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

Honestly I don't think there are any huge sexist or ageist assumptions being made here, I think they are just surprised to see a younger looking female in the role and say the first thing that comes to their head in a harmless small talky, shit I have to say something, kind of way and really aren't giving it any actual thought at all.

As annoying as it is I honestly think the best response is a polite. "No. I'm FirstName LastName pleased to meet you." as you shake their hand. I know it's not satisfying.

You might get away with a cheerful grin and a joking manner when they say it and a "Everyone says that." Shake their hand "I'm FirstName LastName, pleased to meet you." but that would depend a lot on your delivery showing you are joking back and not being snarky.
posted by wwax at 9:10 AM on May 17, 2013

Yeah, this is not the time for quips. You are being groomed to take over the business. These customers are your customers. Just look forward to the day that you don't have to deal with that question because you are the boss, and look at this as an opportunity to practice being polite and pleasant to customers when you just want to bonk them on the head. That in itself is a huge part of running a business.
posted by payoto at 9:11 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Lots of good advice up there, but I have to add that you may have to change your appearance and presentation, as well as remain polite. It sucks, but as someone who looked 16 until I was almost 30, and worked in the male dominated field, I found that I had to dress more neatly, be better coiffed, and wear a bit of makeup in order to be taken more seriously. I also had to work on my handshake and my vocal inflections.
posted by snickerdoodle at 9:27 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not really an answer, but these brief interviews with women working in male-dominated industries might provide some useful comparisons with your own experience.
posted by pont at 9:27 AM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

I want to add that I think the responses suggesting feigned confusion or surprise, nose-wrinkling disapproval and iciness are off the mark.

I don't think it should be feigned, but I think it's fine to express your actual confusion at being randomly asked if you are the daughter of some guy who is totally not your dad.

People used to say things to me that indicated they thought I was a kid, when I was in my 20s and even occasionally into my early-mid 30s. It didn't happen enough that I had a ready answer to it, so every time it would genuinely, for a few seconds, throw me off. E.g. they would say "Where are your parents?" And I'd pause for a second and say "Um, I'm not sure?" Because it was weirdly irrelevant to the situation. I think my reaction, while not planned, was enough to let them know that I was an adult and also, though this wasn't my intention, that maybe they should be a bit less presumptuous about people's ages in the future.

And letting someone see that they have momentarily thrown you off before you continue on to the main point of the conversation is not offensive in the way that a snarky come-back line probably would be.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 9:30 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I had this problem when I was younger -- and I agree it is a problem at this stage of your life. (It does get more tolerable --nay downright pleasant -- as you get older though, so there's that to look forward to.) I also read about 10 years younger (small, dress casually, round little face) and was often mistaken for a summer student well into my thirties. It drove me mad. Once I was even called "sport"...I still remember this all these years later! Another time I was in a high school (filming) and I was told (sternly) to get back to class.

I agree a quip is not the best route. I always dealt with these situations by introducing myself (warmly) and giving my title.
posted by Lescha at 9:35 AM on May 17, 2013

A tricky element is that some of the quips in here would make people think that you're not his daughter, but instead are sleeping with him. You've got to make your position crystal clear immediately.

I think a brief, polite, slightly befuddled "Sorry if there was a miscommunication. I'm the [Head Mechanic]," followed by DROWNING THE MAN IN TECHNICAL DETAILS is the way to go. Put that energy that could be used for sass into using every acronym you know. They can't waste any of their mental energy on sexism if they need every spare neuron firing just to keep up with you. As a younger woman in a largely male environment, I'm super sympathetic, but I think the quips will backfire.

(If you absolutely insist on backtalk, I'd go with "Gosh, no! My father's a homemaker," or whatever 1950's-era stereotypical female role you can think of. Their confusion in not knowing if you're teasing them or not would be luscious.)

In re: dress; that's a tricky one without knowing the field. Dressing nice could easily backfire if you're supposed to be dressed for physical labor. But props can help. I've got a little screwdriver with a pen clip that I got as a freebie somewhere, kind of like this, and I swear that thing is the secret Old Crusty Dude handshake. If it's sticking out of my pocket, or if I gesture with the thing? They trust me. Instantly.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:39 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I like "Haha, I get that a lot." Or, "Oh god no." The second expressing surprise that they would ask but not in an angry way. In this situation it is better to act cheerful and even kind of amused. If you are feeling hostile it will come across and it is just not worth it to express hostility to customers. Do not even risk cracking jokes if it's possible that you are feeling hostile. Among other things, at worst and if they are deliberately trying to see if they can push buttons, hostility suggests to them that you are vulnerable. Honestly that question would drive me bonkers with its suggestion of "New on the job?" but that is all the more reason to be cool.

At a cocktail party I may reply to an inappropriate or boundary-crossing question with "Oh god no" or "Why would you ask me that?" with more of a WFT kind of tone.
posted by BibiRose at 10:11 AM on May 17, 2013

Hey! I'm a female in a male-dominated industry where casual dress is the norm! At conferences and expos I am routinely assumed to be the girlfriend of whichever co-worker is standing nearby. Which also makes me furious.

I note on re-reading your question, that you say the daughter question is typically addressed to your boss, and not you. Which is EVEN RUDER of them, to talk as if you are not there. I really think it would be worth talking to your boss about this. Ask if there is something he thinks you should do differently? But mostly make him aware how upsetting this is to you, and perhaps enroll his help in defusing the situation, by getting him to answer appropriately - either deferring the answer to you to make it clear its weird to ask him and not you, or to have him say something jokey like "oh gosh no she's far too old to be my daughter" (I don't know, I'm not very good at off the cuff quips, but you get my drift).

I completely disagree that you should spruce up your dress. This would only serve to further differentiate you from your male colleagues, and risk people assuming that you must be admin staff or the boss's daughter since you don't dress like everyone else in your role. How does your boss dress? Does he dress smarter than everyone else or in the same casual clothes? I love tchemgirrl's suggestion of the secret handshake prop!

I also don't think you should reveal your full name as a matter of course (unless you typically give them your card with full name, depends on your business), because your full name is none of their business, and revealing personal information to complete strangers as a defense is, well, not a very good defense. At least in my book. But I understand this is different where a sales element is involved.

You definitely have to be careful with being sassy to customers, but it totally depends on your industry and the kind of customers you are encountering. Only you and your boss know how it could best be played.
posted by Joh at 10:35 AM on May 17, 2013

A couple of observations I am not seeing above:

A) You are being groomed to take over the business. This might be part of why customers ask if you are the daughter: Your interactions with your boss likely read as "daughter" based on an unusual degree of nonsexual closeness and trust plus the expectation of "inheritance."

B) You sound like you are taking this as an insult but it isn't. Historically, screw up males were sometimes given a job by dad because they couldn't get another. Screw up girls were married off. Only adored daughters were mentored by dad and brought into the business. They had to be competent and genuinely, enthusiastically interested in the work. Being daddy's little girl led to an unusual amount of power and independence for females.

I like the idea of suggesting you are his daughter "in spirit" and of remarking on lack of physical resemblance (if accurate). But I think if I could figure out how to do so without being gauche, my goal would be to send the message "No, but you can suck up to me like I am anyway since I am taking over the business."

I don't think you can say so bluntly like that because I am assuming this is not yet openly acknowledged. But I would affirm their inference that you have a relationship to the boss that means they should tread lightly, you aren't just some underpaid, cute young girl. The boss has your back and crapping on you would be unwise. You are taking this as a slight that dismisses your hard-won expertise, talent, whatever. I don't think that is it at all. I think they are trying to put into words their perception that your boss relates to you differently than he does the other employees and they need to know how much they should kiss your ass. You need to let them know that, yes, ass kissing is appropriate even though there is no blood relationship. You are, in fact, that important and powerful in the company in spite of how cute you are.

It wouldn't necessarily hurt to have a jacket to throw over your t-shirt or otherwise try to look more "professional" but I doubt it is at all relevant in this case. One study showed that a girl got taken more seriously at an autoshop if she wore the kind of work clothes men wore and was smeared with grease than if she was all outfitted in a "dress for success" fashion. If t-shirt and jeans are worn by the guys for your job, then your outfit may be getting read as "serious worker" already.

Since you indicate you are being introduced to clients specifically because you are being groomed to take over, I really think the nature of your relationship to your boss is the thing inspiring the "daughter" inference, not your appearance. And I think you are reading it all wrong. It is an assumption that you matter and have more power than a cute young thing typically has, not a dismissal of your ability. They don't care how you got there. They just need to know how to treat you. That is the piece you need to figure out how to effectively address: "Nope, no relation. But...(I am inheriting, I am the daughter in spirit, yes, you should treat me as someone who matters, you got that part right)."

I will also note that giving your last name does nothing to answer the question. Married women routinely go by their husband's last name, not their father's.
posted by Michele in California at 10:42 AM on May 17, 2013 [9 favorites]

Nope! But I was born to do this job.
posted by teleri025 at 10:43 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

It seems a bit of a stretch to label this as 'sexism', since someone could just as easily assume you were the boss's son if you were a male. However, it almost sounds like you're convinced that everyone out there thinks young women can't make it in a man's world... which could imply that you're working in an industry where females are out of the mainstream? "Male dominated trade" makes me imagine that you work in a Welding Shop - unless of course this is an act from Flash Dance... but that would make this an episode of male chauvinism, not sexism. I think I just confused myself...

Also, ageism is ALMOST understandable given that you yourself say you pass as a 16 year old, no?

Anyways... I'd just answer with a polite 'no' and go about doing your job for the customer, because the customer won't be coming back after many 'sassy-quips' that were in response to something they likely never intended to convey. But that brings us back to the "Male dominated" welding shop, where 'sassy-quips' might be appreciated?

I think we need more info to give a reasonable answer.
posted by matty at 10:47 AM on May 17, 2013

I would be annoyed and wanting to (gently) shake some awareness into them. However, quips are probably not going to serve you well unless you are already the sort of person who does quip and can sustain that sort of repartee. As mentioned above, it can really backfire, especially in a business context. Personally, I think quips rarely manage to convey information other than "now we are making quips." People respond in a similar manner, they don't think about what you've just said.

Separate from the gender issue, there is often the assumption that small blue-collar businesses are a family affair. (It's a little different with food service or professional service firms, even though in my experience it's just as likely to be a family business.) Especially if your company does business with other small entities, those owners are used to working with family businesses. It's just how it is.

The truth is, just saying, "No, I'm Euphoria, the lead woodcarver." is enough to challenge their assumptions. The people who are open to having their assumptions challenged will feel faintly embarrassed when they think on it, and the asinine jerks will never think on it even if you directly challenge them.
posted by stowaway at 10:53 AM on May 17, 2013

"No, I'm far too old to be his daughter. How can I help you?"

Anything "sassy" will be counter-productive, making you seem younger.
posted by spaltavian at 10:57 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Affirming that a "sassy quip" will not make you seem older, be taken more seriously, or get you more respect. Just the opposite in fact. Perhaps this attitude is one of the very things working against you?

There is a guy who works at my mechanics shop who my wife and I had assumed for years was the owners son. Until my wife said something and he informed us that he was not, but that everyone thinks that. He’s not that young, and a big guy. There are just sometimes social clues that people misread, it’s not necessarily sexism at all.
posted by bongo_x at 11:20 AM on May 17, 2013

Agree that it's probably best to grit your teeth and not say anything, but an advice columnist my mom liked had a great all-purpose response to this type of thing:

"Why do you ask?"

(With a puzzled smile.)
posted by wintersweet at 11:47 AM on May 17, 2013

NEVER insult a customer! Of course a zinger is tempting especially after the millionth iteration of 'are you the boss's daughter' (read - incompetent child who couldn't find work elsewhere.) But you are not hired to turn business away or make the insensitive clod realize that he is an insensitive clod.
A simple "I get that a lot, but I am not related. Mr. Boss hired me xxxx years ago because this is my chosen career/ I enjoy this work. Now what can I help you with?
posted by Cranberry at 12:11 PM on May 17, 2013

Thanks everyone for a lot of great, smart answers.

I am a goldsmith, which is not to say that I work in a jewellery store. I mean, I DO, but not in the way a "jewellery store" operates. we're a custom studio, you work closely with the customers, people are excited to be designing, making and buying a big ticket purchase for themselves or their loved one. I'd generally say that people are in the best moods most of the time, and there is an awful lot of joking at my shop.

My boss in general, when the question is addressed to him will answer with something charming and joking which makes the moment pass by smoothly and make it seem like a silly question without it being a big deal. this is pretty much what I want, except that I find it derogatory and have a harder time being able to let it pass evenly, and the way most people have suggested to just say no, shut it down and go on with business seems to embarrass people a little? since it's pretty much what I do now. it makes the moment awkward in the way that I think something a little quippy/clever wouldn't. maybe sassy isn't the right word, but things are always very personable and casual in my shop, and I think a lot of the time my blank "no" gives a lot more offense and embarrassment than something I could ease it with and we could laugh. I guess I use humour as a bit of a crutch sometimes though and I will hope I just get less sensitive to this (and all signs point to it not happening anymore once I reach a grown up age I guess.) and am able to say nope in a way that doesn't make it seem like something upsetting was said to me. I know no one is trying to hurt me.

Introducing myself might be weird as I am introduced before I come down, by name and title usually, or by my boss as I meet the customer. there is no indication that I am family, I am introduced by my job title. it's an assumption, and, sorry, a biased one. It's almost always men who ask, and a young man had my job when I started working here, and no one ever assumed he was related. My coworker who is also female has never once gotten it, but she's a little older than me. (though younger than our boss's actual daughter) I used to dress more professionally, but it's a surprisingly dirty and chemically job and after most of my business casual clothes had acid holes or grease stains on them I gave up. my boss has mentioned that he prefers the idea of me as presenting as "workshop" instead of "front of house" anyways, but bringing a tool might be a good idea... or maybe even wearing a clean shop apron. and I probably should drop the sneakers for flats, but it's like giving up shoes made of clouds for shoes made of unsupportive pain!

SIGH PROFESSIONALISM. you guys are right of course, I'll keep it cool and stay a pro ;) thanks Green!
posted by euphoria066 at 1:57 PM on May 17, 2013

About the other people in your shop not getting asked; In the garage I mentioned earlier there are probably 4 or 5 guys working, all about the same age and same general "type". But for some reason everyone assumes the one guy is the owners son. We hardly questioned our assumption. After he told us he wasn’t we couldn’t figure out what ever made us think that to begin with, they don’t even look that similar, but apparently it’s very common there. Enough that one of the other guys immediately started laughing about it.

The only thing I can think of in that case is that he seems the most confident, capable and in charge. Maybe that’s what gives the impression, and maybe it’s a similar thing in your case. My other comment was the flip side of that; if you’re coming across too cocky, with a chip on your shoulder, people could think "she must be related, or she wouldn’t work here".
posted by bongo_x at 5:00 PM on May 17, 2013

Perhaps you can alter your work attire so it's still appropriate for what you do, but it looks a bit more mature. I can't suggest how to do that because I don't know your work environment, but jeans and a t-shirt could read as very kid-like on a person who could maybe pass for 16 anyway. There are little cosmetic things you can do to read as more "in charge." Maybe you could try a darker hair color? Dark hair tends to read as older and less "cute." (If you and your boss have the same hair color, that may have a lot to do with why people assume you're related.)

Beyond that, I like the suggestion of just introducing yourself and saying your role in the company, before people have a chance to ask if you're the boss' kid.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:43 PM on May 17, 2013

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