This week is a story of my own making. I hope you enjoy it!
Times have changed since my grandfather founded Meretricious Co. over eighty years ago. He made this company with his own two hands, building it from the ground up. It became Meretricious & Son Co. when my father joined. My grandfather passed away the year before I joined, but I think he would be proud to know the legacy continues. If he were able to recognize the company nowadays. With technology and world politics changing, we’ve had to modify the company to match the evolving times. My father resigned five years back and since then, I have done all that I could to keep the company growing and make him proud.
Meretricious & Son has always prided ourselves on impeccable service and an excellent public image. You can’t deny that MSC has been one of the top-standing, top-grossing companies on the world scene for the last fifty years. When you think of the major players in the industry, MSC should be one of the first that comes to mind, if not the top of your list.
A status like that brings a lot of demands and decisions have to be weighed very carefully. I assure you that I took into consideration many factors before I signed the new policy. To be fair, the policy was not my idea, but when the issue was brought to my attention by the Board, I had to address it. I remember the meeting very clearly.
It was a Thursday afternoon and the meeting was progressing very much like any other when Sheila gained control of the floor:
“John, there is something that needs to be addressed immediately.” I nodded. “You are aware of the situation regarding the piebalds?”
“I’ve seen it on the news,” I answered.
“It’s becoming an epidemic. More and more people are revealing themselves to be piebald. White locks of hair are popping up everywhere. Rumor has it that some kids are even experimenting with dye to make themselves look piebald.” She raised a hand to her own, perfectly-coiffed dark locks. “It’s unnatural.”
“Sheila, piebaldedness is becoming more accepted. We don’t live in the Middle Ages anymore,” said Ron, another member of the Board.
“Excuse me, Ron, I have the floor,” Sheila told him and turned back to me. “John, the fact that it’s becoming more accepted is a huge danger to us. We stand for the traditional values and I’m sorry, but one strand of white hair is a sign of rebellion.”
“I completely understand,” I assured her. After all, as much as I wanted to ignore it, I knew the population of piebalds was growing. I saw the leap on social media. Facebook was starting groups called “Piebald and Proud” and #piebalds was trending on Twitter. There were groups for the opposition as well: “Pie is for Eating” and “Better Bald Than Piebald.”
Sheila was continuing. “I don’t think you understand fully the effect this could have on MSC. We can’t be seen to support such a radical group of people. There have been complaints from clientele who say that they’ve seen piebalds shopping in our stores and they find it offensive. Our numbers are dropping. We need to make it clear that we don’t condone that kind of lifestyle.”
“What kind of lifestyle?” Ron spoke up again. “I have a cousin who is piebald and it’s a medical condition called poliosis. She can’t help it. No piebald person can.” Many of the Board members grumbled at this revelation.
“She can dye her hair!” Sheila exclaimed. “She can cover up her own shame and be a normal person like the rest of us. Women dye their hair all the time. It’s the proper way to handle it. I was born with a genetic predisposition toward obesity, but with diet and exercise, I maintain a gorgeous figure.” She turned on the spot, illustrating her point. “You can overcome genetics and are societally obligated to do so! She shouldn’t make other people uncomfortable with her piebaldedness.” Most of the Board was nodding in agreement and I couldn’t help feeling that she was making an excellent point. “We have a responsibility as one of the most powerful companies in the industry to make a statement and while we continue to allow the piebalds to roam our stores unchecked, we are condoning a dangerous lifestyle.”
“Dangerous?” Ron scoffed.
“Studies have shown that piebalds use more orange in their decorations, go bowling in their spare time, and are twice as likely to read literature like Margaret Atwood and e. e. cummings, three times as like to transfer schools in their secondary year, and five times more likely to have two children with a romantic partner.”
“What does that have to do with anything?” Ron asked her.
“You’re making this up.”
“Am I?” Sheila held a thick, manila folder in her hand and she raised it above her head like a weapon. “Of those two children, at least one is likely to carry the poliosis gene.”
“Dyeing your hair isn’t going to make a difference on the genetic level,” Ron pointed out.
Sheila slammed the folder down on the podium. “These people should not be allowed to reproduce at all!” A smattering of applause greeted this pronouncement.
“We employ piebald people!” Ron shouted. The applause died.
“Excuse me?” That was Sheila.
“We employ piebald people in our stores,” Ron repeated. “How can we take a stance against them when we’re paying them?”
Sheila turned to me. “That needs to be rectified immediately.”
“I will develop a committee to solve this as soon as possible,” I assured her.
“By week’s end,” said the Head of the Board.
“It’s Thursday now,” I pointed out.
“Week’s end, John,” she repeated. “You will present us with the solution on Sunday morning’s meeting at 9:00.” She then turned to Ron. “You have a decision to make. You are with us or you’re with the piebalds.” Ron looked around at the angry faces. For a moment, it seemed as though he was going to stand and walk out, but his expression settled into one of resignation and he nodded.
So you can see that I had no choice, can’t you? Public opinion had turned against the piebalds and with more and more of them declaring it, MSC had to demonstrate its devotion to tradition. My team had the same opinion when I met with them the next day.
“MSC needs a policy that discourages piebalds,” said Darren.
“Couldn’t we just refuse to allow piebalds into the stores?” Joni asked.
“That’s discrimination,” Darren told her.
“What about we require every person who applies to MSC to send a picture with their resume so we can weed out the piebalds?” Oscar offered.
“That’s basically the same thing,” I told him. “We can’t refuse to sell to or hire piebalds just based on the fact that they have a white streak of hair.”
“We still need to distance ourselves from the piebald community,” Joni insisted.
“Right,” I agreed. “We are a traditional company and we need to show that our values are more important than a disruptive identity.”
“Wait,” said Oscar, excited. “You know how some companies have a dress code?” We all waited for him to continue. “What if we enforced one here that said all hair must be one color.”
“One natural color,” added Joni. “We don’t want anyone coming in with blue or purple or green.”
“‘Natural’ is too broad a term,” said Darren. “The policy should include the exact spectrum of hair colors.”
I began to smile. “Do you think you could draw that up by tomorrow night so I can propose it to the Board on Sunday morning?”
So that’s what happened. The new policy was accepted unanimously by the Board and went into effect on Monday morning. I admit that I expected a little complaining from the piebald community, but I never expected the backlash that resulted. Facebook and Twitter blew up with #boycottMSC and #piebaldstrong. I was called the new Hitler and a traitor to the people. There was a backlash against the backlash from people who were proud of MSC for taking a stance. They said the piebald community was making me into a scapegoat for their troubles. Our PR team advised me to give a press conference and get into the public eye to address everything. I made the following statement:
“Ladies and gentlemen, I am here to speak on the new dress policy at Meretricious and Son. Having been your number one company for over fifty years has been our distinct pleasure and we will continue to serve the community, the country, and the world with the best products and services that we can provide. In accordance with that, we feel that as a product itself, MSC is the face of traditional values and we want everyone, and we do mean everyone, to feel comfortable in our facilities. As a result, just like any company, we have enforced a dress code which presents a positive, clean, non-threatening image. There is no discrimination on this part. It is purely a matter of aesthetic and has nothing to do with political or social constructs. We thank you for your continued patronage and we look forward to another fifty years of being your number one source of business. Thank you.”
The press conference went national. After that, I was called for interviews by newspapers, websites, and television stations. I did the best that I could do. I never asked the piebald community to hide; I just asked that they not flaunt it while in our facilities. For that, I have been called a coward, a hater, a villain.
I am none of these. I am a victim. A victim of circumstance. All I did was preserve the business that had been set up by my grandfather in the days when there were no piebalds. I can’t be faulted for holding with history and tradition.
You can see that, right?