Retail Episode 1: My Husband

I have a massive cache of retail stories from my years in the biz. For legal reasons, they are all fake and/or all of my coworkers are fictitious.

This particular tale is just retail-adjacent, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to stick the disclaimer in anyway.

Many ladies who have worked retail/customer service are familiar with the tactic of wearing a fake engagement ring and/or wedding band in order to (hopefully) deter the advances of dudes who think it’s appropriate to hit on people who are on the clock and therefore obligated to respond positively. I’ve done this myself, but I feel it’s worth noting that I didn’t start doing this until well after this whole saga had begun.

as a bonus, the rings are delicious

I don’t know where it began, because by the time I became aware of it, it was well underway.

For some reason, several of my coworkers – some of whom I had worked with for years – were under the impression that I was married. Even more bewildering, some regular customers seemed to be under the same impression. The only ring I ever wore was an engraved silver band on my right hand. I never once mentioned a significant other and rarely even mentioned individual male friends (because: mind your business). I worked there for five years and I literally cannot think of a single instance that would have lead anyone to believe that I was in a relationship at all, much less married.

As a cherry on top of the very confusing cake, my boss had a name for him. Like, my boss not only was privy to/potentially (definitely) involved in the widespread belief that I was married, he also was completely convinced that the man in question (whether or not he was actually my husband or was just a Secret Boyfriend) was named Ben.

I became aware of it because, on the morning of Valentine’s Day, a regular customer asked me what my plans were for that evening. I cackled like a sea witch (as one does) and after she left, the cashier I had just checked in asked me if my husband and I were fighting.

With a halfhearted chuckle (because uhhhh what) I said “I’m not married.”

To which this girl responded, with utter confusion, “yes, you are?”

I sort of stared at her with my mouth open and my eyebrows furrowed for a few seconds before I could even formulate any sort of response, because it’s not every day that someone argues with you about your marital status.

She insisted that a) I wore a ring b) I talked about him c) other people talked about him and d) of course I was married, because why would she think I was if I wasn’t?

(I can think of a few reasons, none of which are me being married.)

I excused myself to the office, where I immediately cracked a joke about it and my boss, without looking up from his computer, said, “Oh, Ben?”

I actually short-circuited and stopped climbing onto the desk for once in my life

I don’t know where this came from. I don’t know how long people were living their lives just casually believing that I, a very clearly unbalanced and chaotic 19-24 year old, had a husband before the news got back to me. At least a year. Enough time for basically everyone that I worked with to at least know that Payton Has A Husband was a thought that the rest of their peers were aware of.

I do know that I (naturally) jumped 100% on board the second I found out. I started wearing a fake ring. I mentioned my husband/fiancé regularly, and so did my coworkers. It got to the point where anyone could mention Ben and everyone knew who we were talking about.

This concept did eventually appear in my life outside of work, but in a more abstract way; I will take partial responsibility for that only because I have a tendency to be rather vocal about the fact that if I could ever manage to stand someone for long enough to date them it would be nobody else’s business. But that is neither here nor there because they all just assumed I was secretly dating someone, not that I was married. And also this is about my experiences with my retail coworkers, not anyone else. Try to stay on topic.

For the entire duration of this saga, I was living with at least one, usually two girls in a house that was very nearly always filled with hysterical laughter and sometimes drama and hilarity that I talked about at work all the time.

also my roommates CAME TO MY WORK SOMETIMES

It’s probably also worth noting that I am the kind of person who (unfortunately for myself and also sometimes others) sort of mildly hits on everyone in an entirely non-serious and completely platonic way. That’s how most of my friendships were mutually all through high school and beyond, and it wasn’t until I was typing this out loud that I realized it doesn’t really offer any evidence or proof that I was not married. I assumed that it did until right now.


This was and remained A Vibe amongst all of my work peers, with me developing a tendency to say “me too, thanks!” whenever anyone described something as cute (which was a lot, because I worked in a clothing store), or for me or my coworkers to say “not as cute as you, though,” whenever one of us did. HOWEVER, once I became aware of my Husband Who Was Such a Secret That Even I Did Not Know About Him, our chaotic faux-flirtations would often be followed up with, “wow, how would Ben feel about this?”

Idk you guys, if we ever meet I have several questions for him.

The title of this does not mean to imply that I’ve never been questioned about my relationship status outside of retail. It’s just that retail was the only place in which my responses were argued with.

It didn’t help that, absolutely delighted by this confusing and utterly baseless rumor, my friends at work started casually mentioning my husband in conversation.

I think the wildest part to me was that this clearly did not come from your normal, run-of-the-mill gossip chain. There was never any malicious intent. Somehow, in a way that never became entirely clear to me, everyone just believed that I was married. When it was that the marriage began was less concrete – some thought I had already been married when I started, some thought I got married early on in my 5-year career at the Store I Shall Not Name. But they knew his name, and that he existed: two pieces of information that had escaped his wife (me).

One particular argument (???) was derailed when the girl I was talking to said, rather defensively, “but I’ve seen him!”


Note: I just texted my friend and she said that it’s very likely that our boss pointed to some random guy one day and said, “hey, that’s Payton’s husband Ben!” because he was a Chaotic Neutral* that truly enjoyed stirring the pot.

(*Or a Social Impure, depending on how into alignment charts you wanna get.)

I (excluding during Worldwide Pandemic Time) still go back to visit from time to time, and though I no longer recognize the majority of the mostly-college-age staff, my old management team is still mainly intact and will not shy away from asking how my husband is immediately and without prompt. At this point I have just accepted it and will tell them all about his job (he is an astronaut and/or has gone undercover, which is why we have not seen him in years. Or ever.)

This entire situation was, in all likelihood, the product of an offhand joke or misunderstanding that just grew wildly out of control – and it definitely became that once I found out about it. The most concerning part is that it was so easily believed and not questioned by so many people when I am the way that I am (and especially when I was the way that I was).

So, in case this tale has raised any questions or simply has not answered them: Am I married?

Your guess is as good as mine.


2 thoughts on “Retail Episode 1: My Husband

  1. This is ridiculously hilarious!
    I’ve been single most of my life but on occasion I have had secret boyfriends.
    It’s so secret, they don’t even know.

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