My minutely considered editorial calendar, beautiful friends, was torn entirely asunder upon receipt of a loving and welcomed comment just this morning. You know who you are, my Dear Anonymous pen pal. You moved me greatly today. Thank you.
I do not know the why behind Petra. I have looked long and have not cornered the prey. This Golden Fleece is on the protected species list, never to be pursued with vigor, and left to roam peaceful, unperturbed by my clumsy footfalls.
I do know precisely why I write though. Much of that why comes down to the periodic payoff of a nice word from a reader. Terribly shallow of me I know. The work itself should be sufficient dividend, yes? Hmmm. Well theoretically, yes. But while I have over the decades attained a few precious and sometimes pharmaceutically aided moments of clarity, I simply do not live on a very high plateau of self-actualization. Periodic roses tossed in the path go an awful long way with me.
And so, thanks again, Anon the Third. Especially for the pleasant reminder of my encounter with Leisl in the Belk bargain shoe racks way back in springtime ’09. A very special day for me. I had a happy return to this same sort of unexpected intimacy while out in the Vanilla world all Tuti Fruti’d up a couple of Fridays ago. I’ll tell the tale here today and come back to bigger picture observations about the Southern Comfort Conference the next time that time allows.
It was a sunny Friday, my Day 2 of SCC, after a perfect makeup session with Monica Prata of Nouveau She, and a smart luncheon of grilled chicken salad. Ashley and others of the pretty Minnesota cohort jumped a ride with me to Perimeter Mall for a little shopping therapy. I got a too hung up in Ann Taylor for my friends, and so we parted ways in part so that I could continue to rifle racks and fondle frocks.
I recognized the woman who was helping me. I had a particular thing in mind, and asked her where I might find it.
“Where o where … forgive me, I am just here today from my home store at Northpoint, not sure I know where things are quite yet…”
“No worries, take your time”, says I, “ you have helped me out on a couple of occasions there and I love your style”.
I have written before how the private sanctuary and world of wonderful mirrors is a place of near religious revelation for me. Honest, open, and intimate moments happen here amongst the girls. Moments that chaps cannot buy for money. Very enlivening moments on a good day. Did I mention I was having a great day?
Bag dumped on the booth bench, booties kicked off, side-zip slacks peeled down, the flowing lace overlay skirt pulled up, zipped up, and door swung open for the short toddle over to the fiercely opinionated 3 way. An interrupted toddle as it happened.
“What do you think? ...” the stranger posed of me, indicating the plum pencil skirt she had shimmied on.
“I like it. I do. What’s the occasion, Oooh, and turn for me would you?”
Her skirt hit a couple of inches north of beautiful, dark complexioned knee, The blouse threw off complementary floral sparks of pink. Fit and curved, lovely altogether from bare foot to popping smile, bright eyes and swept hair.
She pirouetted and seemed not to mind my rather baritone register.
“First date. And he is younger, only by a few years, but you know how men are, I just don’t want to be … too old. I just don’t know if this does it…”
“You’ll be fine. For starters you are beautiful, honestly, and if he doesn’t get that, he shouldn’t get past a first date. Show again? How did you meet him?”
“Oh, friends hooked us up, they always worry about me, I have been out of the dating game so long and you know I don’t mind really, but it all tugs at me you know?”
Honestly darlings, I do not know. I perceive that dating is mostly pure and utter awkwardness, dashed hopes, dropped standards and disappointments, and I thank the cosmos daily that I have been sidelined for 17 years. But that leap into the unknown, the need for optimism, the hope for Prince or Princess Charming, I can still summon up electric memories and a bellyful of butterflies at the thought.
“OK. Listen up: forget your age, you are a stunner. What about the guy? What do you know about him? Will he want to talk football?”
“Golf. I think. Yeah, he is supposed to be a golfer.”
“OK, quick primer. The Tour Championship is in town this weekend over at Eastlake. It is a cliffhanger. Tiger Woods has a shot at the win, but he is in tough against Brant Snedeker and Rory Mcilroy. Eastlake is where Bobby Jones learned to play, legendary place. Ask him if he is watching the tournament and that should wind him up for at least a few minutes.”
Chit chat continued in open volleys over the walls of our adjoining confession booths on this that and the other thing. The lady who was helping her out was not really hitting the fashion mark. Wrong sizes and colors and out of the who-knows-where suggestions where being pried in the door and I could just feel the tension building. We stepped out to the mirror together again with the area to ourselves.
“She just doesn’t get it. Honestly is she listening ?... "she said helping me up with my zip “ Oh but I like that. You like?”
I only nearly liked the dress, just a little drapey for me. I am slender at the waist and hate to give up this pleasant inheritance simply for the sake of an of-the-moment silhouette (ed. Vanity, thy name is Petra…).
And so it continued. We talked. Zipped. Unzipped. She talked me out of the strappy sandals, and she was right. Too high a tone and too low a heel for my liking but tempting still. It is lovely and necessary sometimes to have a suspicion confirmed by a woman with an admitted shoe addiction. She got the skirt. I talked her down a size, a size she didn’t believe in, but one that worked a charm on her.
She was bright, alert, and absolutely paying attention. It was plain to see, and plainer to hear, that I was equipped with a non-standard solitary X chromosome, not a fully pledged member of the Sorority, plain as day that I am not, in the broadly accepted way, a woman.
And it just did not matter, did it?
Maybe my difference did matter to her. Perhaps she was spinning the karmic wheel, whispering goodness to the universe and paying forward a small measure of acceptance. A measure of acceptance that I am sure she has been denied by people with a pale complexion as she stood hopefully at one crossroads or another needing only a smile and an encouraging word.
Maybe my difference didn’t matter. Perhaps the fitting room warren is very much like a train minus the jostling and unsettling aromas, with a destination and separate paths bought and paid for and soon, complete with virtual bungee cords that save us all the effort and hurt of the endured commitment to kindness.
And maybe goodness and openness is just good and open. Free and priceless when a moment presents and the spirits conspire.
We parted with a hug. I did not ask her name, and I did not volunteer mine. She won’t read this blog post. And we are likely not to see or recognize each other again. But I am hopeful of a couple of things:
I hope her date did not talk golf. I hope he asked her about a favorite meal, the best smell ever, or a sunset that she would not trade for gold. I hope he told her about a terribly embarrassing moment in his life, one where he prayed the ground would swallow him whole but that he can laugh about now. I hope he held the door. I hope he lost track of time. I hope he wanted the privilege of more of her company, and asked for it like he meant it.
I hope she said no when he pressed for yes. I hope she did not need to look over her shoulder when her key hit the door to know that he was watching every gorgeous, womanly step she took walking away from him, desirable as all hell get out as she no doubt looked.
Yes, I do know how men are.
Postscript. An open letter to Anonymous 3.
I did intend to write today. At the start of the day I had not picked the lock on a theme or approach to the labor. Your comment cleared a path and cheered me up.
I have thought of you today, and projected myself into your life a little. Five years, cold turkey as you say, is a daunting thing. I reckon though that there will be such a time for me. A time when the clothes do not fit, where the outer surfaces do not meet the inner dreams sufficiently, a time when this appetite diminishes as many other appetites have in my life.
I do not know you from Eve. But I believe that you have access to a beautiful measure of your inner Eve. I want to live my whole life hanging on to mine for dear life. She makes the outer Adam much more agreeable whatever he is wearing, doesn’t she?
Sincere thanks for your visit.
Much love to you all.