Standing in the corner by the front door of the ultra-hip boutique that sells some of my handmade wares, I’m suddenly very aware of myself and caught in a weird hyperspace of shyness and discomfort. There in the newly minted 'trendiest' neighborhood in the city, I've stopped for a brief drop-off, a quick in and out.
At the counter fairly far from the front door are three girls, I think of them as girls although I know that two of the three standing there are older than me. They are currently speaking in a strange flurry of words to each other about who’s coming to this show or that, who’s getting their hair cut and dyed, where they got this brooch (‘it’s so ridiculously modern, yet perfectly vintage’) or what their boyfriends/girlfriends are writing about this week on their style-blogs.
Children and caffeine may have aged me, made my breasts slightly flat and my teeth slightly tinted, but it seems they have also quashed any sense of situational levity I may have had, because when one of the girls, Valerie, finally notices me standing awkwardly in the corner, clutching my goods and starts yelling almost suspiciously over-loud in my direction, I almost turn and run instead of heading into the shop.
"Erin! Oh My God! You’re like a total lurker! Come over here and let me see your super cute face.” She’s wildly gesturing at me as though I’m 100 feet away and not 10. Her arms look shadily spindly exploding from the billowing fabric of the silk blue kimono that is engulfing her waif-thin frame and her bleach blonde hair is shaved up one side to revel a startlingly white skull.
Unfortunately she continues, “Trish! Have you ever met Erin before? She designs and makes that knit shit with her own two hands! Most popular accessories in our shop, you know, Erin. That’s why I’m always IMing you and bothering you to bring in more! I must be such a pain.” As she continues, she reminds me of a way too thin E! News correspondent fawning over Angelina Jolie or Natalie Portman.
Although I am flattered, I can tell her outbursts have brought a flaming spread of hotness across my face and I can’t think of anything to say in response. Trish looks me up and down, smiling all the time in what may be considered an absolutely polite way, if you don’t notice that she licks her lips lustily and kicks Valerie under the table. One of her hands does momentarily shoot to her head, self-consciously for one second, gripping the beanie obviously not made by me that’s loosely hanging off the back of her head.
“Oh yeah! We love all of your stuff here. You so have to work on changing your line’s name though. I’ve had about a half dozen people wrinkle their noses at your too-cute tags. Ultra-Cute Crochet is totally for baby hat designers.” Trish’s long fake eyelashes are entrancing me at this point in the conversation.
“Well, actually, Trish…most of my business in the past has been custom order kids hats, mittens, blankets and scarves. It hasn’t been till the last 4 years that…”
The rest of the conversation goes on something like that for another three minutes. They consider themselves business mavens and tell everything I’m doing wrong with mine, and then they move on to dissecting my personal style.
As I’m finally taking leave of these ladies, Valerie squeals with excitement and puts one hand on each of my shoulders. She looks right in my face and says with supreme seriousness,
“You know, Erin. I’ve looked at you many times on facebook and I’m always trying to figure out what your style is…because, you know things like that really interest me, you know. Until now I’ve never been able to figure it out. But it just hit me out of the blue and it’s made me incredibly happy that I have figured you out!” She gives me a very tiny shove backwards and takes a step back, long spider fingers grasping her pointy chin in what seems to be a very thoughtful repose.
“You are totally boy-cute, but it’s not quite that cause you have a very thin waist, but very un-boy like round hips and your boobs are hefty. Hmmm…” She tips her tiny form to the right underneath her billowing silk garment and looks at Trish, but doesn’t say anything else.
“So you really haven’t pinned down my style then?” I query as I’m stepping away from them and heading towards the door. Maybe this lapse in Valerie’s usually frenetic conversation will give me the out I’ve been looking for. Stepping once, twice, slightly turning towards the door, stepping again, “Bye girls! Hope you have a wonderful weekend!” It looks like I’m going to make my getaway, I reach out gingerly, put my hand on the...
And then as if she waited till I had my hand on the knob of the front door, she leaps towards me with an out of place abandon. I bite back the tiniest bit of fright, being that she is now skipping at me at a surprisingly full tilt speed.
“Oh ERIN! You are totally boy cute! You saunter into the shop like you could care less about what we think about you. Just like a cute boy. You’re wearing plaid pants, just like a cute boy. You’re wearing a pea coat, just like a cute boy. And here you are running out on us without a care of how we’re all fawning over you. Just. Like. A. Cute. Boy.”
Valerie is completely unaware of how strangely dramatic this speech was, and from the counter of the shop, Trish says, “Oh yeah, you’re so right Valerie!” She is obviously also completely unaware of the speeches extraneous gusto.
Now that my escape is permissible and I’ve been embarrassed to the very core of my being, I turn and flee. I get in the car and tell Jeremiah all about my whole experience and about Valerie’s ‘boy-cute’ epiphany. He’s thoughtful for a minute and as he pulls our car out of the parking spot and into the traffic heading home, he says only, “How is your style boy-cute if she kept repeating that you are just like a cute-boy. Shouldn’t it be ‘cute-boy’ style and not ‘boy cute’ style?” He chews on the inside of his lip thoughtfully.
I sit back in my seat and plan on never wearing plaid pants again.