They don’t know I’m not one of them. What a strange feeling.
Today, suddenly, for the first time in my life, salespeople are falling all over themselves trying to assist me.
“Are you finding everything you need? Is there anything I can get you? My name is Glinda. Please ask me for help if there is anything I can do for you.”
I’m shopping on the west side of town, where the monied people live. I’m visiting monied people boutiques. Apparently, when monied people shop, salespeople talk to them—even with them. Everywhere I go, I’m surrounded by the warmest of smiles and greetings:
“How are you? Wasn’t today the most lovely day?”
By their responses to me, I now know that my outfit looks upscale and smashing. My shoes are expensive black leather flats. The shirt is 100% linen. The skirt, 100% cotton, with a high fitted waist and covered buttons down its entire length. Both shirt and skirt are patterned with black and white flowers. (Everything I am wearing came from my own secret shopping source: The oh-so-exclusive Bon Vilhelm [a.k.a. “Goodwill”]. )
“Your braids are simply adorable. Do you do them yourself?”
These west side salespeople don’t even look like those in the stores I normally frequent. Sometimes, one of these willowy beauties tries to extend a conversation with me, as if we are friends. This, I find most difficult. In these halls of high fashion, I don’t know the secret codes and handshakes. What if I verbally misstep? Which is exactly what occurs. The dream comes to an end abruptly. I have been chatting in a friendly fashion with two charming saleswomen. At last, looking at the many purses surrounding us, I ask:
“Do you have any black handbags?”
A squeal of brakes. A smell of burning rubber.
“I’m looking for a simple, black handbag, without a designer name showing.”
The temperature drops. All smiles and friendly conversation cease.
It is not because I disdain the brand-name basis for today’s high handbag prices. (Certainly reason enough to carry a bag worth the GNP of a small nation.) It is not because I refuse to be a walking sandwich board. (After all, isn’t my female body created solely for servile and decorative purposes?) It is because, had I truly belonged at this altitude, these ethereal angels would not have had to explain the obvious:
“Black handbags? Not this season.”
I decide that I will not tell them that I carry the same black handbag every day of the week, every season, no matter what color outfit or shoes I am wearing.
It would probably make them retch.