Thursday, July 26, 2012

Stupid Girl

Every good story has a city. 

Not just any city. I mean a big, cosmopolitan, sack of scum and profligacy. These fascinating city centers teeming with social conflict tell the human story. From Babylon to Tenochtitlan, from Rome to Xi'an, from Delhi to New York, and from Buenos Aires to Great Zimbabwe. Archeologists dig up the temples and theaters whose ghosts whisper some of the delicious secrets of those ancient civilizations, and we get to compare their life with ours. 

When this city gets dug up, I wonder what they will say about our culture. When they walk into the Wall Street Mecca, when they find the big Yankee Colosseum, when they dust off the stages where the thespians performed in Broadway, and when they uncover the hundreds of temples in 5th Avenue where virgins kneel in prayer. 

Other generations dropped everything they owned to follow Buddha or Jesus. Many sacrificed their life in blood to preserve honor and defend their homeland. My generation just follows the yellow brick road. 

"What do you think about this one?" My friend Jiayi holds up a chique purple dress. Shaken from my stupor, I nod with approval, smiling faintly. She whirls around with the dress held closely to her chest, saying, "I can just imagine George in the office. He won't be able to look away. I'm going to the fitting room. Are you ready?"

"Yes, I found what I was looking for. If you wear the dress with a classy pair of pumps I'm sure you'll brighten up his Monday," I say, following her through the store.  

George is her new crush. I've been hearing her talk about him all day. He works in a different company in the same building, he has a great ass, and apparently he loves all her favorite bands. We have spent the entire morning shopping, and it seems that it was ages ago that I stuffed a croissant in my mouth as we left the hotel. My stomach started grumbling as soon as we entered my favorite store, one of those magic places that has everything a girl needs at a decent price. 

We get lost in the labyrinth of clothing racks and are forced to ask an attendant to point out the direction of the dressing room. When she does, the sign magically appears in big letters at the back of the huge, well-lit room. We embarrassingly thank her and walk away. 

"No wonder I couldn't find it, I got too distracted by the poster." I say grumpily as we walk. "Have you ever seen such a perfect nose?" 

Jiayi looks at the immense picture of a model in her underwear, and then back at me with a expression of total understanding. "Yeah, now that I think about it, I was totally confused by her... nose. There is no way anyone can pay attention to the sign for the dressing room when such a perfect nose is in full display. Do you think it's real?"

"I don't think she could get such a natural nose with plastic surgery. It's either real, or the most expensive nose in the world."

We finally make it to the line for the fitting room and stare up at the smiling goddess, in awe of her superiority. 

Jiayi enters the fitting room first and I stand in line for a while longer. I look at a group of teens talking loudly. I see myself reflected in the eyes of the quietest girl. She's self-consciously enfolding a strand of her hair around her index finger while she twirls it round and round. She has an empty smile because she's not really listening to her friend's story. She's probably thinking about how much better her friend looks, wondering if she should re-touch her makeup. Once in a while she steals a glance at a cute attendant, as if she's praying for him to walk by her and get intoxicated with a wisp of her perfume. If she's lucky, he'll fall in love then and there; but there are so many pretty girls around that she nervously wonders if he will ever look her way. When he finally does pass her by she gets really tense and her finger stops. She looks longingly in his direction getting high off of a happily ever after that will never happen, while he walks past, unaware of her existence. 

Stupid girl...

My enjoyment of the little love story is interrupted by a shrill scream coming from the inside of a fitting room. An attractive older woman is whispering compliments through the key hole, but the girl inside keeps protesting. When her mother finally does cajole her into getting out and showing off the dress, she does so with a scowl on her face. I walk past them to try on my clothes when my turn comes and I can hear the girl telling her mother that she's too fat for the dress and that her boobs are too small. Her mom attempts to reassure her in a small voice that they still have time to grow. I can tell that she's lying though, not just by her guilty tone, but because when I saw her before it was evident from her perfect cleavage that she got breast implants. How do you tell your daughter that even after you found your prince, you had to get out an insurance for that happily ever after? 

Stupid girl...

I examine my face in the mirror. I have one of those faces that could be considered both ugly and beautiful, depending on my facial expression. If people are looking at me it is not because of my face, but because of the fury of hair on top of it. I love my afro. It grows out of my head in curly rivulets, expanding sideways and downward. It doesn't go out in a 320 degrees of groovy frizz like those women had back in the sixties. It's less poofy and has defined ringlets. 

I throw the green coat on the floor to get a full view. My body is not that bad. I can never manage to get abs, but I have a good figure. I could be described as thin ever since I lost the extra thickness around my thighs and waist. I discovered that a small waist can make up for small cup size. It's still a work in progress, I guess. I used to wish I had bigger boobs with even more angst than the girl next door but I got over that. I learned to love my butt instead, which is one of my favorite parts about my body.

I take off my skirt and halter top and look at the trail of scars that run along the side of my hips and part of my butt cheeks. It's like I had to claw my way out of childhood. I usually pretend my stretch marks don't exist, but every now and then their sight sneaks up on me and it's like someone emptied a bucket of disillusionment on my head. Now my skin is covered in sticky insecurity and I'm sure everyone around can smell my ugliness. Why do I have to be beautiful, anyway?  Maybe I'll resign myself to being forever ugly and alone. Being a woman is complicated. 

Stupid girl...

I put on my new outfit: a pair of high-rise jean shorts and a tucked-in Rolling Stones t-shirt. Then I pick out the negative thoughts in the air and stuff them in my pocket. Confidence is sexy, and sexy is rock n' roll. I mess up my afro a bit and work my outfit like I'm Yoko Ono. 

My favorite Yoko song is one of the weirdest pieces of music in the world. She just screams hysterically "Whyyyyy," while images of Reagan and some dudes holding guns flash in the background.  I have no idea why I like it, but it's just great. I shake my body and whisper the song with flailing arms, not caring that I'm making weird noises. 

"Alice is that you?" Jiayi asks through the thin wall. "Are you killing someone in there?"

"Sorry. I was channeling my inner Yoko Ono." I say, knowing she wouldn't understand. 

"Come out. What do you think of my outfit?" She says, and we both get out at the same time and pose in an exaggerated manner. 

"I love it, it's very Audrey Hepburn, but in color." I whisper an accent- not sure which. I'm terrible at making accents. 

"Was that supposed to be a British accent?" She smiles and says, "I approve of the jean shorts, though. They make your butt look amazing."

"Brilliant!" I say cheerfully, not caring how it sounds. 

When we finish shopping we head back to the hotel to change for brunch and put away our shopping bags. On the way Jiayi and me look at the parade of tourists and New Yorkers, picking out which is which. 

We see a girl that could be described as a tall, skinny, latte. 
"New Yorker," says Jiayi. 

Then we see an older woman with her daughters, all of them in jeans. They have more shopping bags than fingers in their hands. "Tourists," I say. 

A really handsome, sweaty, muscular man in his thirties jogs past us in a pair of white shorts. We look at each other and mouth, "New Yorker."

Then a heavy-set man passes by, wearing a Yankees hat. We just bob our heads to the side, because it's obvious. Then an older couple holding hands walks by. "Tourists," I declare. 

"How come?" asks Jiayi. 

"Well, I don't believe you can find your true love in New York and live with him here for the rest of you life. Is that sad?"

"Yes, but I guess it's also realistic." 

Then we see her. Talking on the phone while she walks in our direction, moving like someone who's got no time to lose. Despite the fact that it's summertime she's dressed all in black except for a delicate white blouse. No tacky brand signs on her expensive purse. No heavy use of jewelry or make up. Just stilettos and bright red lipstick. With one hand she hangs up the phone and dials another number, and with her free, manicured hand she hails a taxi. She checks the time on her pretty watch with a leather strap and a cab magically stops for her before a second ticks by. Her face turns into an enchanting smile as she says into the phone, "I'll be there right away, honey."

We stare open-mouthed as the woman who has it all disappears inside the cab. "The New Yorker," I whisper. Jiayi nods. "When do you think we'll become real women like her?"

"When we make mistakes, lots of mistakes, until we either learn from them or get tired of making them. Then we just... Grow up." 

"That sounds difficult," Jiayi says pensively. 

We've all got something we're looking for in the Emerald City. I don't think we really know what it is at first. That's why we have to run around a little bit on the way there, making fools of ourselves as we bounce on the yellow bricks of our ideals. 

Womanhood. Some girls become women. Others are chained to their eternal childhood, never fully blooming into an complete person. They never reach the moment when they stop chasing after who they're trying to be, and face who they really are. 

Huh, I wonder if I'm still a stupid girl. 

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