They come to gymnastics in their designer jeans teetering on designer high-heeled shoes, their designer sunglasses perched atop their designer dye-and-straighten jobs. They are pushing designer strollers wearing designer coats and toting designer purses filled with designer snacks and water bottles. Twelve carat designer rings perch above meticulously-done designer nails, and their equally meticulous make-up matches their accessories which match their outfits which match their shoes which match their purses which match their diaper bags which match their strollers which match the interiors of their color-coordinated, designer SUVs. And they look fabulous. Because, of course, it is terribly important to look fabulous when you are sitting at the gym or running to McDonald’s and the grocery and the library. Of course.
I hear them as I read, sitting off to the side, still in my work-out clothes. They discuss make-up brands, Coach purses, Grey’s Anatomy, which local pool is the best, where you simply HAVE to stay at Walt Disney World. They wobble down the bleachers in their three-inch heels and make their way back to their cookie-cutter designer houses, where they will cook name-brand macaroni and cheese in their designer finery and watch TV all day and night in between picking up the kids from school and doing loads of their children’s designer laundry. They have no interests. They have no hobbies. They have no personalities. They are vanilla. Rich, expensive vanilla, but vanilla, nonetheless.
It’s not that I don’t like these women. Truly. I just don’t know how to relate to these women. I mean, I can talk about sofa upholstery for 45 minutes if I really have to, but if I don’t really HAVE to, why on earth would I WANT to? And truth be told, I’d really rather use my 45 minutes of uninterrupted time to read or write than to do anything, and I do mean ANYTHING else these days (except, perhaps, eat chocolate), so it isn’t such a big deal to sit here and try not to overhear their trivial conversations.
But then, despite my best efforts to focus my attention elsewhere, there is that strange tension between complete disdain and childish jealousy that develops, twisting itself around my thought life and breeding rampant sarcasm. There is truly nothing within me that wants to BE these women—but if I’m really honest, I sure wouldn’t mind some of the designer accoutrements. And I find that it is, unfortunately, easier and much more fun to be judgmental than to sit here feeling jealous.
Another woman comes and sits down near me—and I immediately notice she is similarly curly-headed, which is delightfully shocking in this day and age. She, too, is made up and well-heeled, but I am intrigued by her obviously hand-crafted jewelry, her bright, unusual clothing, her pile of books with her. She is studying Korean—to test for her black belt, I find out as I begin talking with her. I listen to her talk about her days as a champion collegiate hurdler, about how boring aerobics is so she needed a challenge, about running marathons and teaching yoga and entertaining local celebrities. I am smug with self-satisfaction at my new-found friend. She is not vanilla—she is Jeni’s Thai Chili, Salty Caramel, Queen City Cayenne. Finally, there is some flavor!
We talk for ten minutes and she never asks me a single thing about myself. I am perplexed and put out at first. And then it finally dawns on me—SHE thinks I’M vanilla.Designer irony. And, wouldn't ya know, it doesn't match a single thing I'm wearing...