If The Universe Is Trying To Tell Me Something, It’s Going To Have To Speak A Little Louder.
The other day I experienced the kind of validation that comes rarely in life, when you least expect it and, unfortunately, during a time when you really don’t need it.
I waltzed into White House Black Market, heretofore referenced as WHBM, to return a tunic sweater I’d ordered online because the model wearing it looked like an upscale bohemian chic pixie, and WHBM’s effective marketing efforts had me reasoning that it would do the same for me.
But that evening I was meeting a friend who was in town for a conference, so I was wearing a cute blue dress I’d bought for my sister’s wedding in the Dominican Republic. In a rare moment of fashion inspiration, I paired it with a brown belt and one of WHMB’s very own tan dusters, which is basically a long, sweeping cardigan. I’m guessing they call it a duster because of the way it flirtily flutters out while you walk, softly brushing across every surface — and person — who happens to be just a little too close to your bubble, effectively “dusting” them as you pass. Which reminds me that I should probably clean it. (“It looks like a cape,” Justin said the first time I tried it on, which is good, because that’s exactly what I was going for. Feeling like you’re wearing a cape has a whole slew of positive ramifications I don’t have time to get into right now.)
So I breezed into WHBM, duster-cape billowing out in my wake, and made my way towards a very flamboyant male stylist and the store manager, a pretty blonde woman with tons of energy. They both took a moment to gush over my/their duster and how great my belt looked with my dress, and so of course I had to try the tunic on in a smaller size because the one I’d bought just wasn’t fitted enough for my figure, and of course I had to try on these suede sandals I’d been eyeing that just happened to be on sale.
They looked so good with what I was wearing that I tossed my worn wedges from TJ Maxx into the bag with the tunic and wore these out of the store. Before I left, though, the manager asked me what I do for a living and told me that if I ever want to work there — even just one day a week for the discount — that she’d hire me that moment because I’m exactly “the look” their customers love.
I laughed and declined because a) The store is 35 minutes from my house on a good traffic day, b) me with a WHBM employee discount is a dangerous prospect, and c) the last thing I need is another distraction from my other jobs and real goals. (Though it would be nice to get out of the house from time to time.)
As I left the store, laughing at the oddity of the unexpected offer, I remembered that the first job I ever applied to was at the GAP when I was fifteen. At fifteen, I definitely did not have the “look” that typical GAP customers were going for.
GAP print ad circa 1997:
Me circa 1996:
I mean… I don’t actually think I was too far off. I had the crew neck t-shirt and high-waisted pants, and I’d venture to argue that my hair might’ve even been a little bit better than Reese’s, if you’re into that whole fuzzy poodle look, as many of us were in the ’90’s.
Don’t lie. You totally were.
(P.S. I also had glasses.)
(P.P.S. My braces were purple.)
(P.P.P.S. For those of you who were born in the 90’s, that thing in my hand is a portable cassette player. I was very excited about this gift.)
Looking back, I suppose I can understand why GAP rejected me. Which is why the job offer from WHBM felt strangely validating, with the small exception that it came about nineteen years too late.
It felt a little like the movie Waiting, when Dean, the “star” server at the restaurant Shenaniganz, serves a table of businessmen. The obvious boss at the table is so impressed with Dean’s professionalism that he hands Dean his business card, telling him to please call him if he ever gets tired of working there and is interested in a new opportunity. For a moment, Dean feels elated. Maybe this is the break he’s been waiting for — the sign telling him that it’s time to move ahead with his career goals.
Unfortunately, when he looks at the business card, it’s for Jack’s Steakhouse — not exactly the professional step he had in mind.
And that was my experience.
Except Dean was 22 and I’m almost 34.
But hey — at least I looked good while I sashayed away.