Monday, November 15, 2010

High School Reunion at Duane Reade

I was in Duane Reade with my son the week before last, trying to locate some construction paper. I looked like shit. In my defense, I felt even worse than I looked, so in that respect, I was making an effort. I was in the process of getting over a nasty virus and if I had my druthers, I’d still be in bed, sleeping. But swim class waits for no man, so I’d had to get out of bed, throw on some clothes and take care of business. When I say ‘throw on clothes” I really mean, toss on whatever raggedy, threadbare, ultra-comfy shit I had lying on the floor around my bed.

In fact, when I got dressed, I did have a moment where I said to myself, “Really? You’re really going to wear this out of the house? I mean, I know you’re sick but are you willing to set this precedent?” And myself said back, “Yeah, we’re doing this. New low.”

So there I was, in my sweatpants and this peasant-y synthetic shirt which is one size too small from Target which, despite all reason, has been a preferred item in my wardrobe these past few years, making it faded and threadbare. My hair, unwashed, in desperate need of highlighting, was pulled back into one of those ponytails where half of your hair has already fallen out on the bottom. And t his is how I looked when I noticed this woman down the aisle checking me out. She was about my age with a little girl about Primo’s age but that was about all we had in common, by the looks of it. This woman was put-together. She was wearing a Sergeant-Pepper’s-type red woolen coat with a super sharp pair of black glasses, and her hair in a fetching, stylish bob. I didn’t know this person and honestly, I didn’t want her to know me, in my current Slob of the Slope incarnation.

But not only did she continue to look at me, she walked right over and announced cheerily, “Hi Nicole!” like I was definitely supposed to know her from somewhere.

“Heeeeey!!: I gushed, way too enthusiastically.

“You don’t know who I am, do you?” she smiled

“No,” I conceded, “I’m sorry/”

“Well I remember you. You had the best tits in high school!” This she sang out, with nary a note of apprehension or hesitation to use the word “tits” in front of both of our five year-olds.

Thsnkfully, this choice of language clued me in immediately to who she was.

“Jenny!” I exclaimed.

Jenny was this loud-talking, hyper-energetic balls-to-the-wall girl I knew in high school. And now that I knew who she was, I saw she hadn’t changed that much, except she was hotter and better-looking despite being 15 years older. This is when I started regretting in earnest the choice to surrender all claims to attractiveness.

We exchanged a few squeals of excitement at having discovered each other and realized we were neighbors, and then Primo’s patience ran out and he started yanking me away, which was totally fine by me because this was not my most shining hour.

But when I told this story later that night to David, I said, “She lives just a few blocks away which means I’m going to run into her again. And next time I can’t look like a washed-up charity case.”

Except that that’s EXACTLY how I looked the next week when I saw her entering my son’s school to get her daughter. And this time, I didn’t even have the excuse of illness. But the precedent had been set, and once that happens, you don’t even bother to strive for dignity. This time, I felt compelled to disclose how amazing I thought she looked, only in a crazy way, which is how shit usually comes out of my mouth.

“WHY do you look so GOOD?” I shouted, like I was back in high school again. “You look AMAZING! Your haircut! Your coat! Shit, you’re so SKINNY! And I am basically right out of The People of Walmart!”

“Its because you have a husband and I want one.” she laughed.

Note that she didn’t contradict me.

So this morning, I forced myself to upgrade every time of clothing, forsaking the stretched-out underwear the stained Old Navy pants, and the torn winter jacket which I can’t zip up all the way. I dragged out my kick-ass Last Tango in Paris cream-colored coat with the furry cuffs purchased from Screaming Mimis over a decade ago. And I put on lipstick. Two can play at this little game of making an effort. Failing all else, I’ve still got the tits.