Conversation with fellow shopper ends poorly

Beautiful,” she says, turning around to face me. She’s looking at the dress I’m holding with 10 times the amount of enthusiasm shooting out of her grinning face than I had in the 10 minutes I spent in the dressing room trying to decide if it looked OK on me.

“Thanks,” I respond, giving her a tight smile.

“What’s it for? A wedding, a…”

“Homecoming.”

I know I should try to be more forthcoming with this 40-year-old, perky, blond woman standing in front of me in Charlotte Russe. She’s just trying to find a way to entertain herself in line.

I prefer to spend my wait feeling relieved that I actually found something to wear in a sea of cheetah-printed, flower-attached nonsense. Some people look good in that stuff; just not me.

My clothes kind of make this statement: “Hey, I’m normal. Now, leave me alone.”

The outfit I wore to the mall – a hoodie and jeans – perfectly reflects this sentiment. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to have deterred this woman.

“Which one?” she continues.

“Gannon’s.”

“Oh, I thought it was a high school, like McDowell. You look so young.”

“Ya,” I respond, laughing in a worn, half-hearted way.

I know she doesn’t mean harm. I’ve heard that plenty of times before. And I probably shouldn’t take it as criticism, because as she is shopping in a teens to 20-something clothing store, she probably is shooting for a more youthful look herself. But the fact that I could pass for a high school student always drives me crazy.

I mean it’s not like I sit around thinking about how the extra wads of fat in my cheeks make me look like I should be sucking on a binky. But being reminded of it every couple of weeks puts me off my guard.

Suddenly, I feel like the whole world is staring at me – wondering why my mommy left me to fend for myself.

And I think my lack of intimidating cheekbones makes people unafraid of me – and therefore more likely to talk to me.

“You should get nude heels with that,” she continues. “It’s in all the magazines. They make your legs look longer,” she adds.

“Oh. That sounds cool,” I say, hoping my face conveys polite enthusiasm, instead of betraying the rather deep resentment building up inside of me toward her, because she just assumes I’m frustrated with my height deficiency.

Yes, I know, I’m being dramatic.

“Maybe I’ll go check those out,” I add.

And then I get out of line to escape any more prodding questions and annoying fashion tips.

But since she’s really just a nice lady, and I’m really just a sensitive college student, I will say this: though part of me got out of line just to escape her, part of me really was sold on finding those leg-lengthening shoes.

TESSY PAWLOWSKI

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