I brought candy to work. I ate some, and I offered to share. My offer was declined. So I ate it all myself.
I got off work early, so I went to my favorite bar. This would be the only place I feel comfortable going to alone, so by default it is my favorite. On this night I only saw strangers. But the strangers soon became my talk-to pals. I will give this town credit–people are very happy to chat it up with someone new.
I discovered, from these strangers, however, that my “look” is all wrong.
“Gotta get rid of the ponytail RG,” one gentleman said. This would be on the day I pulled my crazy curly beach hair back in a clip for the first time in about 15 years. Of course, this would be the day my hair style was second guessed and critiqued by someone I didn’t know.
“Your name is what?” another gentleman asked. “That can’t be your given name. What’s your ‘real’ name?”
Interesting, that question. I haven’t had my nickname, which is the only name I have ever been addressed as, second guessed in about 25 years, when the big-time editor of the big-time magazine for which I was interning suggested I rethink using my nickname as my byline. My given name, he said, sounded professional. My nickname, he said, sounded like a writer “from some woman’s magazine.”
I see. At the time, however, I would have killed to have had my byline–my nickname or any other name–appear in a “lowly” women’s magazine, say “Redbook” or “Good Housekeeping.” Yes, back in the day, male editors felt free to tell me how stupid the name I’d been called all my life sounded to them.
“You need to go by your given name,” this other regular said. “It’ll be your new identity. It fits you better.”
Oh, great. Because you know me so well?
When both gentleman left for a moment, I asked the bartender and the cute girl sitting next to me who is dating the Hollywood star I didn’t recognize, even when we were introduced, “Am I really that frumpy that I need a new look, a new name?”
“Oh no!” said the bartender.
“Forget them,” said the cute girl dating the Hollywood star.
“Yeah, but, I don’t know from these folks, from this place,” I admitted.
“You’re just fine,” said the bartender.
“You look fantastic,” said the cute girl.
And we laughed and the cute girl and I enjoyed another glass of wine.
“So who does your hair?” the bartender asked the cute girl ten minutes later.
Salon names were dropped and stylists called out.
“And what gym do you go to at the beach? she asked.
“Oh, you would love my gym,” the cute girl said, turning to me.
Okay, I can take a hint.
What’s next–the name of the best plastic surgeon in town? Actually, I just need a dentist and a dry cleaner.
The gentlemen returned from a quick smoke outside. “It would take so little. You’re already so incredible,” said the one. “Just get your hair cut.
“And please use another name,” piped up the other.
I simply nodded, and then I told myself it was probably time to find another “favorite” place to hang out–like the library or Target.
I find it interesting and mildly disturbing that some people feel free to offer this very personal advice, when they have only known me for an hour. I find it interesting and mildly annoying that my hair and my name can cause such consternation among perfect strangers.
I find it more interesting, however, that I brought candy to work today, and no one wanted any.