While I was in the Motherland last year, I went shopping at a really cool mall. We passed a store that my cousin and her friend loved, but mentioned they could never afford. My first thought was, "Then let's please not go in there because I can tell right now that I love the clothes and will end up buying something even though I've spent the last 6 weeks drinking wine and smoking cigarettes all over the Motherland instead of looking for a job and I really can't afford it. So please can we not go in there."
Fast forward to the part where I left the store with a $100 jacket. A jacket I loved, a jacket I had to have, a jacket that spoke to me. It said, "No one else will have a jacket like this at home. You will be the only one with such a fabulous jacket because this store doesn't exist at home. People will ask you where you acquired such a gorgeous piece of outerwear and you can answer, 'Oh I got in Europe.' People will envy your jacket, you must BUY this jacket." And so I did.
Fast forward to the part where I wore the jacket in New York for the first time and a friend asked where I got it. The moment I was waiting for, the moment I had anticipated the first time I tried the jacket on. In my best nonchalant voice, I casually said the line I'd been rehearsing for weeks: "Oh this? I actually got it in the Motherland. We were shopping at this little store and it spoke to me." And then my friend asked a question....a passing, innocuous question raised out of pure curiosity. She asked, "What store?"
Now this wasn't a question I had anticipated anyone asking me; I assumed that my simple explanation would be enough, that by mere virtue of the fact that I bought the jacket in the Motherland, a country not known for its trend-setting fashion or in vogue style, people would just assume the store didn't exist outside of Europe.
But I kept my cool. This wasn't a problem; surely I'd mention the name of the store and my friend would say, "Hmm, never heard of it," and I'd smile a satisfied smile. And so I said the name of the store with a slight inflection at the end, a minor raise of the voice to connote a question... almost as if I was challenging her to answer me. But then something completely unexpected happened: my friend said some combination of, "Oh my God, really? I LOVE that store! There's one right by my job and I can't go in there because I'll have to walk out with something."
If someone had snapped a picture of my face at that exact moment, I'm sure it would've been the saddest photo of me anyone has ever seen. My hopes, dashed. Dreams, crushed. Ego, bruised. I am no stranger to people in the Motherland complimenting me on my American-bought clothes, compliments that I always politely shrug off. But for once, just ONCE, I wanted an American to compliment me on something I'd purchased in Europe....something that wasn't a t-shirt with "Gone Dutch" written on it or a pen that had a monument sliding around on top of it, something that was chic and stylish and was popular in Europe before it got big here. Oh the devastation!
But hey, that's okay. I have plenty of other cool clothes and accessories that people can ask me about. There's that awesome yellow handbag my cousin got me for Christmas. And those funky earring I'm always wearing. (Let's not even talk about my shoes.) And at least I have that cool scarf I got in Bosnia. How many people can say they have a handmade accessory from a war-torn, Muslim country?
Wait...probably a lot of people.