Last week, my laundry situation entered the red zone. I had a choice to make: I could suck it up and wash my clothes (oh God) or I could simply go buy new underwear (aah). I took a few minutes to size up the gigantic mound of cotton next to my bed and realized that a quick underwear shopping excursion to J.Crew would do me good. Did you read that sentence carefully? Foreshadowing.
The King of the Hill left his mound of clothes to travel down Broadway. Like a sheep, I entered J.Crew expecting to be fleeced of all money and dignity after buying designer boxers expensive enough to feed a family of four. I would be in and out quickly.
Ninety minutes later, I stumbled back out onto the sidewalk. I had a headache, but I knew I didn’t have a hangover. I didn’t know what the hell had happened. I didn’t even have my underwear!
I turned around and looked through the glass doors to see if I had maybe left some boxers inside. They were in a bag, lying on the floor next to — her. There she was. Holy cow, it all came back to me.
Her name was Katie. She was J.Crew’s version of the “Gap Greeter.” You know the girls I am talking about. They stand right by the door and as soon as you cross the threshold, they passive-aggressively accost you with a special blend of pep laced with khaki.
I enter. Immediately khaki-clad Katie chirps, “Welcome to J.Crew. How are you doing today?”
Without breaking stride I politely reply, “Fine. Thanks. How are you?”
Katie pauses, takes a deep breath, looks thirstily into my eyes and does the unthinkable: “Oh, I’m OK,” she says, “except (another deep breath) my manager gave me really crappy hours, my boyfriend just dumped me because I sweat excessively, my dog was hit by a car, and I dropped my bar of soap in the shower this morning rendering it totally useless. I’m dealing.”
Well, now I had to “deal.” This was a total break from protocol. I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to ask her where the broadcloth boxers were, but that just seemed insensitive.
Then it hit me. My problem was not Katie, it was me. I have been entirely too social for my own good! Now I am condemned to sit and listen while people like khaki-clad Katie talk about their horrible breakups after sweating through their boyfriend’s Frodo costume at a Lord of the Rings theme party.
I stared at her incredulously the whole time. Not only did she deserve to be dumped (I could see the stalagmite of sweaty salt deposits on her cable-knit sweater) but I deserved what I was getting, too. I had gone through the motions of being social and didn’t expect to have to follow through on my commitment. Katie was just venting to someone who had asked her a legitimate question.
She is like the person who you politely give your AOL screen name to and never expect to talk to online. When they do instant message you, you get frustrated, annoyed and maybe even block them. There really isn’t an excuse for that. You can’t even smell Katie online.
I eventually reclaimed my boxers and I didn’t have to do my laundry (whew), but I learned something. Being superficially social is just as bad as being rude. There has to be a balance between being friendly and being standoffish. And if there’s one thing I like, it’s balance. I know if I didn’t have balance in my life, I’d fall apart. Things are hard sometimes. I wish my mom were here. She’d cook for me, and clean me.
Being anti-social is OK sometimes. Don’t tell people you’ll call if you know you won’t. Don’t tell people you like their hair just because you noticed they got it cut. Don’t tell people they’re thin when in actuality they’re morbidly obese. Later in life they could die of obesity and you’d feel bad. I know it sounds as if I’m jaded like the hundreds of New Yorkers here, but my Midwestern blood still runs strong. All I am suggesting is that sometimes it’s best not to be bubbly, friendly and nice. Pretend to be British, or in extreme situations, even French. It can help.
Honest, I still have friends. And Natalie Krinsky, if you know anyone who would like to see my designer underwear, let me know.
Steven Abramowitz currently resides in New Haven.