I’m on a bench in Bryant Park, finishing Luigi Pirandello’s “One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand”, a marvelous book that deals with, among other themes, notions of identity and self-awareness of identity. I have just read this passage, 12 pages before the end of the book:
“When you’re before the mirror, at the moment you look at yourself, you are no longer alive.”
“Because you have to arrest the life inside you for an instant, to see yourself. Like standing before the camera. You pose. And posing is like becoming a statue for moment. Life continuously moves, and can never really see itself.”
A somewhat attractive dark-haired guy, probably in his twenties, neatly dressed and carrying some sort of satchel, approaches me and sits down uninvited. The following exchange takes place:
Guy (with fake friendly smile and forced conviviality): Can I ask you something? [obviously a rhetorical question since he doesn’t pause to see if I’ll grant him permission] Where do you get your hair done?
Me (a la Daria): You’re going to try to talk to me about a salon and try to get me to go there, and I’m not interested.
Me (unblinking, unsmiling): …
Guy (cattily): I just noticed that it’s been a while since you had your highlights done, and I want to tell you about a salon …
Me: My highlights are fine. I have no problem with my highlights. I like my highlights. I like my salon.
Guy (puffed up like a [pea]cock): I’m with Aveda.
Me: That’s nice.
Guy (with a huff): So … you’re … happy with your highlights?
I want to tell this dolt that coming up to me like that, unsolicited, and taking callow stabs at my highlights (which I just had done four weeks ago and are oh so vibrant and fresh) would be the same as a personal trainer coming up to me and telling me I look like I haven’t been to the gym in two months. But before I have the chance, he jumps up to his feet and runs away with his tail tucked between his khaki’d thighs, clearly daunted that not once did I break a smile or melt in the face of the charms that he thinks he possesses. I notice as he leaves that he could use a little time in the gym.
I also wanted to talk to him about how his invasion into an area involving my appearance, and thus my notions of my own identity, was ironic in light of the passage that I’d been reading when he so rudely interrupted my beautiful afternoon, and that, in honor of that passage, I thought it was only appropriate that my response to him would be one of stone-faced indifference, like that of the statue referred to therein.
That, indeed, would have been the highlight of my day.
P.S. I think I deserve some sort of award for not guffawing in his face as he tried to be flirtatious and cute while repeatedly saying the word “highlights”. I’m sorry, but there’s no way a guy can come off as a swaggering he-man when uttering that flowsy word.