If I wanted to feel like shit, I would have gone shopping at Scoop and let anorexic saleswomen apologize that they don’t carry anything larger than a size 28 jeans. I certainly didn’t need to hear, “Well, don’t you look nice for a change.” Though, I will admit, I regularly arrive to work in clothing I’d actually be mortified in if I ran into anyone I knew. The people at work expect it. I’m a “creative” in advertising, so the fact that I’m mismatched and still wearing the clothes I slept in is part of the sell.
“Yes, well for a change, I thought I’d wear a skirt.” Truth: nothing else fit. My housekeeper had laundered my jeans dryer style. I wasn’t ready to confront the scale. None of it was a good time. An A-line skirt might as well be Zoloft.
I was in a status meeting, the kind that involves “minutes,” white board markers, and an overhead projector. Swivel chairs and L.A. Café catering. Samantha, an assertive new hire with bug eyes and hair that always looked as if it were between cuts, started in with the small talk. "Great shoes!" In turn, the other six people in the conference room leaned to get a glimpse of my stems. It was my third time wearing my newly purchased Stuart Weitzman shoes. I looked down, too, as if I had no recollection of how I’d dressed myself that morning. "Oh, thanks." Good purchase. Definitely. I wondered if I should say more. Got them on sale?
I didn’t know if it was a dig compliment. There are compliment mores, you know. There’s your milquetoast, “My don’t you look nice today,” accolade. No one expects anything in return. It’s just a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Love thy neighbor. Give and you shall eventually receive. Karma. Loverly transaction. And then there are the compliments that fall beyond the perimeter of selfless nibbly bits of flattery into the dig category.
I’m never quite sure, when someone extends a compliment, if they’re digging for more information. I know if I go out of my way, for example, to compliment her floral print spaghetti strap top, I sometimes want to know the deisgner or where she purchased it. If it’s a stranger, I’ll rarely ask because it’s breaking girl code. That’s hers. She found it, got that shite herself, made it her own. She shouldn’t have to share that it’s Foley and Corinna and she purchased it at their boutique on Stanton. Especially to some stranger who’s going to run out and buy one for herself and all her friends, rendering all that effort spent on “unique” useless. “I need one for myself” is hardly masked behind, “great bag, where’d you get it?”
You can compliment dig with friends, only if you promise to give her dibs. “I’ll never wear it when we go out together.” Believe me. I’ve done it with everything from perfume to Diors. The Stuart Weitzman’s were mine, without having to fawn upon a sole.
After the meeting, David restated the compliment in a slightly different tone, morphing the compliment dig into another kind of dig. "Yeah, nice shoes. How much do you get paid to wear them?" He meant how much do they cost, clearly. "No, I mean how much do they pay you to wear those stripper shoes you got on?" Excuse me but I assure you Stuart Weitzman does not cater to strippers, my friend. "Hey Darlin’ they’ve got clear heels, so if the shoe fits, keep wearin’ em. But, don’t be a tease about it."
The shoes remain in a sleeve on my closet door. There’s always Halloween, the one holiday where women can dress like whores without being called whores, even if the shoe does indeed fit. Still, you can call me Stephanie Klein.