This week in a dressing room in a well-recognized Seattle department store, I had a major melt-down. It wasn’t the I-look-fat-in-these-jeans sort of experience when I am sure that the mirror is distorted and comes from a fun house. Nor was it the where-in-the-universe-are-jeans-actually-$200 hissy fit. No, this was a I-cannot-decide-on-a-purchase-because-my-husband-is-dead flat out bawl. Paul was the best person to give me counsel because he loved my body more than I do. Further, he never said “No,” but would say, “You might want to try…”
Two stunned sales associates gave me their most pained expressions when they witnessed the eruption. I tried to just suck it up – suck it up until they asked if I would at least let them try to get over this rough patch for the first time. They would not pretend to be Paul, but they would lend their best thinking.
End of story: they treated me to dinner, had me try on no fewer than 50 (!) pair of jeans, took back the pants I was wearing because they were not sufficiently flattering to my “assets,” and had my clothes altered while I waited. One guy stayed in the room with me for a while as I changed jeans, giving me quick yes/no assessments. Another one was the runner who “sourced” items. Two more were the chorus that joined us at the tailor, weighing in on the all important cuff-no-cuff question. There were tuts and hmmms and “Yes, those.” Over the four and one-half hours I was there (!), this group of men supported me, shared some of themselves with me, confided a few things to me, and formed a herd that provided shelter. They might bicker or complain to each other today, but that night they loved this gay man in a way that I absolutely needed, but could not even think to want.
I am not confused. I know this is retail and capitalism. Still, at the end of the evening, when the youngest among them asked for a hug, he wondered aloud if he had helped to make me happy. This experience challenged the limits of my thinking about community. So many of us want to do more, and that thought makes me happy indeed.