It was a hot winter afternoon in Scottsdale, Arizona, which sounds confusing, but if you live in the desert you know how the heat can creep up on you like a wool sweater.
I was wearing a black vegan leather jacket (plastic); black cotton t-shirt, cheap grey watch, and Elvis Costello eyeglasses. My hair was sufficiently spiky, due to 8-great-hours of sleep. I was happy, caffeinated and sober and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything an unofficial private detective ought to be.
I made my way into the café at 12:00pm. A little place on the corner of Fake and Mall, known as American Girl Café. The joint was filled with every shade of pink imaginable. It was like 500 pounds of bubble gum got into a street fight with a gang of flappers, then they turned around and started wrestling a bevy of drag queens, then they started throwing streamers at an angry mob of pink flamingos and… you get the point. It was real pink.
I was feeling lonely, longing for a small doll made in my likeness to keep me company, shoot the breeze with, be forever a friend, you know, junk like that… “Excuse me,” I said to the old guy wearing a stained pink apron with a facial expression to match. “Can I get a doll?”
He gave me the once over. I’ve been given the once over by better. That’s just part of the job when you’re an American girl, like myself, who looks like an Italian guy.
Old Apron Face scurried away. He came back with a dame who had seen better days herself, but she genuinely wanted to help. “Can I help you, Sir? Sorry, ma’am?” She asked.
Her chipped fingernails were the same color as the pink placemats on the high diner countertop. “Yeah,” I said, “I’d like to sit down and enjoy a cup o’ joe with a doll that looks like me.” The minute I said it, I realized how creepy it sounded, like I was Liberace or something. All the other girls and women in the diner had dolls that looked like them. I just wanted what was fair, my birthright as an American girl.
Pink Nails and Old Apron Face feverishly whispered to one another. I was standing one-foot away from them. I could smell their collective breath; mint mouthwash and Hubba Bubba sour blue raspberry all tangled together.It smelled like fear and fervor and lost dreams. For some, this would have been an excruciatingly awkward situation, but for me, just a surefire way to protect myself from the ol’ bait-n-switch.
It smelled like fear and fervor and lost dreams. For some, this would have been an excruciatingly awkward situation, but for me, just a surefire way to protect myself from the ol’ bait-n-switch.
“Well…” Pink Nails began, “We have a…It’s not a problem, per se, it’s more of a…well…opportunity!”
Oh, great, I thought, another Tony Robbins disciple explaining how problems are gifts and you can’t look a gift horse in the mouth and all that claptrap. In all my years of unauthorized sleuthing I’ve learned a thing or two about those kinds of gifts, they really only feel good to the giver, because the receiver knows she got the short end of the stick.
And I’ll tell you what, if they don’t find my doll, not only am I gonna look a gift horse in the mouth, but I’m going to poke him in the eye with my short end of the stick! “Great,” I said, with all the enthusiasm of a lobotomy patient. “Let’s hear about this opportunity.”
This is when Old Pink Apron butts in. “Listen, we don’t have a doll that looks like you.”
“Excuse me,” I said, reminding him, “I’m an American girl, surely there is a doll here that looks like me!”
It was time to give it to him straight. “Listen, Ol’ Apron, girls will be boys, and boys will be girls, it’s a mixed up, muddled up, shook-up world except for Lola. Now, I know that, Ray Davies knows that, so how come this joint don’t know that??”
That’s when Pink Nails grabbed one of the “Bitty Twins.” Sounded like a mobster, so I flinched a bit, but this twin was legit. He was wearing a rainbow gingham shirt (not unlike one I own myself), his hair was dark brown and spiky. He had a twin sister (I have a twin brother).
He was alert, happy and eager to be my Emma Peel and we didn’t care who knew it!
As Axosoft’s Evangelist, my job is to stand up in front of a room full of up to sometimes 2,000 people and make connections. Oftentimes, I’m the only playwright in the room. The only woman in the room. The only LGBT person in the room. As I see it, the more I show up, the more I’m myself, the more I point out subtle (and not-so-subtle) incongruities that exist when we think everyone is the same, the more meaningful conversations we can have.
Check out #ItWasNeverADress. While you’re there, share your story about a time when you didn’t feel welcomed but clearly belonged. You may just inspire someone to stand out.
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