The Girl's Guide To Hunting & Fishing
My best friend is getting married. Her wedding is only two weeks away, and I still don't have a dress to wear. In desperation, I decide to go to Loehmann's in the Bronx. My friend Donna offers to come with me, saying she needs a bathing suit, but I know a mercy mission when I see one.
"It might be easier if you were bringing a date," Donna says in the car, on the Major Deegan Expressway. "But maybe you'll meet somebody."
When I don't answer, she says, "who was the last guy you felt like you could bring to a wedding?"
I know she's not asking a question as much as trying to broach the subject of my unsocial life. But I say, "That French guy I went out with."
"I forgot about him," she says. "What was his name again?"
"Fuckface," I say.
"That's right," she says.
* * *
At the entrance to the store, we separate and plan to meet in an hour. I'm an expert shopper, discerning fabric content by touch, identifying couture at a glance. Here at Loehmann's, on Broadway at 237th Street, I'm in my element--Margaret Mead observing the coming of age in Samoa, Aretha Franklin demanding R-E-S-P-E-C-T in Motor City.
Even so, I search for a whole hour without finding a single maybe, until I see it, my perfect dress, a black Armani sheath--but only in an ant-sized 2 and a spider 4.
I think, A smarter woman than I am bought my 10 at Saks or Barneys weeks ago, knowing it would never find its way to Loehmann's. She knew her dress when she saw it and didn't hesitate. That woman is zipping up her sheath right now, on her way to meet the man she loves.
But in the communal fitting room, Donna hands me the black Armani sheath in a 10--the one that almost got away. I take this as an omen.
Is the dress perfect? It is so perfect.
I say, "You're my fairy godshopper," and sit on the fitting-room bench, holding the sheath in my arms while Donna tries on bathing suits. She adjusts the straps of a chocolate maillot and frowns at herself in the mirror. She doesn't know how beautiful she is, especially her sultry, heavy-lidded eyes; she says people stop her on the street and tell her to get some rest.
"No wonder I'm single," she says to the mirror. "Even I don't want to get into bed with these thighs."
I say that getting married isn't like winning the Miss America Pageant; it doesn't all come down to the bathing suit competition.
"What do you think it comes down to?" she says.
I say, "Baton twirling."
* * *
Afterward, we celebrate our purchases over turkey burgers at the Riverdale Diner. In a put-on silky voice, I say, "I am a woman who wears Armani."
"Clothes are armor," she says.
I don't need armor, I tell her; I'm happy for Max and Sophie.
"I hate weddings," she says. "They make me feel so unmarried. Actually, even brushing my teeth makes me feel unmarried."
She stops doing her shtick, and suddenly she does look tired; her lids practically cover her eyes. She tells me she's been reading a terrible book called How to Meet and Marry Mr. Right. "Their main advice is to play hard to get. Basically, it's a guide to manipulation."
I say that maybe she should stop reading it.
"I know," she says, only half agreeing. "But it's like I've been trying to catch a fish by swimming around with them. I keep making myself get in the water again. I try different rivers. I change my strokes. But nothing works. Then I find this guide that tells me about fishing poles and bait, and how to cast and what to do when the line gets taut." She stops and thinks. "The depressing part is that you know it'll work."
I say, "I hate fish."
* * *
The wedding is held at a restored mansion on the Hudson. I come up here sometimes on Sundays. If there isn't a wedding going on, you can pay admission to tour the house and grounds, but I pay my $4.50 just to sit in an Adirondack chair and read the newspaper and look at the river. It's a spot so idyllic that it makes you feel you're in a painting--a Seurat--and for a while I kept hoping a gentleman in shirtsleeves and a boater would dot-dot-dot over to me. Then I overheard a guard say that this place was just for the pinks and grays--wedding parties and senior citizens.
From The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing, by Melissa Bank. ©May, 1999, Melissa Bank, used by permission of Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc.
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