“Did you know that normcore is dead?” my friend asks, conversationally, as we wait for our lattes.
I am wearing ripped skinny jeans and a sweater from the Gap, so clearly I did not know that and this is terrible news. “Oh, man! I was so loving that it was okay to look disheveled, because then you could act like you were looking disheveled *on purpose* and that was an amazing time saver.”
“I know, right? And workout gear as acceptable everyday wear! Everyone can just wander around in socially approved daytime pajamas. I’m gonna miss that.”
“I wonder what will be next? A lot of stuff on “Manrepeller” is looking kind of ‘70’s right now and I’m pretty sure I saw gold lame all over Vogue.” I sigh. I also saw adult rompers. But I don’t say that outloud because the conversation is already depressing enough.
My friend sighs too. “Oh, God! And OVERALLS! What if we have to wear overalls again?”
A dude in front of us in line adopts the same tone a high school teacher might use when “being real” about peer pressure, “You know, you don’t have to wear something just because a magazine tells you to.”
I am never sure what to do when random strangers insert themselves into conversations, because I don’t know their intentions. Maybe they are trying to be helpful. Maybe they are lonely. Maybe they have been living under a weird, old timey rock and think women crave permission from random men before making independent sartorial decisions. Generally, I try to diffuse these types of unsure situations with humor.
“Are you sure I don’t have to wear something just because a magazine tells me to?” I say. “I would like to double check, but I don’t have a magazine with me right now. I feel like the magazine should get the final say.”
“Yeah, magazines know everything,” my friend chimes in. “Like, I wish I had one with me right now, because then I would know if I was right to get a latte or if I should have gone with drip.” She grips my upper arms and widens her eyes at me. “IF A MAGAZINE DOESN’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO, HOW WILL I MAKE DECISIONS?!”
I think this is pretty hilarious and kind of want to high five her, but the random dude is clearly confused. Do these women really rely on magazines to dictate all of their choices? Is there really some type of publication that sets the trend for lady-caffeination? That all seems kind of implausible. So probably these women are joking. But why? What’s the joke? Why aren’t they just thanking him for letting them know that they are free to make their own choices? He starts to look distinctly disgruntled.
We are not yet at the front of the coffee line and I don’t want to stand there for five more minutes with an offended dude right next to us who might then choose to get unpleasant. I try to shut this thing down directly. I break out the smile I use when some man on the street tells me I’d be prettier if I smiled. It’s a “let me get the hell on with my day” smile that says, “Ok. I’ll behave like you ask, because I don’t want to risk you throwing a mini-tantrum. Now go away.”
“You’re right,” I say to the dude. “We don’t have to wear something because a magazine tells us to. That’s a great reminder.”
He smiles too, clearly mollified. He has done a good deed by dropping his wisdom on some ladies and his kindness has been duly appreciated. We stand there in awkward silence until he gets his coffee and wanders off.
“Wow,” my friend says, “That guy’s kind of like overalls, only a person.”
I nod. “Yeah. That or pleat front dockers.”