Every time I go to Bloomingdale’s — which until I moved to New York was never, but now that I work in an adjacent building is often — salespeople ask me where I’m from. I say New York, as they inevitably haven’t heard of Blue-Grass-right-on-the-Virginia-West-Virginia-line. They open their eyes wide, say “Wow!” and tell me I look very European.
I’m flattered, though I am adult enough to know this is not true. I do not look European. I look vaguely Scotch-Irish (freckles) and Jewish-ish (dark hair, prominent nose). I don’t have the spark of Spanish girls or the grandeur of a French femme. I don’t smolder like Brazilians. No, my face reads the same melting pot mishmash of most Americans. Which is why I get angry when salespeople say this to me — because it works. I inevitably giggle, blush, thank them and then listen very closely to what they have to say.
So far I have minimized the damage to my wallet by this flattery. I only spent $52.38 on my trip to the store today. I got the candle I intended to buy and a jar of very expensive hand cream. You know how people bring out the nice silver when company comes? Well, I’m going to bring out this hand cream. It’s the classiest thing I own.
One of the reasons why being told I look European works is that it enables me, even for just a moment, to imagine that I’m not myself. I’m not the girl who once sat directly in a fresh cow pie, I’m someone else. Someone with more money, which is the whole point of the exercise. I doubt Amparo, the lovely woman at the Hanae Mori counter who schnookered me into my purchase today, considered how much her approach affects me.
When I got home from the adventure, I did something practically anyone with internet access does — I googled myself.
But I wasn’t looking for entries about me, I was searching for girls living My Alternate Life. Other Molly Seltzers. What they looked like, what they did, why we were similar and different.
I’ve found two of them. Both have facebook friended me at some point or another over the past few years. One Molly was a student at UPenn, a year or two behind me. We look vaguely alike. She even wrote an article for her student newspaper. She spent a few months traveling in Europe and seems to have some great parties, particularly at Halloween.
The other Molly is more interesting to think about. She graduates from high school this spring and is planning to attend Clemson. She’s from Northern Virginia, the place where suburbia became supra-burbia. Molly also happens to be a blonde-haired, brown-browed Tea Leoni lookalike.
She describes herself as liking various things, such as showers, running, broccoli and banana peppers. In the same medium, I profess my affection for: sea monsters, infomercials and the Pittsburgh Pirates. You can see why I enjoy contemplating my alternate life as the fleet-footed, vegetable-consuming teenager who roots for teams that win. And I do get some kind of pleasure from imagining the ways our various Molly lives might be entwined.
The more I think about it, the more I’ve come to realize that I’m not angry when salespeople tell me I look like someone who I’m not. I’m just sad when the visions come to an end.