April 9, 2006

What does she care if I own the same blazer? She'll never see me again.

Women in New York are secretive about all the wrong things. A total stranger will be more than happy to share all the intimate details of her overactive bladder with you, but ask where she got her boots from and you've gone too far. She'd sooner give you her Pin.
I went up to a woman in a restaurant who was wearing a blazer I coveted. I excused myself for interrupting and politely inquired where she bought it.

I explained it was exactly what I'd been looking for, for years. She stared at me. Her eyes narrowed. "Europe," she said, defiantly.

Not one to back down, I pressed on. "Really? Where in Europe?" She fired back: "Paris." I raised a quizzical eyebrow. Then she gave herself away by adding: "I don't remember where I got it." And that's when I knew my instincts were right: she was lying through her teeth.

Why? What does she care if I own the same blazer? She'll never see me again. But it's Manhattan. It has trained women to be suspicious. Her thinking was: who knows what could happen? First I could steal her blazer, then I could steal her job, then her boyfriend - it's a slippery slope.

If you approach someone, whether it's an acquaintance at a party or a stranger on the street, and ask where they got something, you're likely to hear a range of replies. "London" is a very popular answer. Also: "It was a gift." Or: "I found it on a bench. In a park. In Geneva."

I have a friend who, when asked where she bought something, always says it came from the Salvation Army. "Even if it's Marc Jacobs," she says. "They never know the difference."
There are women who will tell you they stole a jumper from a lost-and-found box in a church rather than reveal the store where they purchased it. But I understand this. For a lot of women, getting dressed is a form of expression, and when somebody copies a look it's like fashion plagiarism.

There are lawsuits for stealing words - why not for style? Luckily for me, that's one thing I'll never have to worry about. Nobody would want to steal my style. Or my words.

Here in New York, if anyone ever tells you the name of the shop or the actual designer, chances are they're from out of town. But in London it's different. Women are willing to tell you where they bought something because it's always the same answer: Topshop. It doesn't matter if it's a bag or a pair of shoes, a blazer or a belt, and yet whenever I've gone there to follow up, the merchandise has immediately changed dramatically.

This leads me to believe Topshop is the dental-floss lie. As in, everyone tells the dentist they've flossed, but nobody ever does.

There are so few resources left that identify us as unique, people feel a need to keep the most mundane things to themselves. Recipes, for instance.

All great cooks have their secrets. But a lot of mediocre cooks do too. I tried guacamole at a party once and told the hostess how good it was. She shot back: "Thank you! It's got my secret ingredient!" What, avocado? I wanted to tell her I didn't care, I don't cook, and it wasn't even really that good - I just needed something to say. But I didn't. And when she commented on my dress and asked where I got it, I told her I made it.