Wednesday, March 30

That Three-Year Period Known as Please Don't Talk to Me

From oddball cultural critic (or something) Sarah Vowell's equally surreal collection of essays, Take the Cannoli:

"Once, when Amy and I were fourteen, the three of us were getting out of the car after a trip to the mall. The neighbor woman, who was out watering her yard, saw the shopping bags and asked what we'd bought. Amy showed off her new candy-colored sweater and her hoop earrings and hot pink pants. The woman congratulated Amy. She then turned to me, pointing at the rectangular bulge protruding from the small brown bag in my hand. I reluctantly pulled out my single purchase--a hardback of The Grapes of Wrath. My mother looked at the neighbor, rolled her eyes in my direction, and stage-whispered, 'We're going through a book phase.'

"It's such a hopeful, almost utopian word, that word 'phase.' As if any minute 'we' would suffer some sort of Joad overload, come to 'our' senses and [...] do something about our [...] shoes. But the book phase never ended. The book phase would bloom and grow into a whole series of seasonal affiliations including our communist phase, our beatnik phase, our vegetarian phase, and the three-year period known as Please Don't Talk to Me. Now that we are finishing up the third decade of the book phase, we ask ourselves if we have changed. Sure, we still dress in the bruise palette of grey, black and blue, and we still haven't gotten around to piercing our ears. But we wear lipstick now, we own high-heeled shoes. Concessions have been made.

"Still, I have been called a curmugeon [...]. That's the image I'm cultivating. But truth be told, I'm not as dour-looking as I would like. [...] I come across so young and innocent and harmless that I have been carded for buying maple syrup. Tourists feel more safe approaching me for directions, telemarketers always ask if my mother is home, and waitresses always, always call me 'Hon.'

"So, the last time I got my hair cut, I asked my hairdresser if he could make me look more menacing. [...] And even though my hairdresser is German and everything, when he was done with me, I have never in my life looked so sickeningly nice. Is it too much to ask to make strangers nervous? To look shady and untrustworthy and malcontented? Something needed to be done."

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