I have these really interesting conversations with members of the opposite sex. And by interesting I do not necessarily mean appealing, maybe in this case I would term it thought-provoking, for want of a better word. I will take a roundabout way to get to one particular conversation (although I must admit that I have had it with several of my male friends and this time it proved one too many times.)
Picture this: as you are strolling down a street in some shopping area, you spot something beautiful in some shop window and you know that you want this item for yourself. At this point, you do not think about the price so you walk into this shop and ask the shop assistant for you to only to be told that there is none left on the shop floor, just the displayed one. Just out of curiosity, do you ask what the price tag is? Do you walk back to the window to admire it again and torture yourself with the idea of how your life would have been positively transformed by this beauty? Do you walk out and look for the next beautiful thing you come across that you can purchase? Or, do you ask the shop floor assistant to go and check if this item is hidden away somewhere in the storeroom or maybe to call the warehouse, just in case? I will tell you right now that most of you would have walked out on being told that the item is only on display with none currently available for sell. Some of you would have simply not even gone into the shop to enquire whilst others would not dare ask for the price. Disappointingly predictable, right? I know, that is what people do.
The imagery of the item of beauty in the display window is exactly what came to mind as I was conversing with these two friends of mine, albeit on two separate occasions. Is it not that we expect to find on the shop floor an item that is displayed on the window? Is it not that when we do not expect to be told that the desired and displayed item is out of stock we walk out in search of something else? Is it not true that when we really desire to have this item we nag the assistant to double check if there is one more lying in a dark corner in the storeroom or even one that could have been left in the warehouse? Is it not that when we are told that the item is out of stock we might venture asking what the value is? To my Zimbabwean counterparts who have dealt with our Indian businesspeople, is it not true that when you nag them enough they might just find you your desired item in the storeroom (although they would tell you that the item is dirty and in need of dusting and polishing- not that the item in the display is itself as shiny as it ought to be.)
Now, if one were to have spotted this item of beauty in the shop window and had walked in to find it, wouldn’t the item be bought – assuming that they can afford it- then we wouldn’t be having this conversation, right? Oh, and also assuming that the shop people had then removed the last item from the display window. But it doesn’t always work out like that does it? There will be that temptingly beautiful item on display and when you walk into the shop you will be told that it is out of stock and should you dare ask, you will be told so steep a price that many would not be able to afford. Very few would even bother to ask if they can have the display item (at whatever the cost) let alone ask if there is one hidden away somewhere in the storeroom or warehouse.
Now coming back to my conversations with my male friends: they both assumed that I had a boyfriend (which in itself is not an issue.) When I said I did not, they expressed disbelief. On asking them why they were surprised… this is where my issue lies… they both said something to the effect that a woman like me would have been taken a long time ago. A woman like me? That is the first question I would ask without even taking them to task about the ‘taken’ bit! Apparently, my looks warranted that some man had snatched me up some time back!! And the feminist in me just rose splendidly to occasion. (I smile when I look back at that moment.) What? I was an item to be ‘got’ by the first guy to admire my looks? How shallow does that make me, an item in a shop waiting to be bought by the first shopper who can afford the tag that comes with me! Phruuumph!
Yet this is exactly what I am. I am that item of beauty that you will see displayed in the shop window yet is not available on the shop floor. Some of you will assume that being absent from the shop floor means that I have been purchased by the first customer who walked in with the required money after admiring and desiring me in the shop window. Well, I am not on the shop floor even though you will see me in the display window. I am lying somewhere in the storeroom accumulating dust waiting for that one shopper who understands his Indians so well that he knows that they do not just display some item of beauty in the shop window and not have it somewhere in the storeroom if it is not on the shop floor. This item of beauty is not to be ‘had’ by just anyone, just by that one shopper who really wants it and is willing to nag for it, purchase it at whatever the cost and go home and clean it up and enjoy its beauty. No ordinary shopping, indeed. And I smile at the images that come to mind.