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tfw: You Think You Look Cute—But You’re Busted

tfw is a new mini-essay series I’m going to try to do on Tuesdays to recount second-person experiences of feelings we all have. Or maybe I’m the only one who has them?

You leave your house and you are like, “Damn: I look good.” You ride to work and are vibrating from how much you feel yourself. You walk into work and you are expecting the walls to high five you. The secretary might stand and go “Dammmmn.” and your boss may have you stand up in a meeting to showoff what you are wearing. Someone will Tweet how good you look. There could even be a stranger involved, who stops you to pay a compliment. Maybe it’s the valet dude. He’ll give you that look, the kind of look that’s a combination of a wink and kissy lips paired with a snap and a point in your direction. Maybe today is that day.

But no one says anything. Your model walk from your car to your office has simmered from a pepped up toe walk to a shoulder hanging caveman crawl. You look so good. Why the fuck is no one else feeling your oats? You planned this outfit the night before. You even tried it on! You walked around the house and looked at yourself in three mirrors. You used a different cologne. A woman at the store even gave you this squinty look like she was trying to adjust the world around you in order to make room for what was in front of her. You are both the prism and rainbow beam of light blasting itself onto the world.

No one has said anything about you. Maybe something is on your face? (Nothing is on your face.) Maybe your clothes smell? (They do—but it probably isn’t that.) Maybe you are grossly overdressed? (No one else is wearing a suit…?) You excuse yourself to the bathroom to study your mistakes. Your hair doesn’t look that bad. Your shirt is the appropriate amount of tucked and untucked. Your shoes are tied. You wash your mouth out: maybe it was that.

You have a meeting with someone in their early twenties. Or maybe they are an old teen? You don’t know but they are cool. Maybe not to you but to someone. This younger person doesn’t pay attention to you. They are nice and they smile and they nod and sometimes make eye contact but they don’t talk to you. They look through you. The acknowledgement of your presence is a formality. That younger person has more followers than you on Twitter and Instagram and you knew you had to dress so well today because they would be in the office. They are kind of fashion-y. Maybe they will “get you”? You think about this. You think about how they didn’t even say anything. Not even about the color of your shoes. (They are pink and you know that this is the kid’s favorite color.)

The meeting finishes. You say goodbye to the child and you still think and hope and wait for the comment where they acknowledge you for who you are. They see you. Not the work you: the real you. That doesn’t happen. Maybe that note will come in an email? No. Maybe they will Tweet you? They have your name and can Google it to find your information. That might be it?

That doesn’t happen. You spend the rest of your day drinking Emergen-C because you feel sick but it’s some bastardized social anxiety. It’s the hangover from being overlooked by a teen, by someone fifteen years younger than you, someone who had to have their mother accompany them to a meeting. You go back to the bathroom and you suck in your parts and you wonder if maybe someone said something about you. “They are crazy,” might have been said about you. “They think they are so cool. Just smile and nod. They’re a hipster. They’re a faggot. They’re desperate. They’re low rent. They’re basic.”

You go home and no one has said anything about you. You encountered more than twenty people you know and hundreds of strangers. Not a single person said anything to you. Did you actually leave the house today or are you having a weird sensory dream where your entire body is stimulated? You get home and you realized that you are a dirty shadow, something that has followed something bigger and cleaner than you. You are old and you are not doing anything new. Your boyfriend may greet you and say you look great but all you hear is the stare of that fucking teen. That smile. That nod in your direction, that reassurance that your presence is noted but not actually worth the time.

You go to your room and you look at yourself in the mirror and you dissect everything. Maybe it was the hair? It probably was. You take everything off and you prepare your outfit for the next day. This looks great, you think. People are going to talk about this. Someone is going to say, “That looks great.” Someone will say that. Someone who you like. Maybe even a teenager.

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