I started writing this last semester when I went back to school, but I thought it was too confessional and weird to publish. What changed is that I need to post something on my blog.
In my Southern college, all the white college-aged women have boy’s names: Addison, Wes, Douglas, Charlie, Jo, Blake, Cody, Terry, Adrian, Sean, Ainsley, Dylan… it’s ridiculous. To differentiate the women from the men, the women add a second name: Charlie Jo, Cody Blake, Adrian Margarette, Dylan Dylan.
Don’t worry. The men walk around with names like Ashley, Lynn, Sal, Terri, and Jo, so you can distinguish them from the women.
When I introduce myself, Southerners often take one of my married names as my second name (I have three that I like to use, and a few that I avoid). Lindsey-Flinch Bedder. In the South, that’s either very feminine, or very masculine.
I relocated from New York years ago, and though I still visit the Big Apple, I should really be used to some of these Southern nuances by now. I’m practically a Southerner, or so I thought until I went back to school.
Addison was a nice girl in my undergraduate class. Nice, in that she would talk to a thirty-something dinosaur like me. I have to keep reminding myself that last year, Addison could have been in f*cking high school. I’ve found that young adults are both extremely conservative and judging, and extremely willing to make new friends. In 15 minutes with Addison, I could go from being hugged to being ignored.
Early into the semester, she said something like: “Lindsey-Flinch, what is with your clothes? Don’t you have anything without sequins? Don’t you have something baggy, or that covers your ass?”
“What’s wrong with sequins?”
“When I see you, it’s always boobs and legs and ass.”
“You’re like the Internet, Lindsey-Flinch.”
That was awesome. “But you can’t get me with a Tiny URL.”
She gave me a blank look.
I tried again: “I’m totally search friendly. I can take a lot of args.”
This is what I hate about my life. I can always tell when people are almost through with me. When the conversation gets awkward and stays awkward, they want to disengage and I get bored, and veer into tangents, amusing nobody but myself.
After a flood of talking I’ve lost my breath, so I have to stop and catch up. This is actually a thing, and I take drugs for it (drugs that Addison would pay $20/pill for). It’s called flow; it used to be called perseveration. It took me decades to realize what was going on.
Anyway, I didn’t want to see that look in Addison—the “she’s not one of us” look that normal people get. So I usually tried to keep her comfortable during our encounters.
“You asked a question and I should answer it,” I said intensely, to lock her back on. “This is my New York wardrobe. Look at all the girls in this class, and the guys for that matter. You Southerners are fucking boring, you have no idea about sexy. You Southern girls are nuns until the party starts, and then you’re sloppy.”
I followed with maybe three minutes of good material about how Southern girls like her were clueless, sexless, and unfeminine, except when playing dress-up. Then I saw that she was taking this seriously.
“Oh crap, you were listening to me?”
“Long story short,” I finished. “I never get to wear my New York clothes in Tennessee.”
She seemed hurt. “I don’t think I’m unfeminine, Lindsey-Flinch.”
Yay! This was going to be a back-and-forth!
Starting about fifteen minutes after I first stepped on campus, I had strong opinions about the prevailing college co-ed fashions. I told her she might as well be wearing a burkha. Running shorts and baggy t-shirts are how you disappear into crowds of girls wearing shorts and baggy t-shirts. What’s feminine about that?
“You only have breasts if your baggy t-shirt snags on a door knob.”
She looked down at herself.
“Not you, personally,” I amended. “You’re different.”
She glanced away from me, suddenly interested in something else. I knew I could get her back if I just made her understand my position: “People like you don’t have the guts to fill the space you occupy. Not you personally. Everybody wimps out and I hate you. Them, I mean.”
When I finally had to catch my breath, I replayed what I had just said. I had called her boring, sexless, and gutless. So she had that to digest. What she didn’t know was that my opinion had already shifted. I’m argumentative, so when I say something, I immediately go against it.
Addison was actually beautiful—sylph-like, smooth-skinned, dressed like a kid, balanced on the cusp of womanhood. She was a flower that could fall either way, based on her mood. When I wear shorts and baggy t-shirt, I don’t look like I’m on any kind of cusp. Also, men ignore me more often.
Addison may have wanted to sting me back. She said: “So you’re not trying to hook up with the professor? Because that’s what people are saying.”
“Of course I’m trying to hook up with him, Addison! Have you seen him? I’m much further along than you other girls, I can tell you that, for sure.”
“My name is Addison Beakely, not just ‘Addison.'” [Names changed to protect the innocent.]
“The professor always stares at you!” she hissed.
“Obviously. Professors love nontraditional students. We have life experience, we work harder, we know we’re women.” I fluffed my hair out, and then was forced to add: “We have pencils and cracker crumbs in our hair. Great for when we’re stuck in the elevator.”
“So you’d hook up with him for grades?” .
“Heck,” I said, “I’d hook up with him to excuse a tardy. I’d hook up with him for Taco Bell! But I’m married. I’m closed for business. I can put on seasonal displays for window-shoppers, but the doors are locked.” I followed with some prepared stuff about Jade Gates and mollusks while her eyes glazed over.
I remembered that in polite conversation, you ask about other people. “What about you, Addison? Are you fucking your professors?”
She blurted something that indicated outrage. I couldn’t follow but it included a word like “choady.”
As far as I can tell (I’m great at reading people) she wasn’t really angry. So I told her: “Lose the burkha and wear a miniskirt next week.”
“I don’t have a burkha, and there’s nothing wrong with burkhas.”
“Come to class in a miniskirt and I’ll pay you five dollars.”
She stared at me.
“And wear something with heels, not hooker heels but regular ones.”
I nodded happily. I swear I saw the boy on the other side of her desk nod too.
“For money,” she said again.
“Cold hard Ke$ha.” Because I was running this thing in my head based on a story I’m writing. Here is the premise:
A broke college co-ed discovers an envelope full of cash in her mailbox, and a “receipt” for wearing a flouncy skirt and a gaping-open blouse on campus the day before. A mysterious organization will pay her a “scholarship” whenever she dresses a little sexy.
She gets a list of what she can wear, with prices. Miniskirt $20, Heels $10, Makeup $5, etc. It’s entirely optional. If she’s interested, she can try for some big-ticket items like seducing a stranger.
What wins out? Money or propriety? Being broke or being the class hottie?
“Think about it, Addison,” I said. The professor had just walked in and the class was quieting down. “It’s homework for being a woman.”
The professor saw me and gave a little wave.
Addison rolled her eyes. “You’re the worst friend ever.”
But next week she wore the skirt.