14 August, 2008

meditations on a gift shop

While working at Mom's store, anchored behind the counter, I have plenty of time to think, plenty of time to memorize every item on the freshly painted shelves in front of me. (The summers are especially slow at the store.) I was thinking yesterday about the different kinds of women in this city, the ones who choose to visit The Beehive. There are glamorous women, tired women, focused women, silly women. They interest me. I wound my cold legs around each other and put on my best and whitest smile, trying to look less like a waxed piece of furniture and more like a useful human, and thought about how women shop, how women interact with another.

There is a particular science to greeting our customers. You have to time it just right--cue a bright "Hi, how are you doing," or "Hi, let us know if we can help you with anything," as soon as she steps in front of the fireplace, taking those slow steps that indicate she's just browsing and looking for nothing in particular. If she is walking quickly and her head is up, you know she's looking for something specific and so you hold off on the greeting until she comes back to the counter with her prey. Once a woman comes up to the counter, I always make it a point to look her in the eye and smile. It's really amazing how much this can change a person. Most women come in with hard, set faces and crossed arms. But once you look them straight in the eye and smile, their faces unfold like flowers and the glimmer of the human surfaces. I love this.

It's most amusing when men come in. Our clientele is easily 95 percent female, and so the rare man who walks in is always accorded special attention. Mainly because as soon as a man walks in, his countenance suddenly switches from Decisive Businessman to Nervous Youth. He knows, instinctively, that he's just crossed over into Woman Territory and there are no masculine comforts for him here. Men usually look lost in The Beehive; women, on the other hand, are clear-eyed and determined. Because of this, my mom and aunt have always said, "You can sell a man basically anything in here. He has no idea what he's looking for. And so you just suggest something and he'll get it." This tends to be generally true. Something about this intrigues me--that there can be a uniquely feminine space, that it can exist or even be created. And that it makes men uneasy. (I wonder if there is an equivalent for women, a purely male sphere that makes women fidget.)

Am studying Leviticus for the next few weeks. A question that was raised in my mind by this morning's chapter: Does corporate sin/corporate culpability for wrongdoing still exist under the New Covenant? I ought to know this, or at least recall some justification either way in the New Testament, but I haven't invested the time in researching the answer yet. It just struck me as curious. Consequences of our sin affect the entire Body (if one part fails, the rest are hindered), but to what extent is this true since we are no longer under the law but under grace? Oh, Leviticus. Who knew you could be so troublesome?

Finished Babbitt and it was fantastic. I am amazed at how little Americans have changed in 80 years; we are still struggling with the same Vision and Ideals, the same conflicting ideas of Democracy, the same family issues, the same fake churches and posturing leaders that Babbitt was. Lewis is right on the money with his portrayal of the deep irony of American Life, which is at once mundane and complex. Excellent book. Moving on next to Dostoevsky's The Possessed and the fall semester of my junior year. Glory! It's hard to believe.


elisabeth said...
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elisabeth said...

abby, this made me laugh. oh, the beehive. did you ever meet the italian man? he seemed to be the only one who retained some sense of coolness.

Anna said...

what do you MEAN who knew? Doesn't everyone struggle with Leviticus? Gosh.

Btw, I can't wait to talk to you. You're so pretty.

love love