Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Although TV would tell you otherwise, LA is not all palm trees and plastic surgery clinics. LA is pupuserias and Persian markets and, today, thick sloshes of rain. I get my cliché-LA fix by scanning the tabloids in the check-out line and then I’m on my way.

But every now and then I stumble into Beverly Hills and am as weirded out as any Midwesterner.

Last night, a handful of friends who wouldn’t let me get away with not going out on my birthday met me at the Newsroom on Robertson. I got there early, though, and I had some time to shop. Or maybe I should say “shop.” When a plastic bracelet costs $68, you need quotation marks.

I actually had to force myself to go in the first frou-frou-y store, literally saying to myself, “I am 29 years old now. I will not let the fact that I am visibly poor keep me in my place.” And, um, I realize that browsing filmy $275 blouses—something I’m sure tourists and readers of In Touch do every day, annoying the salespeople as much as I in my defiant thrift store rags and Payless shoes was—is not really a radical political act.

But I had to convince myself it was in order to get over my fear of any type of shopping that doesn’t involve rifling through a bin marked “Clearance.” Because I can’t really congratulate myself on not being afraid of a little “as-is,” a pit stain or two, if I’m afraid of skinny salesgirls who helpfully remind me, “We have other sizes in the back.” (Meaning, I guess, that anything larger than a size four cannot show its face in the front of the store.)

There were sparse stores with a few racks of delicate, cream-colored merchandise. There were glamorously cluttered stores with islands of lounge chairs and magazines for bored personal assistants. There were small clusters of men and women—maybe customers or clerks or stylists, the lines blurry in this world—talking in slightly worried tones about just what kind of cropped pants were in, like, Bermuda or Capris or real shorts?

But my favorite—by which I mean least favorite—store was called Surly Girl, a brightly decorated handbag and jewelry boutique with a few vaguely affordable items (I could have gotten a kinda cool glass matchbox-type thing for $13). Most of the stuff was trashy candy a la Forever 21. The only difference was that, matchbox-type thing aside, everything cost at least half a paycheck.

And: Every display was accompanied by a pixely magazine clipping of someone like Eva Longoria or Carrie Underwood mounted on cardboard with a hand-scrawled explanation like, “Carrie with her Surly Girl Kleenex-holder at the People’s Choice Awards!” My favorite was a tabloid article circa 2004 about how Sharon Stone had made one of the Kerry women (whom I guess she was helping with the campaign) wait while she stopped off to pick up three free Surly Girl purses.

So here it is, displayed proudly next to a boxy metallic handbag adorned with fake diamonds: proof that some actress does not hate these bags so much that she’d refuse free ones.

I thought that being rich was about being classy and understated, not maniacally namedropping. I guess I should know better, but I couldn’t even picture Nicole Richie visiting this store. And I realize that, even though the store was plastered with pictures of Nicole Richie decked out in Surly Girl goods, Surly Girl’s real target customer is probably a Beverly Hills high school girl who is young enough to get excited about this stuff and rich enough to indulge her excitement.

Me, I’m 29 and still digging my metallic Payless flats. I am a happy, surly girl. It’s gonna be a good year.


Schrodinger's Kitten said...

I'd only buy something if Sarah Jessica Parker wore it, bought it, was given it, touched it, or stood next to it.

and Payless ROCKS.

Cheryl said...

Sarah Jessica Parker totally stood next to my soon-to-be-out novel.

Chelle said...

Happy Birthday and congratulations on not being intimidated. I applaud you.

And Payless does absolutely ROCK.

Tracy Lynn said...

Many happy returns of the day.
And I only pay huge sums of money for appliances. Or cars.

I also eat that type of salesgirl for lunch, preferably with a side of fries.

Cheryl said...

Here's to eating fries in our hot-lookin' $17 boots.

Erin said...

Happy Belated Birthday, Cheryl!

Cheryl said...

Thanks! And I like to think of it as "the start of birthday SEASON," rather than "belated."

thelastnoel said...

Hey, that' one cool looking kat.

Claire said...

Allow me to extend the season with another Happy birthday!