Friday, August 04, 2006

The forces of darkness

I needed to buy some new shades, my old ones having been slightly wonkily perched upon my face since I sat on them three years ago and bent them a little out of shape. Oh, and I’d lost them as well.

Now, I don’t like shopping for things (other than books); in particular, I’m generally unable to make decisions on things that affect my appearance. When I’m forced to shop for clothes, I try to find a cool day and wear a light t-shirt, to minimise the amount of panicked, confused sweating involved. Haircut decisions are utterly impossible, which is one reason why I’ve had my hair very short all over for several years.

So there I was, standing in the shop, perusing the various sunglasses on offer. I managed to rule out several on grounds of garishness and cost. I tried a few on, looked in the mirror, and managed to find a couple of pairs that seemed to be more or less OK. But I couldn’t rule out the possibility that they made me look like an idiot.

Out of the corner of my eye, I realised there was a girl a couple of feet to my side, also looking at shades. It struck to me that I could ask her what she thought of them, thus cutting through the painful dithering and also, perhaps, pulling off a neat chat-up line into the bargain.

But then I froze, as something awful dawned on me: What if I’m standing here trying on women’s sunglasses?

She was browsing the same display as me, and there was no indication anywhere of which might be men’s and which women’s. Are shades unisex? I have no idea. And clearly this isn’t the sort of thing you can ask some random stranger without embarrassment.

(I’ve been a victim of this before: once, I was in a shop taking pairs of jeans off the shelves one after the other to try to find some that had a zip fly – buttons annoy me. After a minute or two, a saleswoman came up to me and pointed out – not in so many words, bless her – that I was in fact peering at the crotches of numerous pairs of women’s jeans. I left the shop almost immediately. But there were no 'Men'/'Women' signs!!!)

Anyway, at this point a wholly new and unexpected element of uncertainty had wrestled me to the ground, and I started to think that it might be best if I just didn’t bother, and go around for the rest of the summer squinting – but squinting without looking like either an idiot or a half-hearted cross-dresser. Consumerism was obviously not for me, and I should scurry back home, skulk in the shadows and nurse my fear.

Then, though, something else dawned on me: That’s just what the terrorists want! They want us to be afraid to go about our daily lives, they want to bring down Western capitalism, and they want us to be too blinded by the sun to spot all those bombs they leave lying around.

So I bought a pair. And I’m wearing them right now. Screw you, Osama.

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