“Ain’t no need of pretendin’ you’re goin’ out to the ball when you’re walkin’ round chasing the dog in the backyard and wrapping his warm boulders in plastic.” Eloise said.

This was the response Brenda received after sharing with her Auntie Eloise that the boy she liked asked her out and she’d told him she was busy that weekend taking part in a friend’s wedding. She’d made up the story cause she heard that girls were supposed to be busy and hard to get.

“What would you do then, Auntie?” asked Brenda.

Brenda was still getting to know her Aunt after she’d been evicted from her apartment a few weeks prior and had come to stay with her and her mom temporarily. Brenda thought she always seemed a bit angry and when she spoke it sometimes felt she was talking in riddles but she knew she meant well and unlike her mom, her aunt actually listened to what she said.

“I’ll tell you what I wouldn’t do, not with this boy and not with no one else besides. I wouldn’t go the dress store to wear what folks wanted or try things on and then prance around in the aisles waitin’ for people to tell me how wonderful I looked.” answered Eloise.

“It was just a little white lie, Auntie, not something to seek attention.” Eloise said softly but reconsidering her story.

“I didn’t say you was seekin’ attention, did I? I was talkin’ bout tryin’ on dresses. Listen, I only know where you’re headed cause I done been there and back. Your peers, your mama, this world and even me right now will have advice on how you ought to do things, how you ought to live and what you ought to say. If you’re like most folk, you’ll go on out in the world and try on all those outfits everyone told you looked good on you. After a while you’ll believe but in their eyes you’re seein’ their truth, not yours and one day you’ll see not a damn thing fits. It might just be the shoes you’re wearin’ one year and the next your stomach will always hurt cause ya done wrapped your belt too tight for too long, then maybe the next you’ll realize all your blouses are uncomfortable, your dresses too tailored or your underpants too ungodly white. I swear you’ll start playin’ strip poker with yourself and eventually just start tearin’ all your clothes off and not likin’ or even knowin’ what’s being reflected back to you in the mirror.” Eloise said.

“All cause I said I was going to a wedding?” Brenda asked in confusion.

“All cause you didn’t say you was walking a dog and picking up dog shit.” Eloise replied.

“But I hardly see how that would make me appealing.” Brenda laughed.

“That’s just it. You ain’t got to change any particulars of your environment or yourself to be appealing. Supposin’ that boy thinks you’re appealin’ just as you are. You never know a person’s bullshit detector, sweetheart. With age it gets better but you can never tell whose honed it real well like. See, I was listenin’ to that fella Ekheart Tall or Tilly or somethin’ cause he looked and sounded so calm and I wanted to feel like he looked. He told everybody to live in the present and I got all messed up cause I went to bed that very same night readin’ about how everybody should live in a state of nothingness. I tell you I woke up confused but did try to live like I was nothin’ in the present. I didn’t know if I should stay in bed and keep my eyes closed or stand in a corner with ’em open and not move. So after a few days I stood in the shower cussin’ like a sailor cause I wanted a new pair of custom shoes from that doggone shoppin’ channel but the timer had run out when I decided to be nothin’ and ‘lo and behold I also figured I was thinkin’ bout the past and not livin’ so present-like. When I got out of the shower, I said to myself to hell with all them gurus cause you know what, some of ‘em are pickin’ up dog shit too and others are stepping in it and the rest are thinkin’ about how they’d like a cold beer on those days they’re walkin’ barefoot and meditatin’ in the hot desert. Am I makin’ more sense now?” Eloise asked.

Brenda could only laugh in response, so her aunt continued.

“I’m glad to make ya laugh. Just remember to smile when everyone brings an outfit off a hanger and holds it up to you to tell you how wonderful you’ll look in it. Smile and say thank you but I’m feelin’ quite good with what I have on. And it’s okay if it ain’t true. Just keep sayin’ it cause one day you’ll have said it so much that when you look in the mirror you’ll still be smilin’ cause in your nakedness you won’t have nothin’ to keep takin’ off and those folks that tried to get you to wear other stuff will stop askin’ cause they’ll see they were wrong. Course they’ll still be a few who’ll keep askin’ but that’s cause they had tailors all their life and don’t know no betta. Just keep smilin’ and wearin’ you. Now go call that boy back and ask him if he’d like to go dog walkin’ whenever you get back from the “weddin’”, Eloise said with a wink and grin.

“I will right now, Auntie, thank you.” she said before hugging her and running inside to make the call.