Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Girlfriend Rule

My roommate and I went to Cafe' Lula in Logan Square this past Saturday morning for breakfast. We were enjoying our respective gourmet fare (her, a fritatta, and me, brioche mascarpone-stuffed french toast) when a couple, our age-ish and obviously enamored with each other, walked in and requested a table. They were put on the waiting list and, thus, sat down at the bar adjacent to us.

Mid-bite, I glanced their way just as they were removing their coats. I nearly choked on my mascarpone at the sight of the girl's very cute hand-crocheted sweater. But I didn't choke on the cuteness of it. It was the price tag hanging out of her collar that got me.

She was close enough that I could read it: $188. Ouch. My paltry high school teacher's salary does not allow for such extravagance. However, it wasn't the extraordinary price that caught in my throat, either. It was the outright tackiness of the tag's presence. And I, Ms. Cool-in-a-Crisis, had no clue how to react in this odd Dilemma of Manners. Was the tag a fashion faux pas, or had she left it there on purpose as some sort of upper-echelon identifier? The latter seemed ridiculous, but people have done worse.

As for the girl, she seemed blissfully unaware. She and her boyfriend/husband/whatever were laughing quietly, plainly delighting in each other's company.

I had to do something.

"Amy," I whispered, "Turn around and look at that girl. But do it slowly. Check out her sweater."

Amy turned her head slowly to look over one shoulder. When she saw what I was looking at, her hand flew to her mouth. She whipped back around, wide-eyed.

"Do you think she knows it's there?" she asked me, caught between horror and a fit of giggles.

"I have no idea," I said, "But I wish her boyfriend would notice it."

"Should we say something?" Amy asked.

"I'm trying to decide that. I mean, how do you go up to a stranger and tell her her price tag is hanging out of her collar? And what if she knows?"

"You mean, what if it's intentional?" Amy giggled again. "I don't know, Harm - you don't think that's really possible, do you?"

"Nooooo...not really." I was trying to decide what to do. I stared at the couple, willing him to see the tag. But they were gazing into each other's eyes, deep in conversation.

What would I want someone to do if they saw me with a tag hanging out of my clothes? I asked myself. That was it. I put down my fork and began to rise.

As I did, she leaned closer to her companion, and the tag swung forward on its thread, coming to rest on her shoulder. It caught his eye, and laughing, he reached out and grabbed it, holding it up for her to see. With a gasp, she snatched it from his fingers and stuffed it down the back of her sweater. Then she laughed. And caught my stare.

"Did you see that?" she asked me, laughing outright.

"Yeah," I admitted. "We were trying to decide whether or not we should say something."

"If you had," she said, "I'd have bought your breakfast."

Just then, the hostess arrived to tell them their table was ready. Giving me a cute little wave, she bounced away, her man in tow.

I didn't save her from embarassment, but at least I know I would have. And to her, it was worth the cost of my breakfast (no little thing at Cafe' Lula). That fact alone cemented something for me: women need to know other women have their backs. Thus, the Girlfriend Rule. If you're a woman reading this, take note.