Saturday, July 26, 2008

Woman Unbecoming

I went to a plant nursery recently with one of my girlfriends who knows nothing about gardening, and cares even less about homemaking. She sat in the car and blasted the radio while I went in to shop, aisle by aisle, looking for aquatic horsetail, drought-tolerant groundcover, and bamboo.

While I was looking around, a tall, fairly good-looking, athletic guy in tan jeans and faded t-shirt came over and asked, “Are you finding everything alright?”

“Yes,” I answered, adding enthusiastically, “I love your selection! Are you the manager?”

“No, I’m the owner.”

“Wow! You’re so lucky! I’ve always fantasized about having my own nursery!”

“No!” he protested good-naturedly. “This isn’t luck! I work damn hard,” he declared with pride.

“Oh, I know. But luck comes to those who work hard,” I said in a tone meant to honor his hard work.

“Luck comes to people in casinos. This is pure hard work,” he said with a tone oozing with pride and a palpable passion for plants.

“I’m so jealous of you! This is the kind of hard work I wouldn’t mind doing.”

We talked as we walked, and as we did so, he stroked the leaves of his plants fondly and called out their names – Australian Tree Fern, Canna, Coleus, Hosta, Pennisetum…

Finally, he asked, “Can I help you find something in particular?”

I told him I was looking for horsetail for my little pond area, bamboo for my Zen garden, and some sedum with variegated leaves. He pointed me over to the area where they were and said, “Well, I’ll leave you alone. I’m sure you don’t want to be bothered.”

“Oh, you can bother me. I like people who know their stuff.”

He followed close behind me, poking the back of my upper arm with his finger. When I turned around with a quizzical look, he said, “I’m bothering you. That’s what children do when they want to bother you. They poke you with a finger non-stop.”

When he mentioned the word “children”, I thought of my girlfriend in the car and I lit up with the thought, “Oh, my God! I should introduce them!” My girlfriend -- let’s call her Lakisha -- loves kids. I decided to play cupid.

“Come with me,” I said waving him forcefully to the front of the nursery. “I want you to meet my girlfriend. She’s in my car.”

Surprisingly, and without hesitation, he followed me to the curb and headed straight towards my girlfriend, who was singing along with Stevie Wonder on the cranked up radio. He started poking her shoulder with his finger through the open passenger window.

I was a few feet away and could see them laughing together. They looked good together, like a cute couple with sparks flying. They exchanged a few words and then he excused himself to attend to a new customer.

I walked over to my girlfriend and before I could say anything, she said, ‘Girl, who’s the brotha? I been lookin’ at him since you pulled up to the store. He’s damn fine!”

I told her he was the owner, and she said, “What’s his name?” When I shrugged she quickly ordered me to “Go back in there and find out my future husband’s name!”

The nursery manager was busy with another customer so I picked up my selection, paid up, and we left. As we were pulling out of the parking lot, Lakisha called out in a flirty fashion, “Heh-hey,” making it sound like a two-syllabic word. “B’bye! Peace!”

The nursery manager smiled and waved us off.

I was as excited for Lakisha as I was for myself. This could work out, I thought. Of course I had no idea if he was married or not, but Lakisha wasn’t worried. She found him hot, he knew where he spent his time seven days a week, and she thought he was good “husband material.” She joked that she wouldn’t mind being a Valle-ho’.

“Well, Lakisha!” I chirped happily. “He might just turn you on to gardening! It’s tru-ly ve-ry soul-satisfying to put something in the ground and watch it grow!”

“Yeah, yeah. I’m sure it is…” Lakisha agreed.

“It’s a very creative activity…”

“Did you find out his name?”

“We can go back tomorrow and pretend I need more plants. You can come in to the store with me, and you can tell him we’re looking for a specimen plant, like a cotinus coggygria…”

“Say what?”
Lakisha exclaimed. “No, sistah, I’ll say to him, ‘Um, what do you call that thing you stick in the ground… ummm… the thing with roots… and it’s green…?”

I glanced at Lakisha to see if she was teasing me like she usually does.

She caught my eye and said, “Men like women who play dumb, you know. They like it when they know more than you.”

I jammed my foot on the brake and snarked, "Oh, really, Lakisha?”

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

-- Marianne Williamson

*Painting of "Women In Red" by Wolfredo Alicdan

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