Transplanted Life
Friday, June 25, 2004
New friends
Natalya Tartakovsky likes shoes more than any woman I have ever known. I mean, sure, we know the cliché, and I admit to giving them more thought than I ever did at a guy, but today was the first time I ever remember being with someone who has, while doing something else, seen a pair of shoes in a store window, actually squealed, and gone in to buy them. I remind her that with their high, narrow heels, they'll be pretty darn impractical in a couple of months, and she doesn't care, because summer will practically be over by then.

She then procedes to try and teach me about shoes, since the only other female who knows about me and thus would understand that a 25-year-old woman is ignorant on this highly important subject and needs to be educated is Maggie, and she is not much of a footwear connisseuse herself, sandals and other open-toe shoes being somewhat impractical in a laboratory environment. By the end of the day, this information had fled my mind just as thoroughly as my unused Java programming skills. Still, it's a bit of an insight into Nat. Her family is, as I've mentioned before, wealthy, and she is the youngest child and only daughter. She's been somewhat spoiled, but also trained in how to be social and pretty and charming since she was a very young girl.

For instance, she was christened "Natalie" when she was born back in 1979, since even if her parents were too proud to change their surname, there was no need to sound too overtly Russian during the cold war. She acquired the nickname "Natty" at prep school - and readily admits with laughter that it is a hilariously stereotypical preppie nickname - and mostly went back to Natalie around the time she entered college. After graduation, as she landed a position with the Seattle Arts Council, she started using "Natalya" because it made her sound more worldly, and actually helped her image. She's very aware of all this, but also amused. She knows she'll never be "the girl next door" except for other people who grew up on estates, but she's playful about it and comes off as knowing she's different but not feeling particularly superior. She's nice, but if I'd met her as Martin, we'd have very little to talk about.

So, she's high culture and I'm pop culture. She likes foreign movies as much as I do, for instance, but watches them without subtitles as long as they're in Russian, German, or French. We spent the morning shopping because that's what she wants to do in a new city, especially since she'd done the museums already, and figured she might have wisdom to impart. As much as people who know about me think I've totally gone girl, she makes me feel positively masculine. She was also vaguely horrified to see that spots for rings in my ears and navel had pretty much closed up. I told her jewelry drives me nuts, that I can't even wear a watch; when I was a guy, I always wound up removing them from their bands and just carrying them in my pocket or attaching them to a keychain.

We spent the day aggressively not talking of anything important. She just wanted to get to know me, and for me to get to know her, and maybe upgrade my wardrobe a little. When she heard I had an interview at 1pm, she insisted on getting me something to wear with shoes that really matched. I protested, but she pointed out she was buying two outfits, and it was easier to put it on one card. I said I'd pay her back, but evidently a few hundred bucks between friends isn't that big a deal. Must be nice.

Did it work? Well, I did feel a little more confident throughout the entire process, though I probably won't know for another week or two.

Meanwhile, Carter has been hanging out with some of the "other" kids at the supermarket some more after work. As much as he thinks most of them are good kids and kind of enjoys being able to act like a teenager again, they sometimes make him feel old.

Today, they went to the movies, and the entire experience could apparently be distilled to "White Chicks somehow managed to offend and insult me as both a black man and a white woman, and I couldn't possibly explain to the kids why."

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