Thursday, December 02, 2004

Defining beauty.



Having qualities that delight the senses, especially the sense of sight.
Excellent; wonderful.

beauti·ful·ly (Adverb), beauti·ful·ness (Noun)

beautiful , lovely , pretty , handsome , comely , fair

I met Solenn outside the Apple store at Lenox, for it's the only place at Lenox I know how to find. I don't usually shop Lenox, and I don't know why. I think it's because I associate Lenox with my earliest thoughts on racism, even though that's a completely ridiculous association to make.

Let me explain.

When I was a kid, one of my mother's co-workers - an opinionated old lady - told me that she wasn't voting for MARTA to extend into Gwinnett County because "MARTA brings the 'wrong' sort of people to town." And then she told me that Lenox Square "used to be a nice place to shop" until MARTA came, "bringing all of South Atlanta there."

So that's why I usually don't go to Lenox. Because, when I was impressionable, I decided that the old lady shoppers there are society-minded racists who voted down practical public transportation.

The impression, though completely silly, stuck with me, and I browse at Phipps.

Solenn used MARTA to get to Lenox, and she got there before me. I was stuck in traffic, 10 minutes late, and it's the first thing she said to me when I walked up.

Then, she stood and greeted me by kissing me on both cheeks, which I reciprocated while thinking to myself, "Gosh, it's so cool that she's French. I have a French friend! I have a French friend! Yay, France, yay!"

And then I had to stop being ridiculous and selfish, doing a jig in my head, for Solenn looked fantastic in a black suit and this cute, white top.

She complimented the blue shirt and tie. She'd seen me in the jacket before. She told me that I looked good.

So after the greetings, Solenn took me to the Lindt chocolate store for some truffles, which is something we did on our first day out together at Mall of Georgia. Of course, that day it was my turn to expose her to Godiva Chocolates.

Here's how it works:

We both go in. We both pick a truffle from the case. Then, we get two of both flavors and find some place to sit for a taste-test.

Solenn allowed me the opportunity to select a truffle from the case first, and I chose the milk chocolate-milk chocolate truffle. She chose the dark chocolate-orange truffle.

During the taste-test (where the Lindt dark chocolate-orange was named our favorite of all the truffles we've yet tried), Solenn told me about how it's been really cold lately and that she would've worn a black dress if she hadn't had to walk to the MARTA station. (If I'd had time, I would've picked her up.)

"Did I tell you what happened to me yesterday on MARTA?" Solenn asked me.

"No, what was it?" I asked.

"This guy jacked off while he was looking at me," she said.

"Oh my God ...," I said.

"Yeah, I was really happy that I was near my stop and could get off the train," Solenn said.

"You didn't move when you saw him?" I asked.

"I couldn't leave the train car, and I was the only one who saw what he was doing," Solenn said. "I mean, at first, I didn't notice his hand was moving."

"Oh my God," I said again. "You do know that I'm driving you home, right?"

A little time later, while we were headed to the party, I told Solenn that it would feature a lot of extravagant jewelry, and she told me that she shopped at Lenox on the day after Thanksgiving and found it full of "really, really expensive clothes I'd never wear."

And, at that moment, she walked past BCBG and pointed out one of the dresses.

"I mean, look at that one!" Solenn said. "It's really, really orange. I mean, ORANGE. And it probably cost $800! Why would I spend $800 on something that made me look like a GIANT MARSHMALLOW!!!"

After I finished laughing, I asked her, "Where have you seen an orange marshmallow before?"

"I don't know," she said.

"Box of Lucky Charms, I guess," I said.

So we headed to the party at David Yurman, past the policemen.

Thinking I wouldn't be able to get in, I mentioned Rebecca's name to a guy at the door wearing a suit. And he told me that he was the caterer but that he would walk me inside.

I thought the store would be large enough to hold a crowd of people, but I was wrong. I mean, it was just in a corner shop inside the mall. But we were early, so it was still possible to walk around and look at all the big, honkin' jewelry.

Solenn and I mixed in with the crowd of browsers, and we grabbed glasses of wine and some of the sushi-esque finger food.

The stones in the necklaces were huge, first of all. And all the necklaces were really thick and not at all subtle.

Solenn, as she's said before, likes subtle jewelry, understated and simple, and I kept trying to see if any of the louder, larger, colorful pieces appealed to her at all.

None did.

I showed her one of the chains and asked her if it was pretty.

"It's big enough to put on a bicycle," she said.

I laughed.

"How do you define 'beautiful'?" she asked me.

"Um, what do you mean?" I asked.

"What does 'beautiful' mean to you?" she asked.

I wondered if she was asking me if I thought her beautiful, which I do. Her hair, her glasses, her face. But more than that, I find her savvy and sense of humor incredibly attractive. I love that she came to America, willing to take the risk, because she missed her boyfriend and didn't just want to see him on occasion. I envy that. Also, there's that whole "Yay, France, Yay" thing.

"Would it be cheating if I said it meant 'full of beauty?'" I asked instead.

"I'm French," she said bluntly. "Not dumb."

"What do I find beautiful about these necklaces?" I said. "I don't know. I like, I guess, that they're daring, stylized and big. But I don't know anyone who could wear them."

Seriously, big jewelry generally requires big attitude or big ego, I guess. Solenn said it requires a big bank account, but I don't know if, even if one of my friends suddenly the money, they would become a wearer of big stones and jewelry.

I don't know anyone that daring. I don't know a potential J. Lo or Liz.

I saw Rebecca, said hello, complimented her on the party and thanked her for inviting me.

Rebecca was, of course, working and couldn't talk. David Yurman had arrived with his wife and dog in tow. (What is it with these people, bringing their dogs into places when they likely wouldn't allow the general public to bring in dogs? Janet Evanovich did a signing at my store a couple weeks ago, and she made her St. Bernard's attendance mandatory.)

So I didn't really get to mingle much with Rebecca.

As the store started to fill beyond fire-safety capacity, Solenn told me that I could pick out any necklace on display, and she would try it on.

So I walked up to a saleswoman and told her, sorta, the situation.

"My friend Solenn here likes only subtle jewelry, and I'm trying to find her something out-of-character that she might still enjoy," I said. "Can you help us?"

Solenn and I had managed to find a simple necklace in the store, telling the saleswoman that was our personal favorite, and the saleswoman told us that necklace was part of the men's line.

"But it can work however you like," she said accomodatingly.

Eventually Solenn, who usually only wears silver, found a white gold necklace of about four layers, complete with some small pearls, to try on.

The saleswoman helped Solenn wrap it around twice and fasten it, and I thought it looked kinda cool on her. Fancy, big, stylish.

"Do you like it?" the saleswoman, who was wearing a similar style herself, asked Solenn.

Solenn smiled, looked at it in the mirror and said, "No."

We put the necklace back, thanked the saleswoman and continued browsing.

Which is when the small space got really crowded and kinda hot, and Solenn and I, after having a couple more of these cool wrap appetizers they had, thanked Rebecca for inviting us and made our way toward the door.

"The mayor should be here any minute," Rebecca said to me. "If you'll stick around, she's coming."

I nodded at Rebecca, whose job it is to keep people at the party - as well as keep the caterers moving, keep the salesmen on their toes, keep the Yurmans' dog from getting stepped on and make sure that the big jewelry looks nice atop the young models' breasts. Rebecca's impressive.

I approached Solenn to tell her that the mayor was on her way.

"Oh OK, do you want to see the mayor?" Solenn asked me.

"I technically already met the mayor," I said. "She should my hand during a Pride parade."

We needed air, so Solenn and I left David Yurman as inconspicuously as possible and then sat outside on a bench for a few minutes.

Having relaxed a bit more, I then took Solenn to the Whitehall jewelry place - right across from David Yurman - and showed her some simple stones and simple chains.

The saleswoman at Whitehall was excellent.

Hearing Solenn's objections to big extravagance, the saleswoman said, "Well, you have to accept that any sort of jewelry you wear is supposed to be an adornment. It's something you wear because you want people to see it. You want people to see you and notice it. It's a luxury, and you have to be comfortable - if you're going to wear jewelry at all - showing off a little."

So Solenn showed the saleswoman the sort of diamond that she'd be comfortable wearing. Simple, geometric designs. Simple settings. No extravagant stones. Not layer upon layer of jewels and depth.

Solenn actually picked out three white gold diamond necklaces and tried on all three.

She said, if she were to get one, that the final one would be her pick. But Solenn said diamonds still aren't really her thing.

The saleswoman told us the price, $250, and asked us if we'd be taking it.

Solenn told her no, and we walked away. But the saleswoman then told me her name again, saying that she'd appreciate our business at any point.

Solenn and I circled around the area of David Yurman and stood outside of the party while Mayor Shirley Franklin arrived, delivered a speech welcoming the Yurmans and their dog to Atlanta and cut the red ribbon on the door.

Solenn, seeing the mayor, got excited and told me that her boyfriend CJ was right -- that Shirley Franklin is really short.

When we went to get something to eat at Mick's (where Solenn later asked me if French's Mustard was actually French), I called CJ on my phone to tell him that we were out of the party, and I let him talk to Solenn.

Which is when I got to hear her say that she did have fun.

"Of course I had a good time," she said into the phone. "I saw the mayor and tried on diamonds, and no one jacked off in front of me on the subway today."

It goes without saying that I had fun, too.

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