My name is Joe. And I live with four women.
Before you jump to conclusions, nothing’s going on between any of us—except massive confusion from me trying to swim through the ocean of estrogen that is the world of women. And not to mention the personality spices thrown into this estrogenic whirlpool that add extra zest to the awkwardness.
Jina is a Jamaican with a severe case of RBF, speaks her mind, and isn’t afraid to tell you what she thinks of you, fit with hand snatches, neck rolls, and punches in your arm as she does. Vashti is Indian and we nicknamed her the “Queen of Sass”—she’s usually quiet, but when she does speak, her words are dripping with sarcasm. Maria is Puerto Rican, is unnecessarily loud, and will go out of her way to create drama in the most public places. Esther is Vietnamese, she’s the most feminine of all them, and also the most emotional and will cry from anything from The Notebook to a Shop Rite commercial. She’s also the mother of the group because she has the biggest heart and gives all the wise, womanly advice when the other girls get themselves into trouble.
Then there’s me—the white guy who couldn’t afford to stay on campus and found himself stuck in a cheap apartment with these characters. And together we make the United Nations—a collection of awkward disasters waiting to happen.
“And voila!” Maria says, finishing up Vashti’s nails on the couch.
Vashti holds them out to look at them and they’re glittering in the light of the living room.
“Those look nice,” I say. “What color is that?”
Maria reads the bottle. “Tickle My France-y.”
The workers in my head look at each other in confusion. Sir, we can’t find that on the color spectrum. I file it away under, “Random colors I will never need to know.”
“Guys, the wedding is tomorrow,” Jina sighs on the floor next to me. “What should I wear?”
I can help with this. How complicated can it be? Everyone wears pretty much the same stuff to weddings, right? It’s not like trying to help them decide what they’re gonna eat. But the workers in my head have virtually nothing on file for female clothing terms. They’re literally illiterate when it comes to fashion. So this is what comes out…
“How about a dress…? Shoes…?” Then I spice it up with the grand finale. “And maybe throw in a shawl?”
Jina looks at me and the other girls’ faces are twisted in confused pain.
“What?” Jina says. “A dress?”
“That’s the best you could come up with?” Maria laughs.
“Well,” I argue. “I don’t know anything about girls’ clothes. I can’t just guess and pull something out of thin air.”
“But just a “dress”, Joe?” says Jina. “You couldn’t say a maxi, a mini or a fit and flare?”
“The heck?” I say. She might as well have been speaking Bengali. “What are those? How am I supposed to logically deduce those kinds of dresses? Fit and flare? What kind of thing is that?”
“What is a fit and flare?” Jina repeats, shocked. “Just think about it. What does it sound like?”
What did it sound like? What sound does a dress make? How was this supposed to be an easy question? The girls stand around seriously waiting for me to give an answer to this mysterious riddle that they think is so simple.
“Fit and flare, Joe,” Jina repeats. “What does it sound like to you?”
“It sounds like…um…like a girl’s working out in a gym…and she’s on fire.”
Jina’s eyes go wide. “On fire? Joe! FIT. And FLARE.”
“What does that mean?!” I scream. “Those words don’t mean the same thing to me. Fit—like a fit bit. And flaring flames. Katniss—girl on fire. What’s the problem?”
Vashti shakes her head. “You just can’t stop thinking about Jeniffer Lawrence.”
Maria laughs her way to the other side of the living room. “Dios mio.”
Esther squints at me. “How do you get that from fit and flare?”
“How am I supposed to get anything else from it?” I say.
“Fit,” Jina explains. “It’s form-fitting at the waist. Flare—it opens up and flares at the bottom.”
“How am I supposed to deduce that?”
“Any logical person could’ve deduced that. You could’ve asked a grandmother on an island in Papua New Guinea who’s never seen a Macy’s magazine before and she could’ve rubbed two brain cells together to figure it out.”
“That’s because her brain cells are feminine brain cells,” I counter. “So when she rubs them together, butterflies and kittens come out. But when I rub mine together, basketballs and barbells come out.”
“You sure they’re not dumbells?” Vashti asks, taking a sip of her iced tea.
I ignore her. “How can you expect me to come up with fit and flare? Guys’ clothes are simple. You have your suit and you have your three-piece suit—because there’s three pieces. No fits of rage and sending up flares.”
“You’re just mad cuz you couldn’t figure it out!” Maria laughed. “You’re such a guy.”
“Are we really doing this right now?” I demand. “Can we not agree that girls’ terms are overly complicated?”
“They’re not!” they all say at the time.
“Really?” I point at Vashti. “What color are her nails? “Tickles My France-y”? Are you kidding me?”
“Okay,” Esther says, “I’ll give you that. But fit and flare?”
Jina shakes her head at me. “I’m really disappointed. I thought you were better than this.”
“Listen,” I reply, desperate to save myself. “So I’m playing Call of Duty and I tell you I’m about to go on a campaign online. I ask you, “What do I need?” What do you say?”
Jina shrugs. “I’d say, “A gun.””
“Exactly,” I reply. “What kind of gun?”
“And I’d be like, “I dunno, maybe a rifle? I hear those are pretty good. Or an AK-47? I heard bazookas do some damage.” See? Two brain cells, Joe.”
She’s good, my workers say. You’re on your own, chap.
And instead of going full-speed ahead to try to fly my way out of this one, I quietly take the loss. There’s no saving myself here. But I’ve learned my lesson. How does the saying go? Don’t bite off more than you can chew? That’s what I tend to do when I jump into these kinds of conversations. Lesson learned.
Lesson on women #1: Don’t pretend to know about fashion.