CHAPTER FOURTEEN – The Big Decision
On Sunday, Luann, Bernice and Delta went to the mall. Luann hoped she could return the mini skirt and the crop top.
She’d given a lot of thought to this whole attractiveness/appeal thing and one conclusion was crystal clear: she was 100% confused. She shared her thoughts with Bernice and Delta as they stopped to look at some bathing suits on a rack outside of ‘SwimWhere.’
“… so my mom said that confidence is more important than attractiveness.”
“See? That’s exactly what I told you,” said Delta.
Bernice held up a shocking pink thong bikini and examined it as if it were a science experiment.
Luann said, “But what about people like Emily Pidnoy in third period English? She’s got average looks and big truckloads of confidence. Is she popular and attractive to boys? No. In fact, most people think Emily’s a pushy pain. It’s as if being average means you should be humble and withdrawn, not confident and outgoing.”
“Emily has a boyfriend,” said Bernice, turning the thong on it’s hanger. “How uncomfortable do you think these are? They don’t call them butt-flossers for nothing.”
Luann said, “Emily Pidnoy has a boyfriend? Since when?”
“Since she met Jacob Chesterly,” said Bernice.
“Oh…. well, Jacob Chesterly. Like he’s a big prize. Those two deserve each other.”
“They’re happy. Isn’t that the prize?” asked Delta, selecting a blue thong and holding it against her waist.
Bernice said, “No, Delta. The point is to be attractive to someone who’s out of your league. That blue looks good on you.”
“What does that mean?!” demanded Luann.
“That the blue looks g–”
“Bernice! You’re saying Aaron Hill is out of my league.”
“Isn’t he?” said Bernice.
“No!” said Luann, trying not to think about Big Values.
Delta hung up the blue bikini, and said, “There are no leagues. And it fries me when people categorize like that. ‘You have a big nose so you go in the Ugly Slot. You’re smart so you go in the Nerd Slot. You’re not white so you belong in the Minority Slot.’ It reduces people to stereotypes. It’s what’s wrong with the world. We’re humans, not noses and skin pigment.”
Luann said, “I agree with you, Delta. I’m just saying that confidence doesn’t fit on an ordinary person as well as it does on a good looking one. It’s one more example of attractive people getting to be however they want.”
“Which is exactly the profiling I’m talking about,” said Delta. “You’ve decided that ordinary people can’t be confident but attractive people can. Why can’t we all be confident? Why should it have anything to do with how we look?”
A saleslady approached. “May I help you girls?”
Bernice said, “Delta, are you going to buy that thong bikini?”
“Are you kidding?” said Delta. “I’d never have the –” Delta stopped. Luann and Bernice were looking closely at her and she realized what she was about to say.
Delta held up the blue thong to the saleslady. “I’ll take this in a medium.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Directly across the mall from ‘SwimWhere’, Gunther and Knute were at a table in front of ‘Rockin’ Rolls’ sharing a huge cinnamon bun. Gunther appeared even more slovenly than before. He’d decided if slobby was good, then disgusting must be better. He left smears of cinnamon roll on his chin and wiped his sticky hands on the front of his black t-shirt.
Knute looked at his messy friend, feeling a combination of amusement and pity. “Dude, I gotta say, you win Grand Prize in the Mr. Nasty Pageant.”
“Thanks!” said Gunther, grinning pastry-packed teeth.
“But this is so not you, Gunth. You can’t keep this up.”
“I’m motivated by love,” said Gunther, taking another bite of the bun.
Knute laughed. “Love? For Tiffany? You call what’s going on between you and Tiffany ‘love’?”
Gunther wiped his arm across his mouth, smearing cinnamon goo toward his left ear. “Not quite. But at the rate it’s progressing, it won’t be long.”
Knute had to admit that Tiffany definitely seemed smitten by Gunther — that is, Rocky — to a baffling degree. Knute leaned back in his chair and studied Gunther. “So you’re truly in love with Tiffany, huh? This isn’t just some ‘in love with being in love’ thing?”
Gunther smiled and pointed a sticky finger at his gooey grin.
“Doesn’t this look like the face of someone in love?”
Knute snorted. “Yeah, with cinnamon buns.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Hey, look,” said Bernice. “There’s Gunther and Knute.” Bernice pointed across the mall and, sure enough, Luann could see the “new” Gunther chatting with Knute.
Luann wondered if she should go over and talk to Gunther. She was curious about this look of his and the whole “Rocky” thing. She needed a full explanation. “I’m gonna go say hi,” she said to Bernice.
As Luann walked to the boys’ table, she saw Gunther look up at her, then smile and wave. She could always count on good old Gunther to be happy to see her.
Just as Luann was about to wave back, Tiffany Farrell breezed past her. “Hi, Rocky!” she called out.
Luann stopped in her tracks. Gunther had been smiling and waving at Tiffany. As Luann watched, Tiffany leaned against Gunther’s chair and began to chat. Luann couldn’t hear their conversation, but it involved lots of laughter and flirty moves by Tiffany. As before, Luann was astonished. She turned and headed back to the bikini shop, her mind reeling. The one boy who had adored her was now smitten by a prettier face. First Aaron, now Gunther.
Luann thought about what her brother had said: that a radical change was needed to get Aaron’s attention. As much as she hated to admit it, Luann realized that her dopey brother actually had it right. Aaron had seen the same old Luann for years. No wonder he looked right through her. She’d become part of his daily landscape, like a shrub that he looked at but didn’t really see. In her head, Luann heard her brother’s voice: “…not just a fancy dress or some redder lip stuff… you gotta go for a major change.”
Luann looked up and saw a hair salon, ‘The Style Stop’, right next to the bikini store.
It was time to get radical.
Luann walked in.
“May I help you?” said the receptionist at the counter.
“Yes,” said Luann. “I want to make a hair appointment.”
The young woman studied Luann’s hair. “Yes,” she said. “Let’s see what we’ve got.” She flipped a page in her appointment book.
Luann looked at pictures of hair styles covering the walls. Long and wavy, crisp and straight, short and curly, flat and slick. Luann swallowed, took a breath and pointed at one of the pictures. “I’d like to look like that.”
The receptionist looked at the selection. “Ah,” she said. “The buzz and bleach. Very radical. Boys love it. I have a 3:30 tomorrow.”
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