“That’s a total old lady pin,” my friend John said as he walked up to me at the L.A. Farmer’s Market. “Only an octogenarian would say anything about it. And an octogenarian wouldn’t be able to see it since the writing’s so small.”
He had a point: I could barely read the words on my California State Fair pin and my eyes were inches away from it. But I’d been thinking about Helen’s idea that a pin could be a conversation piece and decided that, since I lived in New York and was from California, a pin that said something about California could incite an interesting conversation. “It’s funny you should ask why I’m wearing a pin that says California on it,” I could picture myself—or really Kate Hudson in the romantic comedy version of my life—uttering. “It just so happens I’m from California! And I actually got it the last time I was in California!”
But if it’s not visible, I reasoned, it wasn’t a conversation piece. So we returned to the store where I got it and I exchanged it for a pin that featured the New York postage stamp with the famous Love sculpture on it. I was excited by the switch—not only was that one far more youthful-seeming but it also projected exactly what I was seeking. I attached it to the top of my shirt and prepared for commentary.
Undeterred, John and I sat down for coffee at Monsieur Marcel, a French cafe in the middle of the Farmer’s Market, both of us eyeing a handsome light-skinned black guy sitting by himself and communicating through eye signals that we thought he was an ideal candidate for the pin test. Sensing our stares, the guy looked up and we both grinned at him. He smiled, nodded, and glanced away.
“Just give him a minute,” John whispered. During that minute, the guy turned around so that his back was facing us. “He’s probably just unfriendly,” John added. I nodded but then we watched the guy initiate a conversation with a girl in workout clothes who was walking by. She laughed at whatever he said to her and they kept talking.
Not wanting to let go of the dream of the conversation-inspiring pin, I turned to the waiter as he approached us to pick up our dishes. “What do you think of my pin?” I asked him.
He glanced at it and shrugged. “It’s fine,” he said. He looked more closely. “Actually, it’s kind of weird. Why does it say 8 cents?”
“It’s modeled after a stamp,” John piped in. “That’s a famous sculpture in New York.”
The waiter nodded warily and asked us if we wanted anything else. We didn’t. When we left, he came running after us and at first I thought he was going to confess that he’d reconsidered the matter and decided my pin was terrific but he was only returning the sunglasses I’d accidentally left behind.
Our next stop was the Apple Store at the Grove, where we asked a 20-something employee what he thought of the pin; he also found the 8 cents part weird and seemed equally uninterested in the Love sculpture. He did, however, mention that if I were someone he thought might buy a computer, he’d without a doubt tell me he liked it.
But for some reason I wasn’t deflated. Because while my pin didn’t attract any suitors on its own, there was no denying the fact that it helped me to interact with men I otherwise wouldn’t have met. Even, it seemed, when Helen’s suggestions didn’t work, they actually worked.
But that still didn’t mean I was willing to consider bumping into a guy carrying a drink.