I lived in New York City for five years and never had the courage or balls to go into Bergdorf Goodman’s once. It’s on the corner of Fifth and Central Park, directly beneath the Plaza and across from that one toy store in Home Alone (the store is now closed). I always wanted go to Bergdorf’s because it was on Gossip Girl and because Fifth Avenue window shopping is iconized by Breakfast at Tiffany’s (also known for its portrayal of yellowface). But I felt like such a poser/imposter, like I would immediately be sniffed out by the money police: ooo, she doesn’t have the wealth. She does not belong here.
It’s been seven months since I moved back (more like back back) to California, and I recently returned from my first visit to New York as a free agent – no work, just play, following whatever whim I had that week. As my whim had it, after a glorious day at the Met, I found myself walking toward Fifth, through the Plaza, and smack dab in front of Bergdorf’s. I went in.
It is certainly funny to be in a place where people are sniffing you out, but I am no stranger to being sized up. I can see the calculations flash across a face in an instant, the body language speaks for itself. We are no good at hiding what takes place in our minds.
I am light brown skinned, at my tannest in the summer, wearing a casual chic black trouser with a French-tucked white button-down blouse and my hair in a top knot. I’m in white Nike’s, not Balenciagas as I can see on the Khaleeji clientele collecting Dior bags and whatever sunglasses beside me.
I am welcomed at the Pat McGrath booth (an entrepreneur of whom I am a fan), but the rest is one long question mark of looks up and down, half smiles, and reserved annoyance.
And I give no fucks. I am continuing my excavation of the Met, exploring the latest art in fashion. A feathered sweater sleeve at Valentino. An interesting trio of Gucci dresses. A lovely pair of boots at Chanel. I am at once intrigued and highly unsold, not because I can’t afford it, but because no matter how we try to put a premium on creativity, people can never truly be priced out of it. I like what I see, but I’ve come to appreciate and value creativity and art outside of these power dynamics.
As I take in the “Hello ::pause::sidelong glance:: retreats back to stock room::” interactions, I imagine the hierarchy revealing itself to me. There is certainly a passport of wealth-passing that I am holding. A certain level of audacity and power in my education and upbringing which I feel entitled by. That I would even be in here to begin with. What kind of undignified response would someone receive if they were not so passing? What if my skin were a few shades darker? My Nikes any less white? What if I were shorter, or, ::gasp:: weighed more? What kind of disgust would I stir?
I wonder who has felt this way on the receiving end of my own stares.
The doors may be open to my middle class ass, but I think about how we maintain “quality control” of class with our icy demeanors, our “you don’t belong here” silence. It’s why it took me almost six years to walk into a bougie department store that I enjoyed and frankly did not live up to my own hype. But it’s really me that’s changed from the person who stood outside, peering into the display.