Friday, March 07, 2008

The Catwalk

Over the summer I had an interesting conversation with my 9-year-old niece, Janae. She's my older brother's youngest child. They live in the midwest, but she and her older sister, LeeAnn, have spent most of their summers with my parents in north Louisiana. These two are a hilarious pair and this summer, their comedic entertainment was on another level. We were all just amazed at how much they had grown up over the past year.

We had just returned from our family reunion in Orlando and I was preparing to leave the next morning a come back to Baton Rouge. My mom and I were sitting at the kitchen table, as well as Janae. I don't know about anybody else's family, but at my parents' house, whenever anything important is being discussed, it all happens at the kitchen table. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and between meals...the kitchen is information central. With that being said, I can't remember exactly how the conversation began, but I soon realized that I was getting schooled and Miss Janae was the teacher.

Her concern with me was that I was without a husband or even a boyfriend. It just didn't make sense to her. Then she began to offer her services as a relationship counselor. Now, my mother and I are sitting directly across from each other and by now we are both frozen in our chairs hanging on to every word that's coming out of this child's mouth...barely breathing, trying not to miss a word...working so hard to keep our laughter muffled that tears just began to stream down our faces. All the while, Janae is sitting at the head of the table, comfortably facilitating this discussion with the skill of a seasoned therapist.

Janae: So, Ain'Nita, where do you go? What do you do for fun?

Me: Nothing really. Work, church, home. That's about it. I go to the grocery store a lot.

J: Hmm. The grocery store is a good place to meet men.

Me: Really? okay

J: Yeah, but when you meet a man you have to ask some questions to find out what he's all about.

Me: Oh, okay. What do I need to ask?

J: First, you need to find out if he has a job. It doesn't have to be a fancy job, we just need to know that he works. Second, find out if he's ever been to jail or in trouble with the police. Third, find out if he's ever cheated on his wife (if he was married before) or on his girlfriend.

Me: So I'm just supposed to come out and ask these questions? What if he doesn't tell the truth?

J: See, when he gets ready to answer, make him look you in the eye. You can tell if he's telling the truth by the way his eyes look.

Then she decided to prove her theory on my dad. She went into the living room where he was and asked him a series of questions, demanding that he look her in the eyes when he answered. When she came back to the table shaking her head she said, "Grandma, Grandpa is lying. You better watch him." As you can imagine, by then we need a box of kleenex, cause the tears are flowing.

Now, as she continued to teach me how to attract a man's attention, she realized that there was one key element that I seemed to not possess. The Catwalk. As my eyes got big, I asked, "what's the catwalk?" She said that it's sort of just like how the models walk on the runway, with one foot in front of the other. Keep your back straight and your head up. Real smooth like you're walking on a treadmill. She was convinced that this method works because she had advised other friends to do it and they now have boyfriends.

Hmm. Okay. The Catwalk.

The conversation continued on for well over an hour and as ashamed as I am to say it, I was actually listening. It was alarming to hear this level of insight coming from a nine year old, but I have to admit she was right. Men are looking for a certain confidence. They are attracted to a woman who is sure of herself and knows who she is. That is the epitome of the catwalk. Walking tall, back straight, head held high, confident. Going somewhere.

I left that Saturday evening headed back to Baton Rouge. On my way home I stopped at the Whole Foods Market to get something to eat since I had been away and didn't have any food to cook. As I sat at the counter waiting for my order, my phone rang. It was Janae. She forgot to tell me something.

J: Ain'Nita where are you?

Me: At the grocery store.

J: Really?! *in a sly voice* Did you try the catwalk?

Me: *Laughing* Not really. I don't think I'm doing it right.

J: Well, I forgot to tell you something about the catwalk. Try not to do too much. Not too much twisting or side-to-side. Just remember to keep it straight and real smooth like on a treadmill, okay? And be careful when you do it at the grocery store because a man might follow you home.

Me: *Laughing* Okay, I gotta go.

So Sunday right after church, I went back to Whole Foods to get groceries. I didn't even go home to change clothes. I was still wearing my black suit and my red patent leather pumps. As I exited the store and headed to my car, I noticed an SUV circle the parking lot and pull up behind me.

Man: Hey, I like your shoes.

Me: Thank you.

He was somebody's grandaddy, so I wasn't interested in having a prolonged conversation. I hurried up and jumped in my car. Laughing to myself, I realized that he noticed me from across the parking lot. He complimented the shoes, but I don't think that's what caught his attention. It was something more. An aura. A vibe. An energy...

I think I mastered the Catwalk.

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