I entered J. Crew with the brown bag I received in the mail. As I approached the counter a male sales associate came to meet me. Now, he was very handsome. Great hair, nice features, and good style. The bold plad of his shirt was offset by a peanut butter tie. His style was great which made me immediately think one thing: gay.
But as I handed him the package, it was clear that his smooth lines and easy conversation indicated otherwise.
“I have a few returns,” I say with a half smirk. I never like to upset sales associates by throwing off their sales for the day with a return.
“Swimwear too big? That’s been a problem this season.”
Great answer, I think. He did the work and complimented me in the process. I didn’t have say that I looked awkward and disappointing in it, or that I felt chubby and disproportionate.
I answer, “Yes.” I doesn’t matter if I lie, he’s already made the assumption.
“Well, lets turn that frown upside down,” he says. Cheesy, but cute.
He pokes at the computer. I look away and back slowly studying him as he works. His combed back hair is trendy, but not kitschy. He doesn’t have facial hair, or those thick-rimmed glasses. He’s just fashionable, and perfect to look at.
He asks for my e-mail address and clicks some more.
I take a receipt asking, “Can I take this?”
He responds, “It’s yours, sure.”
I ask, “Is it ok?”
He says, “Hey it’s yours, I live in your world right now. You can do whatever you’d like.”
My response is partly theological, “I tend to think that we all live in each other’s world. It doesn’t belong to one of us. So this is your world, too. That’s just how I think.”
He gives a giggle. Smiles. Hands me another receipt.
I’m about to turn, and leave, and he says, “There’s a new men’s line, for the men in your life.”
At this I wonder, is he asking me if I’m single? I am, so I respond, “I’ll let my brother know.”
I smirk and turn to leave.
Later that evening I replay the interaction to my aunt Pat. Pat is a go-getter. She’s the kind of woman that grabs the bull by the balls. She says to me, “You gotta make things happen in life. You go back to J. Crew after dinner and you ask that guy out.”
I shrug, say, “No, I can’t.”
And she says, “You can’t or you wont?”
I think for a moment why I wouldn’t ask a perfect stranger out on a date. Abduction, rape, and a terrible experience cross my mind. But an interesting conversation does, too.
I pocket it. I wait.
What if I did?
What if I walked back into the shop and asked this gorgeous man out on a date? What if I put on my grown up pants and took some control over my life?
See, I couldn’t seem to shake it. “You can’t or you wont?” There are some things in life that people will never do because they will never have the courage to face their fears and lean right in saying, “Come on fear, do your worst.” I’m not that person. I have been the past but not anymore. If there’s anything that I’ve learned in the past few months its that I don’t need to be afraid of what I do not know. Worrying is the enemy, and courage is a fear breaker. Face your fears, and you’re going to live life without regrets. You’re going to do what you were meant to do. And you’re going to be yourself.
So I didn’t go back to J. Crew. But the thought kept creeping in, What if I did?
I arrived at my home in South Minneapolis and I sat in my car. 5 minutes to 9pm. I look at the receipt. His name is at the top. “Mitch.” The phone number is right below. The store isn’t closed, and I’m not going into my house until I answer this question, What if I did?
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.
“Hello, J. Crew.” A woman answers the phone.
“Hi, is Mitch there?”
“Sure, one minute.”
Pause. Silence. What am I going to say? What is he going to say?
“Hello, this is Mitch.”
“Hi, this is Joy. You helped me return a few items earlier tonight?” I say with a question in my voice.
“Oh, I remember.”
“Yes, well, I’m wondering if you’d like to go out for coffee sometime?”
The words just spilled out of my mouth. It was better than anything I had come up with earlier. And it sounded so natural.
There was a long pause. I didn’t think he’d actually consider. My blood was pumping, heart racing, breathing quickens. I was nervous.
He finally responds.
“I’m very flattered. But I’m engaged.”
“Congratulations,” I say naturally.
He finishes, “But, you need to know, what you just did was totally bad ass.”
“Thanks. Bye, Mitch.”
I’ve realized from this experience that I cannot live in fear. Does this mean I ask every beautiful person out on a date or recommend it for others? No. In fact, I probably wont do it ever again. And I'm glad that Mitch was unavailable. However, it would have made for good material later.
But, when I’m afraid of doing something, I’m going to ask myself, “What if I did it?”
What if I did? What if I got a motorcycle license? What if I bought a Kitchen-Aid mixer? What if I was ok with my single life? What if I climbed a 5.9? What if I wrote letters again? What if I wrote this blog? What if I preached in front of a crowd? What if I went to Argentina?
Wouldn’t I be less afraid? Wouldn’t I be who I am and who God made me to be?
Freedom, my friends, is in the wonderful answer to “what if.”