Natalie Merchant? Who Me?
When I am in a large group of strangers, I like to keep a fly-on-the-wall vantage and watch the individuals who make up the crowd. But sometimes as the beholder, I'm given a new perspective on myself.
Before the afternoon editorial session at the Nimrod writing conference, I first sit down at a table in a lounge area outside the conference room. People in various waiting stances surround me, many of them visiting with friends or new acquaintances. A girl with a hijab is rummaging through her notebook at a another table nearby. Highschool students sit on the floor near the windows.
I lose my seat at the table when I got up to toss out my styrofoam cup from which I'd gulped a few sips of lukewarm tea.
So when I return to wait my turn, I find myself elbowing my way through the crowd to an empty place against the wall that juts out a foot or so between the windows.
I realize when I stand in this spot why no one else is already here. I feel suddenly conspicuous and as though every eye in the area is suddenly turned upon me: the girl in a denim skirt, red shirt and khaki blazer with her hair up. I decide, with just minutes before being called for my appointment with the editor, it would be silly to move again, so I strike the most confident pose I know, my "Keep Calm, Carry On" tote beside me on the floor.
I am standing, weight on my back foot with my other foot at the two o'clock position and my arms folded across my chest when I noticed a middle aged man 8-10 feet away, looking on with interest. I don't get a lot of masculine attention when I'm out, and this man's expression struck me as more complimentary than predatory. When he saw he'd caught my eye, he stepped a few feet closer.
"You look like Natalie Merchant. Has anyone told you that before?"
"No," I said, with a curious but guarded smile. "Who is she?"
"A singer. You haven't heard of her?"
"No, no, I don't think so. No. What genre?"
"Oh, I don't know. She was big, though. Really popular."
At this point I am summoned for my audience with the editor, and the man is still remarking on how much I resemble Ms. Merchant.
On my way into the conference room, I whip out my Molskine journal to record "Natalie Merchant: a man says I look like her."
And on further observation, I'd have to agree.
(More on Natalie next time! Despite her former liaison with the band 10,000 Maniacs, I feel I've been introduced to a kindred spirit!)
Image: Natalie Merchant, Google Images