I was sitting in my car under a skeletal sort-of oak tree, windows half rolled down, waiting, wondering if blondes really have more fun or they’re just better at faking it, because of the jokes and all that pressure to conform.  If I wasn’t me, what could I be, what could I be?

Well, if I were five foot ten, I’d have to have big red hair, limpid blue eyes and, of course, an impressive rack of silicone boobs. My name would be Tiffanii with two i’s or Lynda spelled with a Y or two N’s and I’d probably be really good at the class where business women learn to wrap themselves around a shiny metal pole and dry hump to really loud music.

 Nope – who am I kidding? My growing tall days are over. If I was five foot two, and brunette and a bit bottom-heavy, I’d cultivate a wonderfully quirky sense of humor and wear dark-wash stretch jeans with hand-knit sweaters. I’d be a veterinarian or a soccer Mom and drive a hybrid car and make my kids eat steamed kale with no butter or salt. Scratch that. No kids: love butter. Maybe if I were homely with few prospects and stringy hair, I’d dress in Value Village couture and eat pasta out of a can, then read Soap Opera magazine while I smoked roll-your-owns. Nah, I’d worry about who had worn my clothes and if they’d died or something bad had happened.

But being blonde’ll never be my problem. I’m too dark-complexioned, I have no money for fripperies because I’m finishing my PhD in English Literature and I’m working part-time as an insurance fraud investigator to pay for my ruinous tuition. How did I get the job? Well, my Dad and my Uncle Pete own the brokerage house, they think I’m brilliant and they’ve always loved my baking, so you could say that I had really good references. On a good day my experiences spin randomly from the banal to jaw-crackingly funny. On a bad day, I have women answering the door either PMSing or enraged that I’m trying to serve them with a final notice letter. The seniors usually get automatic dementia when they see my ID card or they sic their yappy, incontinent-on-cue animals on me. The guys – well, if an apparently able-bodied man is at home in the middle of the day watching Montell, what does that tell you? It was the second week of the month and in my hands was a list of folks who’d chosen to drive away or relocate rather than pay their overdue premiums or show up for their appointments to defend their execrable driving records before cancellation.

 I drove down the block next to the Big Box mall, just after one o’clock.  I spotted her right away, sashaying from the bus stop towards the bakery. Louisa wasn’t a vision but she was definitely a sight – a red-haired 5’9″ person of confused gender decked out in a forest green jumpsuit zipped open over some nice fake-cleavage. She didn’t see me right away, intent as she was on grooming the interior of her snub nose with a bright blue acrylic pinkie.

I don’t know why, but people talk to me – in line at the supermarket, on the street, waiting for the subway. Sometimes it helps but mostly it’s a pain in the cheeks to have to smile nicely while I moved away slowly, so as not to rile them. When I first met Louisa a couple of months ago, I was waiting for the serving-guy to bag up my mint tea and sour cream glazed at the Coffee Tyme. She was Pam Anderson blonde then and out of the blue, she’d offered up that she’d lost her virginity at thirteen. I’d rather she’d said something about the Toronto Blue Jays or the Maple Leafs. Hell, at fifteen, I was still taking a teddy bear to bed and wearing an undershirt because I had no breasts. We had nothing in common except my gender and his/her wishful thinking and artful camouflage.

I got out of the car and sauntered over. As I got closer, I could see the outline of nipple rings through the thin fabric. A gold chain connected them across her chest. In the middle of the chain dangled a crucifix. Mixed messages, for sure, but as an advertisement, she covered a lot of demographics. She was a skin-spinner, in an occupation was as old as water, but on balance, who was closer to being successful? Time to rethink that higher-up-the-food-chain theory of economics, what with me in my hemp eco-ensemble and sensible Ecco Shoes. It occurred to me that the “Louisa package” – the coiffure, the waxing, the manicure and pedicure – cost more than a week’s pay for me.