March 6th, 2015
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: firstname.lastname@example.org
“You know Weil hired Lauren? She just got her letter yesterday.”
It was Emma, smiling at me as though there was no one else she’d rather see.
“I guess they’re less fixated on first-year grades than they pretend,” she said, “because Lauren’s first year grades were”–here she made a soft clicking noise that made me want to strangle her.
“Incoming,” hissed Emma’s best friend, another girl who was notable mostly because her parents owned one of New York’s most expensive restaurants. And sure enough, there was Lauren coming across the room, in a tiny black dress, fairly glowing with happiness.
“Wow,” Restaurant Heiress said when she got to us. “That dress is so short. You never feel cold! I’m so envious!”
Lauren looked slightly confused, but nodded and smiled as though it were a real compliment.
“I heard about Weil,” I said. “That’s fantastic. Have you celebrated yet?”
“Thanks!” said Lauren. “I can barely believe it, to be honest.”
“Me neither. However did you manage it?” Emma said, cocking her head to one side like a bright, vicious bird. And this time there was no mistaking the look on Lauren’s face. Her expression crumpled in on itself like paper, softening and blurring till I could barely keep my own eyes from the wetness.
The first time I encountered the term kleptomania was in 2002, when Winona Ryder was arrested for shoplifting from Saks. The newspapers went into a frenzy. What struck me upon reading the case was the detail that Ryder cut holes in the stolen clothes in order to get the tags off. That could only mean these clothes were never intended for her personal use. If she needed a new wardrobe, she could have easily paid for it, anyway. If she stole, it was because she wanted to steal.
Emma wanted to steal. Many of us do. We wander through the supermarket aisles of somebody else’s self-esteem, helping ourselves to whatever we find along the way. We don’t want what we take; we take it because we want to take. The value lies in the act.
The act of stealing between women can be physical or it can be emotional. What is physical is easily replaced. A barrette goes missing, and you buy another one. As we age, we graduate to emotional stealing. But what do we do when we’re robbed of our self-esteem?
I saw a girl crying in a bathroom once with her arms around her knees, indifferent to the fact that the door of her stall was open. I hesitated before asking if she was okay. She took one scrunched-up fist out of her eye, looked at me and said with drunken candor: “My friend told me my boyfriend was out of my league. She’s always making me feel bad.”