Fake is the new real

I feel sorry for the Bancroft Lady — stuck perpetually in a billboard on 50th & Chowen. She is so excited about moving into her new condo and yet I wonder if anyone has told her that the closing date seems to have been pushed back. The Bancroft Lady, with her little cocktail dress and pearls, looks like she is ready to go to a party or maybe even throw one. Oh! I hope she invites me. Maybe I could wear my string of pearls. I don’t feel comfortable wearing them these days, what with my pay cut and the people I had to lay off and the cutbacks by our corporate funders who had to lay off all the people because of all the other people being laid off.

Besides, my pearls may be fake and I’m not sure the Bancroft Lady would appreciate this kind of mockery from one of her guests. My mother told me, much later, that when she had presented my two sisters and me each with a string of pearls that JB Hudson’s had run out (this was during trickle-down economics; a time when jewelers ran out of inventory) so she bought one fake string and mixed it up with the two real ones so that not even she knows who got which one — kind of like a shell game but in real life. If I have the fake pearls, they’ll go well with my fake diamond earrings that I bought at Burch Pharmacy for 99 cents in 1976 — the year I got my ears pierced. These earrings are fake but women compliment them all the time. I posted this fact on Facebook and 246 friends, a few of whom I even know, admired that I would admit to wearing fake diamonds and maybe-fake pearls. And one of my best friends — who I truly don’t know — told me that fake is the new real.

When the Bancroft Lady invites me to her party, I’m going to ask her if I can also invite my Facebook friends. I’d love to meet them — especially at someone else’s party. I’d promise the Bancroft Lady that we won’t say nasty things about the gaping hole on 50th Street. This hole was an ancient burial ground and now even the buffalo have died off because the lot has no grass. Every time I drive by I imagine locust and dust storms emerging from one corner of this barren land and a tornado from the other but I won’t mention this at the party.

Bancroft Lady, I’ve been meaning to tell you that I like your hair. I’m hitting that transitional age and I’m wondering if I should get my hair cut like yours. Did you decide to cut your hair before or after you decided to retire to a “luxurious European style condo?” I hope this is not rude, but what about that handsome tall-drink-of-water behind you in the billboard? Don’t take this the wrong way, but are you having an affair or is that really your husband of 35 years? If you don’t tell him about my maybe-fake pearls, I won’t tell my Facebook friends about your dreamy friend but I do hope you will introduce me to him at your housewarming party. Remind me when that is again?

Jocelyn Hale is executive director of The Loft Literary Center. She shares this column with her real husband, Glenn Miller.