“Are you a model?” he asked, handing me a paper American flag attached to a toothpick.

I laughed, and shook my head no.

“Me and my uncle, we were over there, and we swore we’d saw you on TV”

“Nope, not me”, I said, smiling and internally admonishing myself for feeling even slightly flattered by this man in the Detroit Greyhound station.

“You sure are a pretty lady. There’s a homeless shelter down the street that needs to get more gloves and blankets, and we’re giving these flags away for a donation so that the homeless can get more gloves. It’s cold here and… you sure you aren’t a model?”

I handed the flag back to him, and reached for my wallet.

“A donation of ten dollars is greatly appreciated. If you can’t give ten, five is fine, but ten dollars would buy a lot of gloves”

I smiled and told him I was at the end of my trip and didn’t have much money left. I rooted around through the pennies and nickels for the few quarters I had, and handed them to him. He bolted then, as the Greyhound station security were starting to move in.

“Thanks for talking with me, pretty lady,” he said over his shoulder.

I stood there for awhile, embarrased at how many people had just seen me be duped so naively. Then I laughed out loud at how formulaic it was. Flattery and an opportunity to be helpful. And I fell for it, even though I knew consciously the entire time that there was no homeless shelter. I paid for a performance. And in addition I got the insight that, despite my protestations of feminism, I still like to be told I’m pretty. Shit.

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