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Recently, I found myself doing some pre-fall shopping in Chelsea, ending up at H&M.

To be honest, H&M is one of my favorite places to go. I can get fairly cheap basics, like dress pants and blazers, then add something like a sequined top or leather bowtie.

So I’m shopping around—I found a great pair of real-leather pants in my size on clearance for $50—and finally made it to the checkout line. After standing in line for a few minutes, headphones in, someone tapped me on the shoulder, mouthing something. I took out my headphones. “What was that?”

“I really like your pants,” he said. I looked down at my super comfy gray linen drawstring pants—which I got the week before for $10 at Old Navy. They were comfy as fuck, but not exactly a show-stopper.

I took in the guy talking to me: He was short, maybe 5’6”, toned and had messy hair—but not like fashionable, purposely messy, more like I-literally-just-rolled-out-of-bed messy. With his baggy jeans and deep, mumbling voice, I assumed he was straight, but couldn’t for the life of me figure out why he was complimenting my $10 pants.

“Thanks,” I nodded, turning back toward the cash register.

“I’ve been trying to find linen pants like that,” he went on. I turned back around—I don’t exactly like talking to strangers, unless it’s raining and I’m wearing something amazing and we’re clearly about to fall in love. If you want something, just ask me for it, so I can say no—don’t play this game with me. “I found these…” He held up an armful of linen pants, all of them pretty bad. One pair had… cargo pockets on the side. “But, I don’t know. I like yours more.” He smiled.

Ian--Michael-2016-0610_045_pp_pe1
PHOTO BY STEVE BRENNAN

I genuinely couldn’t tell if he was flirting with me or not. He was either an awkward straight boy asking for fashion advice, or a SUPER awkward gay boy trying to ask for my number.

I played out a romantic comedy in my head—we’d part our separate ways, without getting each other’s names, but always remember our interaction. After a year of bad dates and relationships, I’d go to Old Navy to buy another pair of linen pants, and I’d bump someone’s hand while reaching for my size. (“Anything Could Happen” by Ellie Goulding would play in the background.) It would be him, after all of this time, and…

Wait. There’s no way I’m falling in love in Old Navy. “Don’t tell anyone, but these are from Old Navy. I just got them. They should be right at the front by the checkout line. Sixth Avenue.”

Awkward gay/straight boy smiled at me, I bought my leather pants and wished him the best. I wondered how he was going to feel once he showed up at Old Navy and discovered that the linen pants were women’s.

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