BY and PX are out shopping at a thrift store. PX waits for BY to try clothes on to show him her outfits. He sees another man lounged on the only couch near the dressing rooms. The man’s long hair is tied back into a long braid, an eyepatch on his right eye.
When BY comes out in her first several outfits, PX isn’t sure how to give an opinion. He’s not stylistic by any means and mostly wears what his mother recommends. (PX comes from a well-off household, only the luxury brands are acceptable.)
As BY goes back into the dressing room with minimal comments from PX, the man with the eyepatch speaks up.
“If you want to be invited to go shopping with your girlfriend in the future, you’re going to have to put in more effort than that,” he says.
“S-she’s not my girlfriend,” he stutters. The unspoken “yet” hangs in the air.
“But you want her to be,” the stranger says knowingly.
PX deflates a bit.
“Is it that obvious?” He asks. The man clicks his tongue, giving PX a side-eye.
“To her, probably not. At most, you’re giving her three-syllable answers when she asks for your opinion—which she clearly values,” he informs idly.
“I’m not the most knowledgeable with fashion,” PX admits.
The other man now gives him a once-over. “Hmm, I wouldn’t say that. But let me help with the next one.”
The sound of the dressing door opens, but it’s the door to the left of BY’s. Out steps another man in light-wash jeans and a pink knitted sweater.
“San Lang, what do you think of this one?”
“Gege, come a bit closer,” the eye-patched man responds. PX watches with interest as it seems the men had come shopping together. “Hmm, I really like the shade of the sweater. Is it comfortable?”
“Very!” The other man answers, holding his arms out to the side and wiggling happily. PX notices how the collar scoops low enough to expose his collar bones.
Was this considered the latest style?
PX sneaks a glance at the eye-patched man and sees that though his shirt isn’t revealing, it’s incredibly tight. The sheer fabric stretches tightly upon a wide chest, leaving little to the imagination of what is underneath.
PX shakes those certain thoughts out of his head. He tears his eyes away from both men who stand quite close to each other now. The eye-patched man, who PX now seems as “San Lang,” assesses his partner’s pants.
“Can Gege turn around in a circle?”
The other man complies, slow and practiced.
“The pants look a bit tight, but Gege likes them like this, right?”
“Hmm, yes. They’re fine back here-“ the man in the sweater gestures to his backside, which impressively fills out the pants. “-but if I squat down-“
He bends his knees and squats down. Both men on the couch widen their eyes in concern as strong, thick quad muscles bulge the fabric of the pants—threatening to rip at the seams.
“Okay, ahahahah, these are definitely too tight then,” the man says as he quickly stands up. “I’ll try on the next pair.”
He shoots his partner a grateful smile before rushing back into the dressing room.
PX blinks in realization.
So this was the correct way to give one’s opinion about another’s style of clothes? Not that SL was overly critical with his words, but he served as a second pair of eyes that aided his partner to a decision about the clothes.
“Don’t overthink it. Provide compliments, ask questions, and give feedback that you think will be helpful,” SL suggests, spreading his legs as he leans back into the couch.
PX, sitting with a straight back and proper leg position, vaguely thinks he needs to relax a bit.
Before PX can respond, BY’s dressing room door opens up. She steps out in a high-waisted plaid skirt reaching mid-thigh and a white crop-top that accentuates her build nicely.
PX tries to swallow but ends up choking on his spit. Out of the corner of his eye, PX sees the other man duck his head into his hand.
“Pull it together, man,” PX tells himself.
“Pei-ge, how does this look?” BY prompts, doing a cute little twirl so the skirt flares out.
“You look…beautiful,” PX honestly says. He couldn’t find any other words besides beautiful because that’s directly where PX’s mind goes when it comes to BY. He thinks she could even make a burlap sack look great.
(Also, not @ how he complimented BY herself in the clothes instead of the clothes.)
“Thank you! I wasn’t sure if the top would fit to cover enough, but I think it looks good,” BY says enthusiastically. She peers at herself in the full-body length mirrors, then turns back to PX. “I’ll definitely get the skirt. I’m going to try on a few more tops with it.”
BY reaches for the dressing room door handle, but before she can open it, PX manages to sneak in one last comment.
“The black shirt, you know, the one with the long sleeves, I think it would look really good with that skirt,” PX says tentatively.
Except as soon as he says those words, he meekly shuts his mouth. What if BY thinks his suggestions are weird? Or he’s being too pushy?
Don’t get him wrong, PX doesn’t care about his pushiness with anyone else other than BY. With BY, PX would like to be equals. He would never want her to force his opinions or make her feel like her own opinions and choices don’t matter.
However, BY’s eyes light up as she takes in PX’s comment.
“That sounds perfect. I’ll try on that one next.” She exclaims. “Thank you, Pei-ge!”
As soon as the door closes, SL gives him an approving look.
“That was better. Giving feedback shows that you’re engaged in your time together. It makes the shopping experience more enjoyable for both of you. Even if it’s not your thing,” SL says.
“Right…” PX mutters.
“And don’t worry, you’ll learn to function with that crush of yours,” SL continues. “I’ve been doing it for years.”
Meanwhile, in the dressing rooms right by each other…
“Hua Lao Shi? How was that?” BY whispers through the thin wall.
“He definitely sounded winded…you probably took his breath away with your beauty,” XL whispers back, feeling like a proud father. “Keep it up.”
BY is a sophomore at the college XL teaches at. She took XL’s beginning environmental science course in freshman year and is currently in his advanced sustainability elective. BY loves XL’s methods of teaching; she hopes to become XL’s TA next year.
BY had run into XL on the way to the dressing rooms. After telling her professor about the guy she’s shopping with and hoping to date, XL suggests they get dressing rooms beside each other. That way, he can guide her in assessing whether PX is romantically interested in her.
PX, who is in a completely different school, didn’t recognize XL or his partner. XL had texted HC about BY’s simulation beforehand. HC, content to coach this child in proper etiquette when shopping with anyone you care about, sneaks a glance at XL as he walks back after another mini-catwalk.
XL and HC know these two will be just fine.
(HC: “Gege, I may have…a crush on you.” 🥺
XL: “San Lang, we’ve been together for eight years, married for five.”
XL: “I have a crush on you too.” 😇)