The Cambodian Dress

I remember Saturday when I rollerbladed on Venice Beach in what I nicknamed my Dress of Transformation. It is a dress the color of rich earth with bright magenta flowers, and a turquoise butterfly huge across the skirt part. It’s a halter dress that ties at the base of my neck. I purchased it in a night market in Siem Reap, Cambodia over 2 years ago while on a solo trip in southeast Asia. I remember trying on the dress in an unlit, makeshift corner of the market. The clipped and drawn Cambodian woman who manned the stall was accommodating and friendly while I tried on the dresses, and drove a hard bargain when I didn’t cave in to her super-inflated tourist price immediately. Like many other sellers, she wouldn’t directly tell me the cost of the item; she punched it into her calculator as if to say it was taboo or unmannerly to speak of the cost with words formed from sounds and tongue. I said $10, she said $30. I said $15 and she said $28. I said $20 and she said $22 and I walked away, an old trick, that reminds me of the advice given to car buyers: if a salesperson clamps down on a price and won’t budge, then simply get up out of your chair and feign leaving the deal. This requires nerves and decision-making skills to decide if you are really ready to leave a thing there on the bargaining table. For me, I won out on the dress bargain. I actually had tried on 2 dresses, and got both for $20. I felt elation at the victory. It sounds shallow, and I fear judgment: “What about those poor people, let them make money off of you, they are so poor.” Truth is, I personally got tired of people trying to take advantage of me and I tried to exact the best fair price for what I bought.

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