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Patios and Pajamas

A sign of a life well lived is Patios and Pajamas.   If you are sitting on a porch, patio, deck or landing in your pajamas, enjoying reading or viewing material along with your beverage of choice, you may assume you have finally “arrived.”  Look around, breathe deeply and appreciate the moment.

You may be on your own landing or someone else’s. You could be renting a view for the day. If friends and family are nearby you are fortunate, and if furry friends are nearby so much the better. And if something wild acknowledges you, it’s the closest thing to magic besides being in love.

Escape from the ER

So, here we go again.

After almost 2 years without an incident I’m passing out again. It’s been random as usual. It’s also very confusing as usual, since the medical bills keep coming and it’s hard to keep track.

The other day, shortly after the base ambulance dropped me off at the local emergency room, I escaped with Spooky at his urging.  A nurse helped us sneak out.  So long as we hadn’t seen a doctor yet, she said, it was OK for us to leave.

My car is still on the base and I’ve been working at home, or riding to work with a colleague. The downside to not being able to drive is that so many errands go un-run. I have to rely on other people and feel bad about it.

The upside to not being able to drive is . . . not blowing all my money at TJ Maxx?  Actually, the best part is working at home on days when I can’t carpool.  Without a commute I get an hour at the end of my work day to read outdoors in the cool air.

Whether or when to get on the road is my judgment call, as there are no restrictions with my condition.  I should be able to drive safely, in the sense that I ought to feel crappy enough before a spell to stay at home.  At least, that’s the theory: If it were actually true I wouldn’t have gone to work that day.  Actually, I did feel like crap that day. I should have known better.

Kelly Gray circa 1999

During random dissassociative moments I find myself googling for vintage St. John ads.  I do it in part  because pop culture has destroyed my mental image of the midlife female with “Cougar Town” and reality TV, and I may be trying to scrub Hollywood’s Disgraceful Older-Woman imagery out of my brain with more appealing images.  The old St. John ads were purposeful design parodies, and they were fabulous, and the sophisticated look was in vogue in the late 90’s when I got divorced and started buying my own clothes.

The other reason is, I just bought my first St. John dress:

Isn’t it ordinary looking?  It’s really not: The department just store picks the wrong models for their established designer lines. On a middle aged woman with some shape St. John knits are perfect:  Professional, forgiving, just right, worth the price, but only on clearance.    I was lucky enough to be in a store that had my size: One of their stylists picked it out for me and I fell in love with the quality and the fit.  There is a reason the St. John Tribe is so devoted:  It’s one of the few design houses that cater the midlife body. Customers scream bloody murder when new designers try to “update” the style or fit.

As a woman at midlife, I find that if I want notice, I must command it. Waiters can be slow to respond to my black Banana Republic pantsuits. But they “ma’am” my St. John.

My first St. John was a $1000+ splurge, but I’d just gone through a period of extreme wardrobe aggravation. My super-abundant closet space had been overstuffed with clothes I loved but couldn’t wear, not because I’d gotten “fat” but because my body had changed shape without my permission.  My ribcage expanded, which made button-up shirts out of the question. All of a sudden I had hips . . . which was good in a way, since I’d never really had them before, but DAMN, I couldn’t button my tailored pants anymore.

Much in the way one’s eyesight fails in one’s forties, there is nothing that can be done about middle aged spread except buy new clothes.  This is why women in their forties wear yoga pants all the time:  We don’t want to admit we’ve reached the elastic-waistband-pants stage of our older female relatives, who we swore we’d never look like.  Unfortunately Time doesn’t care what we think.

I finally boxed my old size (4) and put them in the attic for some future when I magically reverted to my old weight, as if that would ever happen. I decided to give them to my niece. A year later, I boxed my size 6 clothes, and will probably give them to my younger sister.  Today, some of my 8’s don’t even fit, unless they’re knits, which means my wardrobe is now 95% knits. I’ve come to terms with it, and found a way to make it all look professional.  The smartest tactic was to go high-end retail on important items, and fill in the rest with stealth.  I went crazy during Coldwater Creek’s going out of business sale, and returned to my old online standby, Boston Proper’s slowly-morphing travel collection. Some recent acquisitions:

One would think I’d find solace in my shoes, because at least feet don’t get fat, right?  WRONG.  Feet expand and contract when hormones go whackadoodle.  For a year or so my feet shrank a whole size.  Then they grew back.  Now even they are tight.  Consequently my closet is full of shoes I can’t wear on any given day so . . . My advice?  Unless they are adjustable, shoes are NOT an “investment.”  DO NOT DO THIS:

So am I finally reconciled with my new body and my new closet? More or less, since Spooky doesn’t give a flip either way.  I can get through a work week without headaches now, and my old clothes no longer taunt me from their hangers. Out of sight, out of mind!  The shoes though . . . both my feet and my pocketbook say “Ouch.”

Emergence

femme

Finally framed my Merglenn print! Isn’t it interesting where the flash hit?  Looks like I haven’t quite reached the third frame yet. But soon . . .

I was going to write a post with my *new* New Year’s Resolutions but got sidetracked.  It’s no big deal: Besides the generic “get organized, get out of debt and save money” I didn’t really have any.  I had purchased a scanner and planned to go paperless, but that would be a multi-year project.  I planned to spend more time on crafty/artistic pursuits, but had no specific goals, just a “do it already, get busy, do stuff.”  Meaningful stuff. Whatever that meant.

I took a loan from my 401K for my new roof

Last year’s resolutions were mostly met but for the financial ones. I have a good reason though: I was partially furloughed last summer and had to take a 20% pay cut. I was fully back to work after about a month and a half, but it was a setback nonetheless.

Things have been tight but I can finally see daylight at the end of the tunnel, so long as I’m not derailed by another medical emergency. First order of business after certain debt payoffs is a financial cushion, one I’ve not fully enjoyed for at least fifteen years.  Getting out of debt completely is second on the list, though it will take longer than a year to achieve. Still, the path forward is clear, and I look forward to a bright, sunny, debt-free existence in the near future.

crow-585x272 (1)

One thing I have “resolved” to do – which I suppose qualifies it as a “resolution,”  –  is spend more time in the sun. This decision came to me seemingly unbidden a few days ago, when I was  . . . well, doing whatever I was doing, minding my own business, probably housework.

While busy with this mundane whatever, something that *felt* like the last stanzas of a poem invaded my thoughts.  Something about putting my face to the sun before I die.  The thought, and the image it evoked, felt important, magical even.  So as not to dwell on it I quickly put it in a mundane context: “Okay,” I thought, “I will put my face in the sun. I spend too much indoors, could probably use the vitamin D.  In fact maybe it will prevent me from dying sooner.”

Jose Marti

Of course I Googled the phrase eventually, and found this poem by Jose Marti, the poet who inspired the Cuban independence movement:

I wish to leave the world
By its natural door;
In my tomb of green leaves
They are to carry me to die.
Do not put me in the dark
To die like a traitor;
I am good, and like a good thing
I will die with my face to the sun.

A Morir [To Die] (1894)

To the best of my knowledge, I’d neither read nor heard this poem before.  I’ll do my best to remain unperturbed that the poem is about death, which is *not* on my list this year.  Stepping outside to enjoy the sunshine, however, finally is.

This is always on my list

Drinking more wine is ALWAYS on my resolutions lists. A nightly glass of low-alcohol table wine really does seem to help my digestion.  My insides feel “healed” now, and I have a gut feeling (haha) that it’s due to important changes in my intestinal flora.  There is even evidence for this being the case, so . . . that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

WebMD: Drinking Wine is Good for Gut Bacteria

Enough about the resolutions. So what’s new? Bunny is getting ready to graduate from UArts and recently announced a move to California with her boyfriend. Thinking about it feels a bit like the wind being sucked out of me.  Then I take a deep breath and remember that this is the way life is supposed to go:  Kids grow up, learn trades, find mates and fly the coop, not necessarily in that order.  My child is right on schedule, and all is as it should be.

Hiatus

I do math all day at work

For those of you who attempted to comment while I was on hiatus from blogging, THANK YOU and SO SORRY I it took me so long to find you! All comments are now approved.

Where have I been? I wish my answer were more interesting: I’ve been working late nights. I was approved for a “reasonable accommodation” at my job, due to my morning dizzy spells. Now I get to work when I can and put in my time. When I get home from work it’s usually well past dark, and Spooky (bless him) usually has dinner on the table or is about to. No time for blogging! After dinner, I look after the cats and go to bed.

As Time Goes By . . . still a lot of catching up to do

On weekends we play catch-up, same as any 2-career couple with full lives.  No time for blogging! On my days off I’m at my other house, painting and spackling and sanding, getting it ready for a sale this spring. Yes, I’m selling the house!

I’m exhausted. Sometimes I look in the mirror and see Judi Dench staring back at me. Which wouldn’t be a problem – I mean, she’s a great actress and looks great – but she’s 78 years old! I’m fortysomething!  I hope she was fortysomething when she did As Time Goes By, because I swear I can relate to her character.

Will I keep blogging? I want to, so I believe I will.

Just so you know:  It’s embarrassing when you start getting collection-type phone calls from a Catholic charity hospital.   It’s bad enough to have a bill collector call, but when the nuns come after you, that feels serious.

It’s not that I don’t have the money; I do.  It’s just that the billing and insurance got so confusing, and it was shocking to see some of the large dollar amounts on some of those bills.  A “facilities charge” for a simple diagnostic?  Were they shitting me?

Here’s something annoying:  Every trip to the emergency room translated to several bills, and I had three trips to the ER over a short period of time and it seems every doc/technician who poked his/her head through my curtain was an independent contractor who sent his/her own bill. Sometimes they’d bill me repeatedly, so I got confused over which bill it was and whether or not I’d already paid it.

Then there were the bills from the tests.  Test for this, tests for that, all of which by the way have turned out NORMAL.  Every one of these doctors and laboratories had to get in line and wait until it was all sorted out.  I’m up to my February appointments, and have Bunny’s rent to pay, thus they will need to wait.

Not to mention I’m about to receive a furlough notice from my job. Sequestration, bitchez.

So, I’ve decided to take a break from the medical, despite not yet having a diagnosis. Then again, perhaps it’s best NOT to have a diagnosis.  At least, that’s what my cardiologist told me last week. My tilt table test was a bust, because the hospital (Lourdes Camden same-day surgery, great place) had me pumped up on saline, which meant I FELT GREAT!!!  “This ride is boring,” I complained. “But I feel great on this IV drip, can I take it home with me?”

“It sounds like your problem is dehydration,” said the doctor who performed my test.

My cardiologist agreed. “Seems you have an issue with retaining fluids.”

Sigh. No kidding. I officially knew as much now as I did before I began my investigation.  “Sjogrens? Maybe?” I suggested. “I have the eye thing too.”

“Do you really need a label for it?” he asked. “Maybe you should quit while you’re ahead.”

I shrugged. Since there was no cure for Sjogren’s I suppose it didn’t matter.

“Right now, as things stand, your health looks perfect. I could sell you life insurance and make a fortune.” He gave me a meaningful look, as if he were telling me, without actually telling me, that there would be financial consequences for a diagnosis.  A diagnosis that, at the end of the day, probably wouldn’t help me a bit, especially since I was ALREADY doing everything I could do to help my symptoms.

He was probably right.

Pinky Clouds


Here’s an idea: Every January, do a word cloud of your previous year’s writings. The above is what happens when I type my blog address into a random word cloud generator.  It seems to catch the first “page” of my blog, and it’s clear I’ve spent the last few posts muttering about all my stuff.

I cut and pasted my text from my 2012 writings and got this: Ordinary words with plenty of qualifiers, almost as if I’m making excuses for something:  “because,” “actually,” “just,” “probably,” “only,” etc.

And when you take my whole blog, you get this:

Just All About Pinky and Spooky.  Which basically means I’m an ordinary gal with an online diary. Interesting exercise.

I’ve put things off for WAY too long.  It’s time to get rid of about one third of my worldly possessions, and move the remainder within reach.

I have lots of stuff. I’m a Taurus, I can’t help it:  I need physical possessions, especially things that make me feel safe, secure, and comfortable. Material uncertainty, even ambiguity, will slowly drive a Taurus mad. We Taureans like to HAVE and to HOLD.  Come to think of it, marriage might have been invented by a Taurus, perhaps one with Venus in Scorpio.

Our things tell our story, for better or for worse.  Today I look at my “story” and know it’s a big mess.   “Hi, my name is Pinky I’m in limbo,” it says. “Much of what matters to me is out of reach in a money pit of a house I don’t live in. I have a ton of junk I won’t need since I’m gettting married but might need if I don’t, but I don’t like thinking about it, so it just sits there in the dark and damp, mouldering away.”

There is so much to read into that story, but for now I’ll just focus on the STUFF.

One does not need a hoarding disorder to have a complicated relationship with physical objects.   In America, even people who have difficulty paying their bills have Too Much Stuff.  Blame Credit Card Capitalism and a two-decades long national shopping binge. Americans have been trained by The Corporatocracy to associate consumer behavior with identity. “I shop therefore I am.” I’m no different than anyone else in this regard. Actually, I’m probably worse.

Identity-shopping WILL lead to wayyyyyyy too much stuff eventually, since we go through several life stages and/or frequently change our minds about who we want to be.  Who are we, or more like, who do we want people to think we are?  Athletic? We have gear. Tech savvy? We have gadgets. Cultured? We have books and wine cabinets and cigar boxes.  “Good parents?” Cribs and carseats and toys and bikes and . . .

Bleah.

The solution is to get rid of the stuff when it no longer has a place in our lives, but too many of us have a problem letting go.  We spent good money on it (so?). We might “need it” again (doubt it).  It could be worth money someday (unlikely).  For some of us, that quarterly haul to Goodwill is cathartic, but for the of us, our stuff only litters our lives and makes us unhappy.

Then, there is the hoarding. I definitely went through a hoarding phase during a particularly fearful and lonely part of my life.

Most hoarding behavior is anxiety-driven, fear being more deep-seated than guilt or regret. I can relate to this woman‘s struggle against hoarding. In fact, just to share, here’s where I store the paper goods.  And that’s not all! I still have over 50 rolls of toilet paper stored at an unoccupied house 30 miles away. A house that’s still chock full of STUFF. While shopping I resist buying more because irrational anxieties notwithstanding, I know there will not be a Toilet Paper Apocalypse. At some point one just needs to say enough already.

Beth Shak admits her bad marriage fueled her shoe addiction

As a Taurus, I know that in addition to my need for physical security I have a weakness for luxury, especially luxury the form of material objects with staying power.  I have good taste and for the most part do not regret the majority of my purchases. However, I can see the main categories in which I went overboard back in the day:  Fancy shoes, clothes, alcohol, housewares and books.  I didn’t need them; rather I was lonely, and I bought them to fill the emptiness inside.  It’s a lot to haul around, and I still have the VISA bill, so technically I haven’t even paid for it all yet.

I’m not alone, though:  I know people who claim to be immune to marketing, people who would never admit to questionable shopping/hoarding tendencies, yet who express frustration at their cluttered living conditions, thinking (erroneously) that they don’t have enough space.  At least when I express my own frustration over Too Much Shit I know where the frustration comes from; i.e., a feeling of loss of control, of disregulation, of a life ruled by Fear instead of Love. We use STUFF to fill the Void.

Oh yummy BPA-lined cans. Shit.

For instance, I know my Apocalypse Pantry from 2007-2008 came from a place of Fear. Five years later its contents are 80% used up and I’m in no rush to replace them.   I’ve lost that Doomer mindset and my prepping is more practical today, oriented more toward temporary weather conditions and supply shortages than TEOTWAWKI.   There are folks much better prepped than I who still stockpile food and gear the way squirrels bury nuts.  They may be unable to shake their sense of creeping doom, but I suspect it’s probably not due to their lack of material possessions but due to the Core Fear, i.e., a deep-seated (possibly genetic or medical) anxiety that would probably be better served by a dose of Zoloft, some magnesium and vitamin D supplements, a good book or movie, a big turkey dinner and a cuddle.

(NOTE: I no longer hoard canned goods, mostly due to the fact that they’re lined with bisphenol-A.  What remains of my prepping hoard is mostly dried foods.)

When is “enough enough?”  A good sign that it’s time to slow down is when you need a management system to look after it all. Unfortunately for my habits, on this point both Spooky and I agree: There is no such thing as too many books. Mine are even Dewey-Decimaled:  The above photograph shows series 300 through 800. Series 100-300 are in Spooky’s library (which is bigger than mine), and the 900’s are in what will someday be the parlor.

Spooky and I are in the market for more bookshelves, including built-ins, so this is one area where I won’t be downsizing.  Moving right along, I guess that means I need to take a look at . . .

HOUSEHOLD GOODS.

In addition to a life of accumulating and fear based hoarding there are the complications that arive from combining households.  His Stuff + Her Stuff + Kids Stuff = Lots of Stuff.

For instance, between the two of us Spooky and I have enough dishes and drinkware to host a party of 50 or more. That hasn’t stopped us from acquiring more, but at least those purchases are driven by love instead of fear. So much adorable crockery, so little room to store it!  We rotate sets just to keep things in play and interesting. At some point though, we’ll need to concede that we don’t need six sets of dishes, four sets of drinkware, four stereos, three CD players, and three ironing boards.

After a lifetime of working, mothering, collecting and . . . I admit it . . . hoarding . . . I’ve concluded it’s better to live the Curated Life. Maybe it’s a life stage thing, since I see many older people downsize their lives as they get close to retirement, especially after their children leave the house.  I’m not ready to call myself “old” and I’m nowhere near retirement (unfortunately). I just think about it a lot.

“To curate” is a verb  from L. curatus, pp. of curare “to take care of.”  It means to oversee possessions, such as those of a parish or museum, but the word can be applied to how we manage our own lives.  A curator does more than stand guard over a bunch of junk; s/he is required to know his/her subject deeply and arrange things in a way that intentionally tells a story.

An important part of curating involves eliminating what doesn’t fit the narrative.  A museum curator might store or loan whole collections while telling a certain story.  She will sell or donate items that don’t blend well with the narrative, and she’ll acquire only those objects that contribute to the narrative.  I want to curate my own life in the same manner.

Love versus Fear is what I ponder while I putter around my other house, deciding what stays and what goes. I have not sold my house for a multitude of reasons, primarily the bad market and the fact that Spooky and I aren’t married yet.  My house is my only real asset besides Bunny’s college savings. So long as the housing market favors buyers over sellers, my instinct is to hold on.  The furnace and the water supply upstairs are turned off.  Unfortunately this means the dampness has begun to effect what I’ve left there.

So . . . What am I keeping it all for?  What’s with the magazines? Who needs that many dishes and glasswear? Why do I still have queen and twin sized sheets when I put the twin and queen mattresses out to bulk trash last August? Am I really saving my belongings for Bunny? Does she even want them? Am I too busy to deal with it all?  If there is “no place” for it at Spooky’s house, why not get rid of it and take the tax deduction?  What does it mean if I’m too frightened to do that? Am I afraid that the wedding will never happen?  Am I afraid I’ll have to move back to my old house someday?

Those are uncomfortable questions, rooted in Fear.  What would I do if I were motivated by Love instead?  I’d just move everything I could to Spooky’s and dump the remainder at Goodwill, that’s what. Paying a higher gas bill to keep an unoccupied home heated and dried bothers me, because it would be cheaper, frankly, to rent a U-Haul. Avoiding this decision does not serve my interests, but forcing the decision brings an even bigger issue to a head: What’s the Master Plan?

No matter what the future brings, I need to ACT.  Fortunately, during the last month or so it’s clear that I have acted. Two weeks ago I hauled many perfectly good objects to Goodwill, furniture and dishes and decor,  because I knew we’d never use them at Spooky’s.  Last weekend I rescued my books and some of my linens, which had begun to smell of mold.  For days the books were splayed out in Spooky’s sunny Florida room to dry, and I broke down and bought a can of poison (Lysol) to spray their pages.

I still fear for mother’s Victorian silk sofa and chairs, still at my house sitting unused in the humidity. They need to come home, to my new home here at Spooky’s.  The parlor awaits, empty 3 years and counting.  After I pay Bunny’s spring tuition, I’ll need to save money for a major furniture haul.  Moving Day is nigh . . . but first, the purge.

to be continued . . .

Furred and feathered friends watch over the holiday bar: Broomstick Brew mulled wine, 7 Deadly Zins zinfandel, plain vodka in a skull head (some famous dude brand), Kraken rum, Blavo black vodka, Superstition scotch.  I also have a black bottle of absinthe with spooky cat eyes on it, but I forgot to add it and besides it tastes vile.

Here we go again!

The latest Storm of the Century is bearing down on us, again.  Hurricane Sandy, like every hurricane, is actually kind of pretty from a distance.

Once again we’re on the safe side of the evacuation line, up on a little hill and away from any surging bodies of water.   My house is farther inland than where we are, but my town has rivers and drainage ditches that routinely flood during big storms, so we didn’t evacuate ourselves in that direction. We’re actually safer at Spooky’s house closer to shore.

Once again we ignored the hype to shop shop shop till we drop to prepare for the storm. Since I prepped for TEOTWAWKI back in 2007 all I had to do is charge up the extra batteries.

Once again we didn’t buy anything we wouldn’t have bought for the weekend anyway. Spooky cooked for the week on Sunday the way he always does. If we lose power we have a grill, a Sterno setup, and if we really want to get fancy, a boat battery, an inverter and a hot plate. We have battery operated reading lamps, and enough candles to last a month.

Spooky even drove to work today, against everyone’s better judgment. I stayed home to do all that stuff I never have time to do anymore, such as write on my blog, LOL.   At least until we lose power . . .

 

Attired Businesswoman

Claridge & King – Quality tailoring, some ironing required 

I recently added four Izod no-iron cufflink button down shirts to my wardrobe.  Either my chest has deflated to the point where it no longer gets in the way of menswear inspired women’s fashion, or Izod has just figured out that women have boobs.  Either way I am happy to have more choices, and so long as I don’t have a drycleaning bill or a pile of ironing I’m going to wear them to work.

How times have changed: I used to be a bit of a fashion icon at my office.  I had a lot more energy back then, and spent a lot of time and money at the tailor. One of my hires, when I was the company recruiter in the mid-2000’s, was a beneficiary of  my mid-life weight gain:  I gave her several Dior jackets I’d outgrown, plus a few pair of really nice high heeled shoes.  Through the years (she said) she watched how I dressed and marveled at how no matter what was going on in the fashion world I always “got it;” i.e., I made it work for the office.  She confided she’d been following my fashion lead all along.

I can totally see my boss in this outfit.  Me, not so much anymore. These days, I’m the one in the cubicle, dressed like a boy who’s still in prep school.

Today that woman is my supervisor.   During the past two years she has been promoted two levels above me. Fortunately my new boss didn’t pay attention to the way I dressed while I was struggling with my hormones, squirrelled away on detail to Contracts, trying my best to remain under the radar. Those days were about glorified pajamas, but even then I made them work, favoring black and brown knits in sillouhettes that whispered “elegant” instead of “t-shirt.”  I managed to get several complements, even though I indeed, was wearing some form of a knit t-shirt and elastic waistband pants every damn day.

Sorry, not good enough, lady, they still won’t take you seriously

Today I’m feeling SO much better.  However, now that I’m back at my new-old job in engineering, I realize I can’t go back to being a fashion plate.  To be fashionable in Engineering is to be marked as frivolous, because I work primarily with and for men in a relentlessly masculine field (defense) where khakis and blue oxford shirts are the standard.   Looking young and dressing fashionably in 2010 contributed to my losing a customer  – I’m convinced of this – because the program manager, a very male-identified woman wearing khakis and blue oxford, didn’t take me seriously.

Victor Victoria

Since that humilating week of self-reflection I’ve been wearing a lot of menswear inspired tailored pieces, dressing like a boy essentially.  That’s right: I’m cross-dressing these days, going to work drag, business-casual drag.  My closet has changed so much that I began to wonder if the fashion magazines were promoting the look.  Perhaps I was just picking up on a new trend without really knowing it?  NOPE: Menswear-inspired women’s wear is no more a trend today than it is any other year, lurking in the background, because no matter where fashion goes, most of us still need to get up in the morning and go to work.

I’m not surprised that one of the first things my new boss pronounced when she took command was that an internal dress code would now be enforced, in order to raise the department’s image in the eyes of our paying customers.  My team lead assured me that I was doing “fine” and did not need to change anything; rather, it was the men wearing t-shirts and the women in flip flops who needed the talking to. “Business casual” is a confusing relic from the 1980’s, but folks in Engineering can be slow to pick up social cues, and difficult to change once a habit becomes ingrained.

Forbes: What Not to Wear to Work

You may have noticed how the “rules” – general though they are – are different for men and women.  Women can wear just about anything to the office these days so long that it’s neat and covers body parts that need to be covered. Apparently a woman needs to be wearing flip flops before someone lectures her on how to look like a professional.

I thought about this for awhile:  Perhaps dress codes need to be as stringent for women as they are for men.  Perhaps letting women off the sartorial hook and giving them much more creative license, is actually a problem? If men are required to cover their knees and wear sleeves and collars, but women are not, what does that say, really?   Perhaps it says a combination of things:

Carissa Rose’s Zarinah Shirt, for the woman with boobs and $125 to spend on just one shirt

1. The variability of women’s bodies, and the capriciousness and high cost of women’s fashion makes it unfair to impose a male fashion standard on women.  Men have it easy in that Brooks Brothers is the business standard and there is not much variation to it. Men learn the Standard when they are boys, and the Standard varies only slightly over generations. Every town has a store within driving distance that sells mens’ suits in nearly every cut and size.  Men can go into any department store and find a traditional shirt that fits in a number of classic colors and patterns.  They can also pay someone to wash and iron it for about a dollar.

Women, on the other hand, do not have a Brooks Brothers tradition. Even if women can find affordable button down shirts (rare) they’re more expensive to dry clean than mens’ shirts. If we decide to save money and wash ours at home, we’re stuck ironing them. It’s also too much to ask women to wear pantyhose when even the irregulars cost $5 pair and often last for just one wearing. Also, men still get free tailoring in department stores, but women do not.

2. Laziness.  Also: Picking Our Battles.  If you’ve not noticed, the fashion world isn’t trying to help women get promoted.  Neither is anyone else, so it’s up to us to figure it out.  However, life is busy and time and money are in short supply, so we wear whatever we can afford when we can find it.  If it’s “fun” so much the better. Marketing wants us to “feel better about ourselves” through shopping, so now we have all this pseudo-feminist “feeling empowered” BS that we fall for again and again. We’re so busy trying to “feel empowered” that we never get promoted to a job that will afford us that Chanel suit or YSL smoking jacket that will zoom us to Badass credibility.

Management has a similar time and energy crunch: There are only so many battles Management has the energy to fight, and our bad fashion choices aren’t among them. Unfortunately, when we don’t live up to Management’s internal, often poorly understood and largely unspoken standards we just won’t get promoted. They won’t tell us why, mostly because they’re not very self-reflective. Really, they have no idea why you’re not executive washroom material; you just aren’t. Next problem please.

Unfortunately I’m of the suspicion that the more lax requirements for women reflect (perhaps) a reluctant attitude toward female promotability in the first place. Meaning, women as a class are not really taken seriously so who as long we’re not distracting the menfolk, who cares what we wear?  If this is a true motivation it’s unfortunate.

Personally, I don’t care if I get promoted before I retire.  That said, I realize the young women in the office look to SOME of us lady old-timers for cues. I’m at the age where I SHOULD be at the top of my game, and dressing the part.  I don’t look or dress like their grandmother (yet), and the day that I do is the day I become invisible. While I still look like a player my sartorial slacking only encourages them to slack, which only encourages people to discount them.  That’s a problem.  SO, I need to step up my game, for the sake of the young women around me and THEIR promotions.

HOW I’m supposed to do this, with my closet full of bright knits and open toed shoes I barely wore this summer, and a bunch of boring prep school staples, will be the subject of an upcoming post.  For now it’s easy:  I just pack them up because it’s September, when the weather is so cold I naturally begin wearing more conservative business attire. It’s Turtleneck Time!