I woke feeling fine, normal, glad for the day. Glad to have the BART ride and bus ride, scenic walk and eventual arrival on Mars for a meet-up with my pen pals in front of me. Yes, I woke on the verge of fulfillment; a feeling similar to opening an envelope when you know it contains a check with your name on it.
I didn’t realize “it” was happening until my second change of shoes. I kicked off that first pair (even though they are my comfy favorites) because they aren’t great for distance walking. Pulling every alternative pair from the closet, I try on and reject several pairs before deciding to wear the comfy favorites after all. I’m dressed, ready to go. Happily, remarkably, on time.
A quick mirror-check and…suddenly, I’m in the wrong pants. Definitely the wrong pants! Even though Eva said these snake-skin print leggings make my legs look great and I trust Eva and I want to have great looking legs: I just can’t wear them. This morning they feel tight, irritating–I’m not in the cold-blooded mood it takes to rock the reptilian look. Off come the leggings.
I consult the clock. Today minutes matter. I have a train to catch. I put on some linen slacks, notice the wrinkles, pull them off. I must stop this, this “it” that shows up like a condemning editor of a glossy fashion magazine, or a mean girl from seventh grade.
Relax. Try again with the snake-skin leggings, maybe with a different top. Maybe the beige cardigan and this funky, chunky necklace. No. Try the black flood-pants. That sweater with the black flood-pants. No way. Nothing orange. Clothes are coming on and off me as fast as candy disappears from the secret stash in my underwear drawer.
I dig deeper into dismay — try a work outfit. The memory of teaching class after class to all those fit, beauty-beaming Millennials; scrutinized and cringing in this damn silk blouse slams me. I can’t get it off fast enough. Maybe a different bra under a different top with the red skirt and high boots.
Inane panic grabs my thoughts. I begin to decide not to go. Why, why, why does this happen? Now I’m a wreck, standing naked and numb, staring into a room that has been ransacked by a crazy woman who can’t decide what to wear. Please, don’t let me be this dysfunctional.
Any thing, I beg myself, just put on anything.
I’m two steps out the front door fighting the urge to go back and change my earrings. I’m late. I’m dressed head to toe in black, shrouded in a brown pashmina scarf, blinking tears behind my darkest sunglasses.
No kidding, my next door neighbor emerges from her house wearing the exact same orange shirt I ripped off my body not seven minutes ago.
“You look great,” she says. I’m speechless.
On BART with all the other clothed people (how do they do it?) I think about the gold chain around my neck. And yours. I think about what I’ve been sold. What I’ve bought into. And how to get free from the trap of image-based self acceptance. I’m galled these are my concerns. At this age! In these times!
I arrive on Mars, a lovely street in San Francisco, feeling somewhat bruised but relieved to have made it. “You look great!”, my pals greet me. After some writing, we talk about how much it costs a woman to simply get dressed and show up. We agree it’s too expensive…at any age. Time to change.