Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Tale of the Mall and Other Monsters

I've been thinking for most of the week about my "status symbol" --or the thing we want people to know about us, instantly, by our clothes, when they see us.

For me, truly and honestly, it would have to be "strength." Even though it's rather unbiblical of me (remember, it's the meek who inherit...), I have always coveted the image of being capable, independent, and strong. If you go back and read my post here, you see that what I exulted in was my body's strength and power. Then, I just made the physical reality reflect the newly discovered truth and new found attitude.

But it kills me to admit this, to you, to myself, to anyone; but, I am not strong. My feet and back problems have made me into such a mess that my daughter exclaims with surprise when I run and jump over a puddle, or hustle in out of the rain. "Mommy, you're running!" she shouts at the top of her lungs. "I've never seen you run before." And although uttered with all the hyperbolic certainty of a seven year old, still, it is true.

And that truth hurts more than I can say.

I need people too. I haven't had any close friends in years--only in the last three or four has it begun to bother me. The thing is, at this time of life, it's kind of difficult to find them.

I went shopping, today. Alone. I went to Sears to track down those winter coats. I didn't find them. The coat section was absolutely crammed and I needed help. I had to find a salesperson. She helped me as minimally as possible. I guess I had been rather abrupt with her, 'cause when she found me the size I'd been searching for, she said to me, "Are you happy now?" All the while nattering on about how I'd missed the sale this morning when every coat was 50% off until 2pm. (And of course, I was there at 4:30.)

I settled on a coat (a different one), and wandered into another section looking for a turtleneck. Tried one on. Marched into the Land's End section practically hobbling. Not a salesperson in sight. I settled on a few things to try on and tried to ignore the prices. In the end, I just couldn't. I left two sweaters and a button down blouse on another rack and hobbled out. (Usually I return items back where I take them from, but I could barely walk at this point. And I was still carrying the new coat).

So, I bought the coat (probably the only coat in the whole store NOT on sale), came home, modeled it for my husband and he says, "It's not as elegant as the ones you looked at on-line."

So, I got it wrong. It'll go back tomorrow. But that's not the point of this story. (sorry). The point of the story was that the coat (with tax) cost $180.17.

It was too much. Not that anyone but myself says so, you understand. But I was and am absolutely riddled with guilt and remorse that I spent so much money on myself. I told my husband there was no way I could spend that much...really, it was OK, my coat with the burned hole is OK. It fits, it keeps me warm...I don't need a new coat. He scoffed. Told me it was hideous. Really, I suppose the trip back to the store tomorrow is to have my husband bolster my self-esteem and self-image. Maybe we'll find something "more elegant," maybe we won't. But his approval of the coat will mean he approves of the way I look.

So, in light of all that, Wende brought me to tears with this:

part of owning our own style is surely being thankful for our bodies in their incredibly varied sizes, shapes, and proportions. The important thing is not to meet someone else's criteria for beauty or style -- the important thing is to be good at being ourselves.
I can't do it.


drwende said...


I want to give you a hug, a cup of tea, and a nap, in roughly that order.

I'd have loved to go shopping with you -- it's so much more fun to dress other people. We'd have to prop each other up and stagger, though.

The difficulty-walking thing is INCREDIBLY wearing -- it's like having your energy and sense of life ground away. You want to be lively but -- gotta take that five-minute pause to stand up first. I've never relied much on physical strength, and it still makes me crazy, so it has to be much, much worse for you.

Your work just on your home demonstrates so many other potential status symbols. I don't want to underplay the importance of the wall you've run into because yes, we back ourselves into emotional corners where we end up (symbolically) in down-at-heel shoes that don't match -- but this may be your sign that it's time to appreciate your other status symbols.

You deserve to look good. You can look good.

drwende said...

Feral Care Bear adds that the film of everything you did around the house suggests that you're one tough chick.

CQ in DC said...

oh Alana, I'm sending you cyber-hugs from DC! If I lived close, I would totally go shopping with you! As for the coat, return it if you don't love it. You should hold out for one that makes you look and feel fabulous. As for the mean saleslady, I hope she develops a chilblain on the end of her nose!

CQ in DC said...

also, I see that all the coats on are on sale- it might be worth your while to order more than one and then return whichever you don't like.

smallcitybeth said...

Oh, Alana, I wish I could have gone shopping with you, too. Everybody else has said all the things I want to say, but I want to second them and third them, and somehow try to "make it better".

Finding a helpful saleslady at Sears (or the Bay) is the pits, usually. I miss Eaton's, she said wistfully, although at this point I'm probably remembering it through rose colored glasses.

My dislike of ordering things online is well documented, but does always seem to have way more selection than the store downtown, here in SmallCity, anyway. I have bought a couple of coats (my not-warm-enough current one, which is no recommendation, and a fabulous red long coat, from the Bay, but everything this year there is either too sad looking or too expensive.)

Feral Care Bear is right, you have *many* strengths -- physical strength is not the only strength around, you know.

You know, online friendships are great, but right now I wish I could call you and say "Let's go to the mall, I know it's snowing but I don't care. We're just gonna mooch around and have fun, and if we find something great, if we don't, we'll make fun of the stuff we don't like, and if your feet get tired, I'll put you in a shopping cart and push you around as if we were both 7 years old!)


smallcitybeth said...

um, that shoulda said, "If we find something great, we'll buy it, if we don't, we'll make fun of the stuff we don't like"... somehow I missed a bit of my sentence.

drwende said...

Waaaay back a month ago, didn't several people comment on perceiving Alana as slim and pulled-together, based on how capable she is around the house?

Leaving aside the societal thing of "all good qualities = thin" ('cause I'm not touching that one with a stick)... there's a hint here, Alana, that when you're not describing yourself but BEING yourself, people see you as capable, independent, and strong (and creative, btw). Your wardrobe has come unstuck from how cool you actually are.

smallcitybeth said...

Right on, Wende! Excellent.

Alana in Canada said...

I wish you were all here in real life too. I had a bit of a talk with my huband last night about how I'm feeling and he wants me stop "obsessing" about my clothes and appearence. He can see that it is dragging me down.

Stores are horrible places for me, obviously. I'm not sure how to best approach the monster.

I really appreciate that last comment you left Wende. Self-talk can be so much trash talk.

Thanks everyone. Let's see how today goes.

drwende said...

I think for people who are reasonably caught up (and you're ahead), it is time to declare a NON-OBSESSING THREE DAY HOLIDAY, starting now. Do something you enjoy.

I'll announce this officially this evening.

Lynn said...

I'm sending another hug over the cyberwaves too. Your wardrobe might not be as fabulous as YOU are, but at the end of this wardrobe therapy it will be improved, right? I hope you can focus on remembering some of your inside fabulous-ness this week.

I see your strength, among other ways, in how gracefully and graciously you deal with YOUR wardrobe on YOUR terms and YOUR budget while simultaneously extending true grace, help, and encouragement to those with vastly different backgrounds and budgets. It's inspiring and affirming for me.

(Another hug)

lorijo said...

Listen to us, we have never met- and this is the kindest, nicest group of women I have had the honor of talking with.

Alana, I am so sad because you are sad. You told me I was strong, but you are the strong one. And tough. And I can just tell that you are smart from your writing. You probably smell good. You are creative. You also had a really, really bad day. That doesn't erase all the good stuff. Follow the Dr.s advice- maybe double up on the nap! Things will get better.

It's hard to be your best when your feet are killing you. What has your Dr. said about them? Can they be fixed so the pain is gone?

Alana in Canada said...

Thank you all so much.
You have all wonders for me to snap out of this funk.
Stores and I just don't get along. I don't know how to fix that. But I'll worry about it when our sabbatical is up.

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