Friday, October 19, 2007

rainy day blues and their antidote

It's raining, and it looks as if it might be for months. I have 50 papers to mark this weekend (well, I can take a bit longer than that, and they're short papers, 750-1000 words). I lost a brand-new, never-worn, just picked up post-hemming from the tailor's, pair of fabulous, black, high-waisted dress pants last weekend, somewhere between the tailor's and home -- checked the last possible place they could have been yesterday and they're not, and I'm just going to have to let them go. And my back has been bothering me, although the manipulation the physio did yesterday to un-twist my pelvis has brought some relief and I've been working conscientiously on my exercises. Really missing my running, and might just try carefully for a short run this morning. When the dog escaped (again!) last week, she managed to find some otter shit to roll around in and I won't be able to get her to a groomer for at least another week, and meanwhile, she does not smell good! And one last woe: although I'd rather hunker down here by the fire with a cozy afghan 'round me in my big armchair, I have to go to Vancouver via the 2-hour ferry ride I'm getting rather tired of (actually it's not so much the ferry ride as the various modes of turtle transportation to get to and from the ferry). I have to think through what I'm going to be doing this weekend so that I can pack my bag, and it's all feeling more trouble than it's worth. So that's my grumble -- pretty impressive, eh?
But since I believe in putting things in perspective, having a positive attitude, all that stuff (well, I'm actually in favour of extended grumbling as well, but there's no one at home to listen, so it's really not that much fun), I remind myself that last time I was in the city, I had a great time. I also got a charming compliment when I was shopping at Holt's which so pleased me that I had Paul take a picture of my outfit later to commemorate the moment: As I was coming out of the washroom, a very smartly dressed, attractive young woman was coming in. As we manoeuvred past each other, she smiled and said, "You look lovely." Perhaps it sounds odd out of context, but it was a convincingly sincere comment on my outfit and/or demeanor, and I savoured it for its unsolicited spontaneity. I also will occasionally (and judiciously, I like to think) comment on some aspect of a stranger's clothing that pleases me, and I almost invariably evoke a surprised smile in response.
Partly this incident pleased me for the fleeting connection between two women across a generation. So often, we women critique each other's dress, culturally conditioned for eons to dress for the male gaze, competitively conditioned by high school to be bitches to each other! Some sloppy theorizing in that last sentence, obviously, but while we complain about the male eye checking us out, we've all seen that female eye raking our outfit from top to bottom before turning away, and, at best, never letting on what the verdict is, at worst, turning to say something derogatory to a friend. Yet I know much about the generosity of the female gaze as well, and for me, the young woman in Holt's epitomized it. More, she recognized my desire to "look lovely" for the world, the pleasure and effort I'd put into creating that particular look for that particular day. Une femme wrote a post weeks ago about aspiring to look 'chic' and what that word might mean for different women, and I've thought on and off since then about writing a response. Generally, I think 'chic' isn't something that I do aspire to, and I will write at some point about why not -- something about the word suggests too much polish and control, perhaps, for my personality -- but something like 'chic' was what I was feeling that day, and that young woman recognized it.
When I show you the photos of what I was wearing that day, you don't need to agree that I achieved 'chic.' I've already said what was important about the moment the photos testify to -- my own feeling of looking good and someone else recognizing it and willing to reach out and let me know. The photos themselves show you an older woman in a (fabulous, I think!) cloche, wearing jeans tucked into her brown slouchy leather boots, feeling great in a Free People babydoll black hoodie [which I love for its witty, stylish interpretation of a street/mall classic] that I've embellished with a leopard-print rose brooch I've had for several years. What I like to think about this outfit is that I've taken my basic black and denim and updated it enough to look current without compromising my own style -- so yes, I've got elements of trendy (the babydoll style, the slouchy boots), but they're elements that please me for their own sake. And I've got elements that are a bit more idiosyncratic and that I'll wear beyond this season's style cycle long into the future -- the hat, the brooch.

I feel exposed, self-conscious, very vulnerable to your gaze right now, not so much for showing you the photos, but for letting you know I think this much about my appearance, something I've been taught to think is a superficial concern as much as I've been culturally conditioned to concern myself with. Truly, I don't spend hours thinking about fashion, appearance, style, and deciding what to wear, but it is important to me, and I try to feature honesty in this blog, so vulnerable I am!
Now, having reminded myself of the pleasures the city offers, I'm off to stop my grumbling, get in a quick run, and try to decide what to pack for dinner with a friend tonight, drinks and a Molly Johnson concert with more friends tomorrow night, and a breakfast of my favourite crêpes Saturday or Sunday morning with a daughter and her guy. You have fun too!


  1. No time to really respond, just to say you do look great, and in a comfortable, happy, keep the hair dry practical way, and also an I'm having fun and enjoying life way. Amazing all the things we can glean from /attribute to/try to express with clothing, isnt' it? Well, we have to wear clothes...why not try for a home run? Feeling good certainly comes from looking good. Ok, must work. But, great job! And maybe i can be more articulate later.

  2. You do look lovely and "bien dans votre peau" which is really what it's all about, isn't it?

    I think women do dress for each other to a great extent (depending on the woman). I'm a true believer in the spontaneous compliment; it's like a little gift that both the giver and receiver can enjoy.

  3. Thanks Dana and Deja -- feeling good, looking good, bien dans ma peau, good ways of expressing my enjoyment of dress -- and yes, Deja, exactly, that spontaneous compliment often gives me as much pleasure as the recipient

  4. Plus, I'm mad about that brooch. Fabric, I take it? With red stitching or accents? It looks somehow like old metal, or autumn leaves, or something more than just fabric in the photos.

    And arrrrrrrgh on the new pants. I've never done that, but I'm sure one day I will. Goodness that would be frustrating. I imagine them as high waisted but full legged, for some reason. Ok, I won't ask you to describe them, that would be too painful/cruel.

    Do you mind telling more about your commute? I am gleaning that you are able to walk to work on your island, is that right? Or do you need to catch a ferry every morning? Do you teach full time, or roughly how often/how long do you have to be on campus?

    Time is such a defining thing in my life, revolving always around the kids' schedule and work. My daughter loves to catch the bus/train into her school, but as it's a long bus ride before the train, then a walk of about a block to her school, then back to the station for me for a short hop to my campus, ugh. One hour in the car translates to one and half or more on public transit. And I'm always racing home to relieve someone who is taking care of the boys, who are 1. And also because I like to see them before bedtime, which is 6:30 p.m. for them. It does make my day when they smile at me! And it always seems as if I'm rushing away from them all week, to spirit their sister off to school.

    Tomorrow is my single mom day, as husband teaches all day every Saturday. I have to prepare myself, be sure to get up early enough for yoga or weights, and tune my brain into child time/schedules. The boys didn't sleep this afternoon, so I'm thinking they are at the age where they want to give up their morning nap. (Does anyone remember when that is? I know I should remember from my daugher, but no such luck.) That would be wonderful for me, so freeing. Maybe I could even haul the circus on the road somewhere. But it's supposed to be gorgeous this weekend, and I have a ton of branches to bundle up from a storm earlier this week, and maybe just maybe they'll let me pull this off in the morning.

    I forsee screaming babies in a playpen outdoors, as their sister troops around examining bugs and saying, "can we go watch tv?"

    Sorry to hijack. Maybe I should get my own d@mn blog.

  5. Years ago, on a bus in Montreal, a woman leaned over and asked if I was a model. As a young mother of two toddlers, feeling anything but glamorous, you can imagine my pleasant surprise. Since then, I have made a point of commenting to stranger or friend when something about their appearance strikes me as intriguing or pleasing.

  6. Dana, the brooch is fabric with a pile, thicker than velvet, no red accent stitching though.
    The little island I live on has about a 4-kilometre circumference road-wise with a total of less than 10 kilometres of dirt road network. It's residential only, with a floating pub whose owner also operates a passenger-only ferry -- you can see a photo somewhere back in my August posts. I bike/walk about 1 kilometre to the ferry, then boat to town, where we keep a car. Two days a week, I try to walk to work, a university-college in a Vancouver Island city, the other two days I drive. My little island lifestyle can be logistically demanding, especially in winter, but I get some aspects of summer cottage living year round, and so far that's been enough to keep me where I am.
    my sympathies on the single-parenting -- my husband was often away for work, so been there, done that, and know how challenging it can be -- and I never had twins!

    anonymous, you must have cut quite the figure for anyone to have thought a mother of two toddlers could possibly be a model! Definitely would have lifted my spirits under those circumstances.

  7. love the look - the hat rocks!!


  8. Thanks, Rachel. I worry about the touch of eccentricity it might convey, but as long as I own the eccentricity, I guess it's okay!

  9. just catching up on your blog. About the pants, I need to ask "did you say a prayer to St. Anthony? have you retraced your steps"

  10. Hey, Hil, welcome back -- I wish you'd kept a blog of your trip -- need to hear all about it!
    It's great to have someone from the family who knows what it means to lose something -- Things really used to stop in the household, didn't they! I remember hiding out in my room so I wouldn't get caught up in the search.
    And yes, St Anthony and St Jude both (St. Jude's for hopeless causes, right?) -- And finally, the ultimate, I bought a new pair, which should have meant discovering the lost ones the very next day, but no, they're still nowhere to be found!!


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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