Screw you Marie Kondo and the porcelain 14th century horse figurine you rode in on!
I have to blame somebody, and as much as there’ve been hints that life might indeed become miraculously more clear and streamlined thanks to her cleaning/organizing book The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up (my daughter and I were in such a feel-good frenzy of purging and organizing we actually texted each other photos of our t-shirt drawers), I am now even less sure who I am than usual thanks to her. Admittedly I haven’t had time to do the tidying steps exactly as the author insists they be done so that could be part of the problem. Whatever it is, it made dressing for this wedding party I’m on my way to almost impossible.
I’d been really calm since seeing that the invitation to a wedding party in the city called for sparkly festive attire. Sure, I thought – I’ll stop in TJ Maxx and get something low-cost and showy…as if that has ever worked for me.
The area we live in is odd – there’s Walmart, Kohl’s, with TJ Maxx the higher end of the chain stores, and then all-organic expensive boutiques. Nothing in between and anyway I live in fear of purposeful shopping, still believing thanks to decades of thrift store scores that if a fabulous item is out there with my name on it, it will find me. Less and less true as the years go by, but I know no other way.
Vintage! I thought, I’ll go vintage! remembering this bold geometric arty tunic in red and purple, turquoise, green and black I’d seen at a local place. Even the label: Penthouse Gallery, which at first glance I’d believed read “Penthouse Goldberg”, somehow even better – was calling. Could I pull it off though? It was mid-calf length but had a certain Brenda Vaccarro in Midnight Cowboy pizzazz, enough that I dared to emerge from the vintage store dressing room to take a turn around the store in it.
“I always wanted to be a lady who could wear this kind of thing – you know, with bold earrings and tights – I’d have to cut it off mid-thigh of course…”
“You are!” said the shop owner. “You ARE that lady!” I didn’t think she was just angling for a sale – I really liked it. I Believed – SOLD.
But…the night before the wedding I carefully measured and cut. Pinned up the hem…damn pockets, I swear I know I always see it as a plus “AND it’s got pockets!” but they add bulk and tend to complicate things. I tried my pinned-up Goldberg shift with tights and my Young Edwardian purple sixties shoes – it could work.
Meanwhile Eric was texting me from his own solo wedding uncertainty. He was performing at a ceremony down south and it’s just hard to know what to do with yourself at these things when you’re on your own. That’s part of what made picking an outfit even trickier – the thought of going to a party is hard enough; if I’m not performing I don’t know how to present myself, but solo – it’s confusing at events when you’ve become used to being half of a pair and there’s no one to bounce ideas off beforehand of the “Honey does this outfit say ‘I made an effort/I clean up well’ or is it more ‘Tired Old Cougar on the prowl'”? variety. I mentioned to Eric over the phone that I had a new dress to wear that was maybe a little “wacky” but he must have been distracted or unable to grasp that I was asking for some kind of guidance. Still, I took his “uh-huh” as a blessing. Maybe this would be my “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple” moment?
But hemmed and ironed two hours before departure, it felt wrong. I mean, I loved the dress, even looked up the label and saw that it was Edie Sedgwick’s party dress of choice. But something about thick black tights on the last weekend of summer felt like a bummer. Bare legs looked better but since I’d cut it so short and had no time for vein therapy and/or a tanning parlor, the idea of walking through Penn Station in such a short skirt told me the dress was wrong. I thought of removing the precious pockets but that would have required getting out the sewing machine, relearning how to wind a bobbin and I couldn’t risk destroying the dress which I now clearly planned to get A LOT of wear out of in the future – just NOT NOW. This is where I really started cursing Marie Kondo because all my clothes are in transition. They’re either on their way out or taking their place in some Hall of Fame of joy-sparking (her criteria for holding on to an item). One of the in-betweens was this cool gold dress I’d worn on one of me and Eric’s tours, but I couldn’t think what shoes would work, plus it was fraught from that time a guy told me after a gig how much he hated it.
Shoes! Those bejeweled sandals I found at the beginning of the summer and never had an occasion to wear – that’s it, I thought – I’ll build an outfit around those sandals. It could be simple, classy – with the sandals adding that something extra.
I pulled out my precious black skirt, the one I’d searched high and low for in France and hadn’t needed in over four years. Now it felt slack, but it could work, let me just tuck this patterned silk shirt in – oh my God, there was a massive stain on the front of the skirt like one of those black lights that shows stains on hotel mattresses, but this was ongoing and covered the entire front of the skirt. I kind of remembered a whole beer knocked off a merch table onto my lap and trying to dry clean it back in England…thanks to Life Changing Magic I prepared to bid farewell to a treasured friend who’d gotten me through several years of weight gain and menopausal confusion – “goodbye, it’s been an honor, you have served me well but now I must let you go” followed by a slight bow. At this point I was considering wearing jeans with the sandals and a sparkly blouse but that felt like a lack of respect.
Then I saw the black skirt with white dots: I’ve worn it a lot this summer but it fits and would be a good length with the sandals. I had a sheer black blouse, not super-see through but enough that I thought it was worth running to Walmart for a camisole or something to wear under. The clock was really ticking now and there was nothing at Walmart unless you were XXXL and wanted to wear a complete set of spongy flesh-colored armor or a what looked and felt like a scuba diving suit underneath. I grabbed the sandals and shirt and ran for the train, thinking that Macy’s was just upstairs from Penn Station and I could find something there to wear under the sheer shirt.
TO BE CONTINUED…
As soon as I exited the train and came up into Penn Station it occurred to me how absolutely absurd it was to try using that hellhole as some kind of wearability yardstick – clearly you could walk through in a Walgreen’s plastic bag and no one would bat an eye. There were goths in torn tights and platforms six inches tall, a lady in a black undershirt, thigh high boots and nothing else, six men in Lederhosen and knee socks rushing to catch a train. I started to realize what a fool I was to think anyone would notice or care what I had on. Still – I had fifteen minutes to complete my outfit and get down to 26th Street.
I hustled my way up towards Macy’s corner but was sucked into the H&M on the other side of 34th Street which was a huge mistake. Music pulsed relentlessly at high volume, the place was a madhouse as if the whole city had the same goal, find something to wear TONIGHT! TONIGHT! The music shrieked. I grabbed a few camisoles and then had to wait in line for a dressing room, listening to an impeccable young woman describe her awful case of the runs to an eager male co-worker. I hardly bothered trying on my shapeless items, instead deciding to just put on the sandals and the shirt in the dressing room, shove on some earrings and get out of there. Confidence! That’s the main thing. Then I had to catch a cab because there was no way I could walk seven short blocks and five very long blocks in those sandals. Some kids and their dad were getting out of the taxi “Come on, Come ON! Move it you three!” I wanted to shout but the kids were clutching little boxes from Magnolia Bakery like they were precious and the little boy even said “We got cupcakes!” to me and waved goodbye as I rode off in the taxi and I thought oh who cares how you look as long as you’re smiling. But in the cab I lost confidence and pulled a black v-neck sweater on over my head while removing the shirt from underneath, sure the driver probably sees this sort of thing all the time. Yep, they’ll take me as they find me I thought – got to be comfortable above all.
But when I exited the elevator up to the party space, there were a half dozen of Antonio Banderas’ younger brothers holding trays of flutes of Champagne and Manhattans and goblets of wine and I thought this is a fancy affair, fuck it, the sheer shirt it is, it’s really not that see-through and oh my God, there’s a little sign saying NRBQ will be playing and all eyes are on the joyous wedding couple, who I have the honor and pleasure of knowing separately, it’s so good to see them spin around the room together and maybe it’s the Manhattan talking but when I’m really old I shall look at a photo of this event and say “wasn’t I young and lucky to be there?”