How are you?
I have a question, how do we move when things feel exceptionally muddy? I’ve been thinking of that quite often during the past two weeks. It's hard to gauge as part of the muddiness for me can be distilled into just too much on a diverse plate. A plate that I am once searing in gratitude and willing away a little less, without distraction. These days, there’s not much mitigation when it comes to this lessing in particular. Work and time and time and work are the only answers. Pacing, asking, and boundary making too. There are times when I am afraid if I am not present in the love of this labor and in the difficulty. At the same time, I’ve been open and willing to speak to anyone I happen to run into, as if we’ve known each other our whole lives. There’s no small talk, even the delivery guy stays for long and I almost nearly offer him a cup of tea for our masked faces. “It’s okay to realize you’re doing good but also, going through your own struggles.” He said.
Like many Americans, I had started to expand the bubble of what I've known the last near two years; meetings became more frequent, museums became my friends, and the idea of a current pace where one crisis didn’t catastrophize others, seemed imminent. It wasn’t the virus rearing up again that brought on the endless working days where I gathered complexity and beauty in some form and my former isolation. It was the people of Afghanistan, what and where I was in 2001 (which as it turns out, wasn’t that amazing), and in totality, what may happen next.
I am not the news, so I won’t attempt to repeat something that bears no repeating. But what I found interesting, was that the wobbly bridge between feelings, things, and even the news, was fashion and style. What I wore–like I’ve said many days–mattered. And discussions were entered and disrupted with what people were wearing too.
Rotating news and an endless seam within us.
Style doesn’t have the ability to change the muddiness, but I’d argue that using it as a diary and as resistance to whatever doomed feeling may be on the other end of the line, works.
I rode the New Jersey Transit for the first time yesterday, once again watching the sun set over the land while moving at high speed. While the event was only to pick up River from a BFF sleepover (one of a handful of friends who have migrated to New Jersey full-time in part, I imagine, because of the pandemic), I decided to wear white jeans and a black t-shirt that read, “Give A Damn.” It’s a shirt I’ve had for a long while, although I very rarely wear black. While nothing too extravagant or exciting was happening, I stood in front of my closet contemplating what to wear, as if it was.
The night before, I found myself on a rare night out on the town, laughing outside and marveling at the cool temperatures and our sweater-worn bodies. That morning of the train ride though, I moved from dress, to jumper, to blouse, only to return to this shirt. In the early 2000s a jeans and t-shirt combination was the most common of mine. Was the choice of that look unconscious or conscious? I’d beg to argue a mixture of both. Feeling several places at once. While I can’t say for certain, I realized while sitting in the blue vinyl seats that the jeans hugged me when I felt spun in space for a quick second. When O wracked my last nerve, the silent sound of the words on the shirt reminded me of the code in which O was speaking.
Give A Damn.
Undoubtedly, when the thick wave of my own lessened in volume over my days, I came up for air and breathed in deeply. I was able to catch the lights of joy (which were there all along) and notice the ways in which my clothes not only helped carry me, but also forced me to see through whatever cloud.
I am not saying that clothes solve anything. They don’t. Oftentimes, they become the single complication between religion and patriarchy.
However, there’s also more than just wearing them. Among many women who have shaped not only our literary landscape, but our personal style as well, was Virginia Woolf who said it best, “My love of clothes interests me profoundly,” she wrote in her diary just before her first novel Ms. Dalloway. That same year of 1925 she continued, “Only it is not love; & what it is I must discover'' and “My present reflection is that people have any number of states of consciousness: & I should like to investigate the party consciousness, the frock consciousness, &c.” The mind meets the body, and the body meets the mind, and the concerns and varying degrees of consciousness are in sight line too.
As we rode the C train home and Oak fell asleep on my lap, and River fiddled with rubber-bands made into colorful necklaces and bracelets, I took note of what others were wearing. I made stories for them, too. Where they may be going, doing, or even concerned about. There was a little girl with a moist mask and single twists with baby blue and white plastic floral clips in front of us. Her mom, in what I presume nursing gear and several bags. With her bags strapped to her body, I assumed that the day was long, and work was long, and maybe she was coming from a family member’s house or to a family member’s house.
There was another woman too (why do I always notice the women?) whose On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous was a stunning combination with her skin and patched day-yellow shirt. How did the book make her feel, I wondered? What made her wear those shorts with that particular shirt. Was she comfortable? Did the day shape her wear?
In a world where so much is left to be considered, what we wear and what others wear too, feels nominal. But I can’t escape the wondering thread, and the way clothes have a way to relay some fortune.
In the days ahead I’ll keep my clothes diary as we wind down summer days and my children begin another unique school year, and as I aim to finish my book, too. A relief of simplicity in other kind of days.
P.S Three things for the week
I’ve been listening to this on repeat
And read this