Monday, July 05, 2004

This, not "immanence," is the opposite of transcendence

When the hospital sent around a reminder about the dress code a few weeks ago it was all I could do to keep from taking it personally.

My wardrobe situation has officially, as of this weekend, reached defcon one. My dear spouse, the usually diplomatic and militantly unfashionable DK, lobbed this one my way: I hate to tell you this, PT, but even I dress better than you these days. And, this morning, showing me a six year old photo of our kitties cavorting in the living room in which a headless slice of me is visible in the corner, he said: Look, you're still wearing that outfit ! (Black hooded sweatshirt, red plaid lumberjack shirt, blue jeans, long red scarf.)

The day before the spousal critique, I'd gathered my courage and ventured into a clothes store. The only kind I, Ms Tightwad, can ever bring myself to enter: a tacky discount store. You know: TJ Maxx, Marshall's. Big, anonymous places where I can remain unassaulted by imperious saleswomen sniffing May I help you ? or bored, gum smacking, naked-midriffed, salesgirls sneering May I help you ?

Dears, I am beyond help.

I knew from the moment I entered the store that there was nothing for me there. Pulsating, unnatural, eye-gouging, fluorescent colors screamed from every corner.

I approached a rack of "activewear," dimly remembering it was where, three or four years ago, I'd found the grey and red striped, cotton boat-necked shirt that, despite the bleach marks on the front, I've come to think of as "my favorite shirt." I should have bought five of them. And five pairs of the microfiber animal-free shoes that are currently rotting off my feet. Which, after I bought them, the company immediately stopped making. "We don't make those anymore," sniffed the customer service rep curtly in email. (Simpsons' fans: Cue the subtextual Nelsonian Haha.)

My search for replacement shoes has led me to such egregious fashion miscalculations as

a pair of shoes so stiff and ugly that at the end of a few hours of wearing them I need both a podiatric and a psychiatric ER.

Last week I had a patient, a gnarled and wizened eighty-something who looked decades older than her chronological age. Who had a yards-long list of afflictions, and was on a boat-load of meds. As I peered down at her in her wheelchair and introduced myself, I immediately spotted her feet. My shoes !

"Omigod," I blurted, "I love your shoes ! Where did you get them ???"

The situation's getting that desperate.

So, as I mentioned, I took matters in hand.

Rejected by "activewear," I proceeded to "shoes." That's where things got really byzantine. I saw, I swear, a pair of red, plastic high-heeled flip-flops. You know, those flat slabs of sole-shaped rubber with the V-shaped thingy that goes between the first two toes ? With HIGH HEELS. Honest.

"Well," I thought, "At least I'll get some socks."

Yes, my abjection reaches even into the sock drawer.

I stood in front of the sock rack. WTF ? So when did socks stop rising above the ankle ? How did I miss this ? (At the same time shoes stopped having backs and became "slides.") My eyes blurred at the profusion of sub-malleolar perky little terrycloth thingies. Clearly designed for some Atkins-diet related sporting purpose. I grabbed a handful of thin, white cotton anklets that looked like something the Red Cross might have distributed to dust-bowl old-age homes during the Great Depression, and fled deeper into the store, leaving being an enormous, dropsical, balding senior citizen in a floral housecoat (visions of myself a few months from now) fingering a pair of the sports socks. "I feel your pain," I thought.

The rest of the trip is a Disney-esque blur of "tops," "capris," and "career sportswear," of diaphanous polyester and hot-pink midriff-baring spandex, of aggressively cantilevering shoulder pads, of floral prints so garish Mother Nature herself would weep.

I dimly remember staring at a wooly, fringed black and pink houndstooth suit, thinking: Who buys this stuff ? Who wears this stuff ? By then I was delirious. Ready to cast myself onto the floor to gnash my teeth and weep and rend my clothes at the sheer ugliness of it all. Except that rending the clothes would have made my fashion situation even more desperate.

Finally, horrified at the deadening prospect of making a financial transaction, I returned the 30's anklets to the sock rack, and fled.

That's my usual shopping trip.

And what am I wearing now ? My dalmation bathrobe: the white cotton one that took a trip in the dryer with a black bic pen.

DK rests his case.

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