Monday, December 10, 2012

Your Neighborhood Librarian Avoids the Clap

Gracious, looks like I never posted this, despite having written it in about March. It's about a surprising thing:

So, here's a surprising thing. Today's adventure - in our ongoing series of Your Neighborhood Librarian Gets Shit Done - involves something that I was putting off for a reallly long time, and that's buying jeans. My New Year's Resolution was... oh wait, the surprising thing. I don't want to leave anyone in suspense. That shit kills, you know. Nobody needs excess suspense.


Your Neighborhood Librarian Buys Jeans at the Mall

Times when you wish Purell made lube.
The surprising thing I'm talking about, the thing that will shock and alarm you is - I have just spent basically the whole day at the MAAALLLL, and I am in really a ridiculously good mood. Just chew on that for a second.

THE MALL. The place where crowds and perfume samples and overpriced throw pillows and the sinister alleyways of the second floor - I mean, you could get a raging case of genital warts even just from lingering outside Abercrombie and Fitch long enough to tie your shoe. NEVER touch the floor, or god help you the benches, outside of Abercrombie and Fitch.

But I. Prevailed.

Let's backtrack. Let me give you the backstory, the exposition for how I got to the MAALLL in the first place.

My New Year's Resolution was to stop wearing unflattering pants. And that's maybe a little shallow. I know. My husband's resolution, by the way, was to stop getting so defensive when I criticized him for the way that he does things around the house. And it took me a minute to parse that, and then I was like, "Oh." And I made this face:



Now, he sprung this on me January 2, the day after our neighborhood's New Years Day Pig Roast, during which we are all on our feet for about 12 hours cooking a pig and cutting up a pig and socializing and encouraging people to eat more and generally bounding around with big grins on our faces. It's SO GREAT.

But on January 2, I am deeply, deeply done. Fried like a pig's ear. A little tired. So he says to me on January 2, he says,
  • "My New Year's resolution is not to get so defensive when you criticize the way that I unload the dishwasher, or like... fold t-shirts. For example."
  • And I, being tired and dense, said that my resolution was to stop wearing unflattering pants. And he just looked at me.
  • So then, to clarify, he said, "I think the reason I get so defensive is that sometimes I come home from a few days on the road, or even just home from work, and you kind of hand off to me a little bit."
  • And I was like, "Because it may seem like I have a lot of pants, but almost all of them are very frustrating."
  • So he further clarifies: "So when you tell me that I'm loading the dishwasher wrong, I get a little defensive."
  • And I say, "Huh." And I think about it for a second, as much as I am capable, which isn't much, see above RE: FRIED LIKE A PIG'S EAR, and I consider making some kind of meeting-halfway gesture, but then I realize that I am not at the moment savvy enough to not get myself in big trouble with a resolution that I will not be able to uphold, and besides I am dimly aware that he has just constructed the personal goal equivalent of the Back-Door Brag... call it the Right Back Atcha Resolution... so I say, "Weeelll, I'm going to stick with the pants thing."
But I do try not to criticize him, really. When I come across a basket of folded laundry - I mean, have you ever seen... you know, some primates do this kind of wadding behavior when they're making their nests of leaves for the night? Gorillas. Gorillas do that, right? So - and it's not fair of me to expect him to know how to fold a t-shirt perfectly, I worked retail, I know how to fold a t-shirt - I just re-do the basket. It takes me 10 minutes to fold a stack of t-shirts and I can do it without thinking, in a kind of fugue state.

Even if there were loose diamonds in those pockets,
I would not put my hand in there.
Anyone who's ever worked retail - and that's a lot of us - wouldn't wish retail on anyone. Although, you know, some people never have. Some people earned extra money during college by couriering diamonds back and forth between the diamond merchants on West 47th in NYC. SOME people never learned to fold a shirt because they spent their shirt-folding years walking around New York City with like ten thousand dollars worth of diamonds folded up in a little piece of paper in their jeans pocket, because the diamond guys prefer their couriers to be low-key.

That's right: my husband was like Matt Damon in Oceans Twelve during his early twenties, while I was more like... Parker Posey in anything. "I walked the streets of the greatest city in America with a fortune in my pocket" beats the hell out of "I made minimum wage folding sweaters and measuring the inseam of wizened Ukrainian-American senior citizens so that I could sell them another pair of Sansabelt slacks at Higbee's in the Severance Mall in Cleveland." Everything in Cleveland has a name like "Severance Mall." My sister-in-law lives in Chagrin Falls. It's like a town name in a John Irving novel.

One of my co-workers at Higbee's. Right.
My part of the men's department was sandwiched between the suit guys, who worked on commission and were therefore equal parts bitchy and desperate, and the cologne counter. This was during the Mid-Eighties Men's Cologne Renaissance - and you remember what product lit that flame, don't you? Hmm? It was Calvin Klein Obsession. Oh god. Sigma Chi at my school was about 75% gay in those years (naturally, I was a Little Sister), and you couldn't get within thirty feet of that house without catching an eye-watering whiff of Obsession for Men. Girls took to wearing it too. At certain parties, its vaguely foot-y, piercing odor overpowered even the keg beer and garbage-can Everclear punch. And I went to a geek school! Think what it was like at Penn State!

Back at work, I had to endure the Obsession for Men ADS. Those ads! They played on a loop on a TV above the cologne counter, and it was all those disjointed phrases that were supposed to be sexy and mysterious and I actually could still recite them all verbatim and that is a TERRIBLE realization.





"Oh, the smell of it." That sold cologne? What a mess. And who is that? Stella Tennant?

So if you need to send some loose diamonds across town in an inconspicuous manner, ask Bob. You want your shirts folded into weirdly perfect squares, get me. Or don't. Fold your own damn shirts.

I've lost track again. Let's recap: his New Year's resolution was to not get so defensive when I am hypercritical of the way that he does the lion's share of the housework. Have I got that right? I think I've got that right. My New Year's resolution: No More Unflattering Pants.

I went through all my pants and tried em all on and the ones that weren't good, I pitched. Took them to Goodwill. So that left me with three pairs of pants that fit. That's not including leggings, or shorts, or pants to paint in, and of course I actually have a drawer full of pants-shaped apparel, like to the male eye, the male might say, "But what are all these?" but in fact there are only three. Just take my word for it, okay?

I've been putting it off. Of course I've been putting it off! Who likes buying pants? It's the long dark night of the soul! It's the fluorescent-lit cramped overheated afternoon of the soul, that's what it is. I'd say that again, but I've forgotten it already.

Today was the day though. I was sitting in the coffee shop, knitting - badly - real badly, and a lady walked in and she still had the size sticker down the side of her jeans. And I pointed out the sticker and she peeled it off and she said, "Oh I love these new jeans! Did you know they had Levis at Penney's?"

And I thought to myself, "Huh. Levis." Levis. I had not been looking forward to going to Nordstrom and trying on Habitual and 7 for all Mankind, and Acne, and all these hip-ass two-hundred-dollar jeans that were just going to gap at the back and bind at the knee... I don't know why they don't fit me. I don't. I have had two pair of Luckys that fit like a dream, and then every time I go back there I am fooled! Fooled into buying a pair of Luckys that a week later are sagging off the butt or how did I not notice that they're so short in the dressing room.

But Levis. I wore Levis as a kid and all through college and as an adult until designer jeans came back in the late 90's and my cousin The Talented Cousin Rachel took me to the jeans bar at Diesel and said, "You're not leaving until you have a pair of cool jeans." But maybe now I'm done with cool jeans. I am in my mid-forties and I don't exercise so maybe I am done with cool jeans and I don't want to think about that too much so I am just going to go to the Levis store at the mall.

This yoga pose is called... no I'm sorry. Even I can't go there.
And I'm kind of geared up for trying on clothes. I have my stretchy pants on, which, don't tell anybody I may have slept in, and then rolled out of bed to take the kids to school and put on a shirt. Which possibly I may also have slept in. But I am wearing a bra.

Wow we are verging into too much information here. But it is a fact: you do NOT want to find yourself in a fitting room with no bra on, not after two kids you don't. And on top of this cunning ensemble I have my Vulcan Traditional Greeting hoody and a ball cap - I look like a slob but maybe I can pass for one of those moms with the sinewy arms and sinewy faces who have just come from like Mega Body Ab Class Yoga or whatever, there are sure to be some of those at the mall at 10:30am. Picking up a little something at Abercrombie & Fitch.

That ball cap is kind of essential. I had a boyfriend once who said of my messy morning hair, "You know when your hair is like that, when it's in a braid and the top is all messy..." and I'm thinking the end of this sentence will involve words like "untamed" and "sexy" and "back to bed" but instead he says, "...you look... mad. And I don't mean angry mad - although you're beginning to look like that now - I mean like Mrs. Rochester mad. Madwoman in the attic mad. Lady who spent 25 minutes talking to a bench in the library last week mad."

Shut up about my hair, jackass.
ERGO BALL CAP. One that my husband brought me back from a business trip. He works in Kansas, so it's the Wichita State... Wizards. Wombats. Winklevosses. Somethings.

And of course, I'm wearing my long striped red and pink scarf because at this point mama don't go down to the basement for a can of beans without wrapping a scarf around this stringy, saggy, tendony neck.

I park outside of Nordstroms and I walk straight through. I don't need the shame spiral that would accompany looking terrible in two hundred dollar jeans. I walk past a bunch of other places. I have discipline.

But for some reason, I find myself drawn into Benetton. 70% off signs in the window. And a jumper on a mannequin. I've been wearing a lot of jumpers this winter. They're kind of unstructured through the middle, right where I am kind of unstructured. So I thought I'd look at the jumpers at Benetton.

Wow. Benetton has changed, y'all. Forget the crayon-colored fine knitwear, now it's all slightly cheap woven wool. There was a sweater labeled "cashmere" that turned out to be THREE PERCENT cashmere. The carpet in my bedroom has a higher cashmere content than that. My new cat has a higher cashmere content than that, just from having a common ancestor with a goat.

But I picked a pair of jeans off a rack, you know, I'm staying On Mission, and they had this pair of like silver dusted jeans and because I sometimes find it necessary to dress like a teenage David Bowie, I liked the look of the silver dusted jeans. They were size... 38. What is a 38, in jeans? Not waist size, not at Benetton - it's more like a European shoe size. But I figured 38 was a pretty big number so I'd try them on.

And it was in the miniscule Benetton fitting room that I discovered that, first of all, 38 is apparently some kind of Italian toddler size. I should disclose - and this is not a brag, because there is nothing pretty about skinny legs - I have skinny legs. Old lady legs, getting to be. And I could not get one leg of those jeans up past my knee.

Second, I noticed that the shirt that I may or may not have slept in was not only pretty significantly torn on the side seam, but also... inside out. No wonder the nice man at Benetton never tried to wait on me. Although that man was way too old to be working retail, leading me to seriously wonder whether Benetton is some kind of money laundering front. You never see anyone in there...

We nearly aborted right there. That first gimlet-eyed squint at yourself in the fitting room mirror is so often the last. But I soldiered on. Went to the Levis store. Tried on fifty or sixty pairs of jeans and corduroys. Have I mentioned that working retail blows? That poor young lady. And I was extra unhelpful, having no idea what size I might wear, and also wanting to try mens' jeans.

I was fed a line of BS about the jeans I actually did buy, from a boy who was younger than the boots I was wearing. He explained that they were made of "salvage denim." Right. Levis found a shipment of denim that had been lost in a storm and lain perfectly preserved at the bottom of Lake Superior until divers brought it up, sent it to China, and made an enormous run of jeans out of it. The word you're looking for is "selvage," son. It refers to the finished edge of the fabric at the outseam.

Retail, baby. How can you call those wasted years when I came away with knowledge like that?



So this is Your Neighborhood Librarian. Not going naked to work. Let's all not. 'Til next time...