The good news is that I’m back working in the public library system I left last year. I’ve reincarnated as a substitute at the reference desks of various branches throughout the city. Each one is a little different, in size, culture and persona.
The bad news is I don’t have anything to wear.
Backing up a bit, I had entered the spring season after my 3-month fling with Project 333 considerably parred down. And the love affair with the versatile but boring black and grey ensembles left me craving color and vibrance.
Reminds me of one summer in my 20s when I set off on a road trip through the southwest with four Dutch students (don’t ask) in my 1964 VW Bug. After a one-day excursion across the border into Mexico, three of us came down with the worst stomach bug I’ve ever had in my life, all while surviving in tents in a west Texas KOA camp. In July.
I couldn’t eat for days. When we reached Corpus Christi, where I had planned to stuff myself with as much gulf coast shrimp as humanly possible, I could barely stand to look at tartar sauce much less seafood.
But by golly, I looked good in that bikini.
Anyway, when I got home, a good ten pounds or more lighter, I made the mistake of immediately heading to the supermarket for groceries. There, I bought every fructose-laden, fatty, overly processed food I could carry out of the store. My body screamed for boxes of Captain Crunch and powdered donuts while I sat stuffing myself into a sugar coma.
Well, the same thing happened when I came off the Project 333 diet. I was attracted to this season’s romantic but not-so-work-appropriate festive hippie skirts and see-through peasant blouses like a moth to flame.
There have been countless years when the current styles left me cold. But no, this had to be the year for boho chic’s comeback.
I’m becoming better informed about where items are made. I’ve acquainted myself with conscientious upcycled Etsy shops and stalk the web for organic, fair trade clothing. Instead of just giving, I’m actually buying from Goodwill.
But it is so hard to pass by the displays selling carefree youth, albeit factory-made with a whiff of wrinkle-retardant. It is an illusion and I know it. But tell this to my nonconformist, freedom-loving spirit that longs for the rush of jumping into my old VW with the beaten-out fenders to drive off with no plan or timeline, orange-haired troll doll swinging wildly from the rearview mirror.
Anyway, I fell off the wagon and bought some stuff I probably shouldn’t have this spring and summer. Surreptitiously, from sales racks and even in the men’s department. I’ve knit a couple of unnecessary items in brilliant colors of the sea. Part of me feels guilty because they aren’t practical. Because they don’t go with everything else.
I’ve justified the little sprees by citing my uniforms for work. Since I’m a sub with sporadic work schedules, I can get away with wearing the same items all summer. I have two outfits: a couple pairs of cropped pants in basic beige and dark brown, and two conservative tops (which I’ve worn for years).
This was all well and good until last week when I put in six full days, mostly at the same branch. It’s either feast or famine in the sub business. I had to pull out (literally) all the tricks for variety by supplementing my uniform with a long gathered skirt here, and a filmy cotton blouse there. There may have been some borderline color-clashing going on, some extra deodorant needed.
But I survived. I don’t think I offended anyone. My sense of style and confidence still need a lot of work — a Diane Keaton I am not.
Most important is when I open the closet door to greet these friends, old and new, when I touch their hangers and pull the beautiful fabric of rainbows into my arms, they make my soul sing.
What is there is what I love.