C’mon down the rabbit hole.
Alert readers may have noticed that I have been rather conspicuous by my absence of late. The rest of you have probably been hanging out at the portable bar speculating on more pressing issues than why I can’t seem to get it together to post something pithy, and good on you.
As it turns out, I have been busy rather than slothful recently, though, let’s be honest here, there’s always at least a whiff of indolence mixed in with the miasma of eau de cologne, vodka processed through the skin and apple cider vinegar (trust me, you don’t even want to know) that surrounds me.
So where have I been you ask? Down the rabbit hole of middle-aged porn, obsessively re-screening the homeowner’s peep show, hanging out at the housewife’s glory hole. That’s right, my friends, I’ve slipped on my trench coat and have been spending huge blocks of time, and outrageous sums of money, at The Container Store. If you’re over forty or female or both, you probably require no further explanation, but for those of you who fail to grasp the significance of my new predilection, let me explain.
As I may have mentioned, I have some shoes — considerably more than pictured above, though nowhere near Imelda scale. Let’s just say it’s a substantial collection, carefully curated, lovingly arranged and personally significant, at least to me. As we all know, you can gain fifty pounds, develop female pattern baldness and a goiter, but your shoes will still fit. They are the foundation of the adult woman’s wardrobe, her security blanket, her hedge against sartorial disaster. As such, they need to be properly organized and displayed; they need “breathing room,” if you will.
Now, Mr. Slattern and I have shared a rather large, though inefficient, walk-in closet for several years, and in that time my need for space has increased. Unfortunately, this has impinged on his need to keep my off-season shoes out of the area designated for his shirts. Rather than accept marital discord as the inevitable result of this rather fraught arrangement, however, I came up with the clever idea of dividing the one large closet into two smaller ones. Well actually one smaller one and one really tiny one, but that’s more of a detail than a feature item. Let’s move along.
Anyhoo, it was during the closet renovation project that I began frequenting that den of organizational iniquity, The Container Store, to ogle its aisles of color coordinated hat boxes, ingenious rolling shelving units and mad clever “storage solutions.” I’d spend hours talking about retractable fixtures with the staff, stroking the finishes on cabinet facings and fantasizing about stackable accessory storage. I fetishized the perfect reach-in closet and lingered in front of the titillating array of colorful bins and coordinating hampers. I was hooked, an addict, a filthy closet junkie who could not get enough of that sweet organizational stuff.
Now, before this little adventure, I had never really understood the obsessive need for this kind of stimulation. It wasn’t until I was in college that I saw my first dirty movie, an X-rated version of Alice in Wonderland, complete with costumes, dancing, singing and more than a few acts of extreme lasciviousness. Given that Cosmo generally tucked the particulars of its centerfolds out of sight in those days, and that the interwebs wouldn’t be invented (and cluttered up with naked girlfriends, randy phone repairmen and bleating Kardashians) for decades yet, I had very little experience with this kind of thing, which is to say none at all. But my friends and I figured it was time we found out what all the fuss was about, so we located a fellow student with a car, offered to spring for gas and trundled off to the Stillwater monoplex for a double feature.
If you’ve never seen a pornographic musical, it may be somewhat difficult to imagine. It is certainly a singular experience, what with all the dancing and singing interspersed with nudity, fellatio and random episodes of fornication. If memory serves, it was all very light-hearted in tone, what Patsy Stone would call, “a bit of cheeky fun.” In truth the particulars of the film are a bit hazy owing to the extended Blue-Nun-and-bong binge that preceded our attendance, though I do recall being somewhat taken aback by Alice’s escapades with the Red Queen. Let’s just leave it at that.
In any case, not since Alice dallied with the Mad Hatter (in his improbable size 9 1/2 hat) has one pleasure seeker found such fulfillment in a single location: aisle 5 of the Container Store to be precise. Enter at your peril and try to be discreet is my advice.
Of sweatsuits, French manicures, Vinny the Chin and tiny little women with big demands.
Having strolled the avenues and byways of this planet for more decades than I will ever admit to, I have seen a fair sampling of humanity. In airports, grocery stores, doctor’s offices and even the occasional holding cell, I frequently find myself cheek by jowl with people from every walk of life, social strata and ethnic group.
By dint of living in New York, I even encounter the odd celebrity, as, for example, I did on one of the upper floors of the Plaza Hotel in 1989. This was my first ever celebrity sighting, so it sticks in my memory. I was actually there to look at corporate meeting rooms when lo and behold, I spied the original Mrs. Trump, Ivana, standing by the elevators with a hapless flunky who was looking more like a whipped dog than an uptown interior decorator as a result of the tongue lashing he was receiving about the progress and direction of renovations to the hotel. If memory serves, Ivana was about the size of a toothbrush and was repeating the same thing over and over, “No, no, NO, I vant goldt!” Truly a moment for the ages.
Anyhow, I share this by way of noting that she looked fabulous — exquisitely tailored pantsuit, coordinating stilettos, Louis Vuitton binder and a beehive that Patsy Stone would have killed for. Her lipstick was intact despite the fact that she had clearly been flapping her gums for some little time, and you could have sliced a baguette on the creases of her trousers. Ivana the Terrible was, in a word, glamorous.
Sure she was old school, but as we all know, there are infinite ways to do glamour. Just last week I saw a gorgeous African American woman of Amazonian proportions on the subway. She was sporting canary yellow leggings, matching thigh high boots and bag, and was rocking a coordinating manicure and a gold streaked Lady Godiva weave. The color was fabulous with her skin, there was not one hair out of place, and she was sublimely confident. I longed to ask her where she’d scored the footwear, as it’s so very difficult to find high style boots with wide shafts, but reconsidered after hearing her excoriate the man standing next to her who had the effrontery to stare. It was an extremely admiring stare, and rightly so, but since she took exception I decided to keep still.
In the event I have any male readers left at this point, let me point out that glamour is not an exclusively female domain. Recently, at the corner bodega of all places, I spotted a hipster guy in high tops, jeans, a white shirt and a vintage tuxedo jacket. He was buying gourmet beef jerky, coffee and Red Bull, so although I shuddered at the state of his gastrointestinal tract, he nonetheless had an elegant je ne sais quoi that would have stood him in good stead in almost any social setting — until the Red Bull and cowhide made their presence known, symphonically, several hours hence, anyway.
The point of all this is that glamour is many things to many people. What makes me feel good (three inch heels, a pencil skirt and a martini) may not work for you, especially if you prefer yoga pants and a t-shirt. Provided both fit properly, the pants have been hemmed so as not to drag on the ground, and your dirty hair is pulled back in a tidy ponytail, this can work. At the gym. Where it doesn’t work is at Bloomingdale’s, jury duty or parent teacher conferences, which are just a few of the places I have spotted this “look.”
And then of course there are the pajama pants. If you recall, appearing in public in your sleepwear used to be a pretty solid strategy for your insanity defense. These days, however, you can’t swing a cat on the street without hitting some schmuck in penguin patterned loungewear. It’s sad really. Sad to see grown-up people with jobs and mortgages walking around town looking like they’re on a day pass from a nearby facility where no one’s allowed to have shoelaces or belts.
But as bad as the slovenliness is, the near nudity is even worse: thongs on the beach, muffin tops oozing over skinny jeans and the dreadful tank top that inflicts backne, tattoos and scraggly chest wisps on a blameless public. It’s as if we’ve all stumbled into a D-list Abercrombie shoot featuring a bunch of Kardashians, a couple of Wahlberg wannabes and assorted wardrobe malfunctions being passed off as fashion. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not have the image of Kim’s bum seared on my consciousness for the rest of my life, and yet I cannot seem to escape it.
At the risk of sounding like my grandmother, I can remember a time when people bothered about their appearance, and society as a whole had certain expectations. Men wore hats, women wore stockings, everyone wore underwear. You couldn’t see it of course, but you just knew it was there, largely because all fabrics other than flannel were scratchy and unpleasant next to the skin. Underwear provided a necessary buffer zone between the more delicate areas and abrasive tropical wools, heavily starched linens and that miracle of drip-dry miracles, rayon. and rightly so.
These days, it seems not a week goes by that we’re not assaulted by the sight of some starlet’s deforested lady parts, a random pedestrian’s whale tail, or highly compensated movie stars dressed for a day
in the sandbox at work. I mean, c’mon Adam, we love you, but isn’t it time to shave and put on your big boy suit? I know you’ve got one.
So listen folks, it’s a new year and time for a fresh start. Toss out all those baggy surrender t-shirts, childish pajama pants (you know you’ve worn them to the grocery store) and ill-fitting sweat items. Slip into some stretchy new undergarments, coordinated separates and shiny shoes and show the world your glamorous bad self for a change. I guarantee you’ll get treated better on airplanes, at work and in restaurants (admit it, you do want to eat in places where it matters). As an added bonus, I can stop beating this dead horse and start writing important posts wherein I demonstrate how ontogeny really does recapitulate phylogeny or discuss whether Spinoza’s reconciliation of the mind-body problem still holds water. Or maybe I’ll just go back to flogging recipes. Either way, it’s win-win for us all.