Thursday, August 10, 2006

On fashion escapes and need

I pass the window of an expensive dress shop and my eyes lock on a grey suit in the window. It's a 40s inspired number - rounded collar, some elegant pleats and tucks, a fitted waist and short peplum, narrow pants. The T-shirts in this store run about $175 and the jeans around $300, so I can imagine (but not without gasping) the price of this suit.

And I want it. I want a pair of expensive pumps with dangerous heels to go with it. Oh. And a stylish haircut and killer red lipstick.

I want to take all my loose, floaty, comfortable clothes, and donate them to Goodwill.

And why? Because I've realized that for the next 18 months, I have to squeeze my pay cheque until it bleeds enough into my savings account to keep me afloat for the first year I retire. In case I'm not fabulously famous for my craft work by then, or Wal-Mart isn't hiring Greeters. Suddenly, the thought of this plunges me into poverty mentality.

Suddenly I want the uniform of unlimited wealth. I want clothing that says, "I don't have to ask what it costs."

That has to be it. Because I don't have or plan to have a lifestyle of the rich and famous. I'm unlikely to end up as a member of the board for a famous ballet company or large non-profit organization. God knows I don't plan sit around beading in such an outfit. I live in a city where wearing a skirt is cause for people to inquire as to why you're dressed up.

Or maybe it's resistance of a broader kind. Resistance to my future life - the one where I don't suffocate on the number 20 bus every day, don't sit at the same desk, doing more-or-less the same thing, bored or frustrated to near-stupification. The life in which my time belongs mostly to me and I can write at 4:00 a.m. without thinking about an alarm clock. But also the life in which decent income and dental plans are a mere memory and expensive grey suits hit the category, "hallucination."

Some larger part of me looks forward greatly to the challenge of life without a safety net, doesn't mind the thought of shopping at Frenchy's and Value Village, likes the idea of salvaging and fixing disgarded furniture, going miles out of my way (via bus pass) for a bargain on brown rice or coffee - but that part is silenced suddenly by the grey suit.

That suit is a previous, anxious life in a larger city. A time when being in style mattered sadly, desperately. When being myself wasn't quite enough.

Nerves from that life, I'm shocked to realize, can still twitch and bother.

I think about owning my time, as an antidote. I think about moving to Dawson, the Yukon, population roughly 2,000 - where a good snowmobile suit would be the height of fashion. I think about writing at 4:00 a.m. - and about Jess saying, about indiscriminate whim-shopping, "what hole needs to be filled?"

And I hang the thought of the grey suit at the back of the closet. Right where it would be, in reality, if I owned it.

PS On the other hand, Weedy's son once said, "Anyone who thinks stuff doesn't make you happy hasn't had good stuff."