Shopping. Ouch.

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I am not a great shopper. I get a little lost in the stores and sort of wander around aimlessly, rubbing things that are soft and darting from pretty color to pretty color like a dazed hummingbird. My closet reflects this inability to acquire what I believe is called a “cohesive wardrobe” (I learned that term from watching Project Runway). It’s a motley assortment of shirts handed down from my girls, skirts from resale shops, and  black, brown, and silver pairs of shoes (one set is for when it’s cold, one for when it’s hot). I did manage a small shopping trip in September, during which I splurged on a pair of autumnal orange cords. I absolutely adore them. I bought two outfits that day, all at JCP, because that store is comfy for me. The outfits are hung on four-way racks, so you know exactly what top is supposed to go with what bottom. It’s kind of like Garanimals for working moms.

I also experience tremendous guilt when I buy clothes. That’s why almost nothing in my closet is new. I just feel like one of my kids must need something more, or I should make an extra payment on a debt, or send some money to a starving child in Africa. My family has started confiscating the receipts after a shopping trip so that I cannot return everything the next day when regret takes over. I looked at a pair of exquisite cashmere hand beaded gloves this afternoon at a new store called Soft Surroundings. They were so beautiful I almost wept. Then I saw the price tag- $120!!! I dabbed my eyes and put them away. That’s a payment to my neurosurgeon or ten months of support for my local NPR station right there.

Today, I ventured into Forever 21, where Libby was looking for a dress for her college auditions next week. Having been told by her super awesome voice teacher that a study in L.A. found that teal and turquoise were top colors to audition in, we had our eyes open for garments in these hues. While she was in the dressing room, a deep turquoise lace overlay dress called my name. I showed it to Libby- she loved it so much she bought it without even trying it on! Success! Imagine my surprise- I had picked out something my 18 year old loved! No eye rolling, no sweet little pats on my dowdy old head (which, by the way, has not had a haircut in 13 months. Hence the ever present low pony and plastic headband)!

So, here are my new thoughts on shopping:

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1. Drink at least two glasses of wine first. This will shut the hyper-critical second-guesser in my head right on up. I’ll be whipping out my debit card in no time, buying highly impractical heels and fluttery skirts! Of course, this is the strategy that led to the acquisition of a tattoo in the East Village last summer, so a little caution should probably be exercised.

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2. Take a daughter with me. My girls are fantastic at putting outfits together, and they can keep me from the yoga pants-tunic ensembles that have become my go-to. In fact, when I do get compliments on my clothes, it’s always something one of my girls bought for me! However, I must be sure not to buy a corn hat.

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3. Stop being distracted by costume ideas when shopping. Some of you will totally get this. I would always rather buy for one of my costumes that buy for mundane work clothes! I had to make a conscious effort today to walk away from the pretty headbands that would go so perfectly with my fairy costume. I don’t want to buy an every day purse, I want a beaded bag to go with my red dupioni silk bustle dress. I want earrings with skulls and crossbones for Rosie. I just have to have the raspberry tights, suede kitten heeled pumps and crystal encrusted shoe baubles to go with my French courtesan costume (see above)!

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4. Have fun. I really need to embrace this philosophy in pretty much everything. I need to lighten up! My girls tell me that clothing can be a way to express one’s creativity, mood, and personality. I used to know that! I have a friend, Melody, who is a theatre teacher, like me. But she wears feathers in her hair, bright colors, and lots of sparkles. Mel wore a feathered hat to the Tommy Tunes awards last April that was like an avant garde work of art on top of her head. She is fearless and so much fun!It’s time to let my inner Melody out to play. I need to find my inner drama queen. Maybe even my inner drag queen.

Image Yep, it’s time to brave the mall, change my inner monologue(I am NOT fat), and start discovering a new fashion sense before I become a victim of the dreaded red hat lady syndrome! Know of any good sales, gals?

Cleaning the slate (and the house, and the office,and the prop room…well, you get it.

If you have lived any sort of length of time on this big blue planet, you’ve probably had a long, slow goodbye. Heck, if you’ve ever had to pull a Bandaid off, you’ll get this. Let’s say you’re stuck in a painful relationship or a job that doesn’t fit, or you’re watching a loved one fade away from illness. On the one hand, you want Time to take it slow, to linger a bit so that you can find the last moments of joy that can be salvaged from the damage: that last squeeze of your father’s hand, that last kind note from a student, that last sad kiss- the one that tastes of salt from the tears mingling on your lips. But that slow goodbye hurts. It extends the pain and lets the mind sit and fester in anxiety and sadness so that you start wishing you could speed the process a bit. I am in that place right now, convinced beyond any shadow of doubt that my time has come to move on (not from my darling husband by the way. Him I will never leave). But I can’t! I have to wait. So what am I doing to cheer the days? Cleaning! Yes, that’s right. I clean when I am stressed. By clean, I do not just mean I dust and vacuum. I throw stuff out. I put stuff in boxes and I write what’s in the boxes on the outside so that I can find stuff later and I put the boxes away into storage. Storage used to mean the attic, but I cleaned that out as well. Today I am going to clean the garage and put all boxes into beautiful stacks and start organizing for a garage sale. I have been known to throw actual furniture away in these great purges. When Trav and I were evicted from our college apartment, I threw enough stuff away to furnish an efficiency rental.

You can actually gauge my anxiety level by opening my closets. The cleaner and emptier they are, the more worried I am. Nothing is safe in these purges except my scrapbooks, my costumes, my quilt, my Jody Bove glass, and my wedding dress. My children fear these purges, as they should. I stand at their doorways, fingers itching to take in a huge Hefty Cinch Sack, some cardboard boxes and Sharpies to alleviate all clutter. My office is almost bare now, posters have been taken down and all but the most essential books have been packed and the car is being loaded daily with boxes heading home (to the garage).

I am also using things up: all the little bottles of lotion and shampoo, all the cleaning products, all the groceries. My cupboards and drawers are clearing out to make packing easier. My wardrobe is almost nonexistent because I am not replacing worn out things.

I am not sure exactly what is going on in my head. I wish I could rip the Bandaid off. I wish I could just say goodbye and head off into the sunset. I know it would be healthier for me. It’s tough to linger. But that discomfort is alleviated by sparkling, empty cabinets and closets and drawers, surfaces emptied of knick knacks,  and walls nearly bare of pictures and art. Maybe I am learning that what is really important isn’t stuff. Or maybe I am just imposing order where I can, since I believe so little is beyond my control right now. Maybe both.

A man named David Hobson said, “I enjoy the cleaning up – something about the getting of things in order for winter – making the garden secure – a battening down of hatches perhaps… It just feels right.”

Maybe that’s what’s going on. I am battening down my hatches and making my figurative garden- the little family I have tended all these years- secure.

I know where this impulse comes from. I grew up in what could nicely be called a mess. I was the girl who got made fun of at school for the dirty clothes and the smelly body, who left her friends at the corner on the walk hone from school so that they would not see the overgrown lawn, who learned by the age of ten that the only thing she could really do anything about was her own bedroom. Amidst chaos, I retreated to my private space and imposed order. You could have eaten off my bedroom floor.

I know that things will get better, that the new opportunities will present themselves. Until then, I will flit through my house dusting, packing, purging, labeling, and scrubbing. Honestly, it would be a great time for you to come visit!
Beware, though, I may hand you some packing bubbles or a bottle of Windex, so wear your grubbies! I’ll have wine in the fridge and I’ll be sure to leave enough glasses unpacked.

Gotta go- my garage is calling my name.

Mother-of-the Bride, Day One.

So, last night, my oldest daughter, Hilary, became engaged to her love. It was a sweet proposal, made at faire in front of the performance company, many of whom were there as surrogate aunts and uncles, huzzah’ing and toasting and generally making it a beautiful celebration. Faire photographers who have captured Hilary’s image countless times before had lined up along the edge of the Globe stage to catch the moment and I wept as I watched Daniel cradle Hilary’s face in his hands, saying sweet words that I think were meant only for her  (I was close enough to catch them but I am not sharing). He had brought two of his close friends, too, and then Mandy was able to get an international line so that she and Hilary could celebrate together as only two young women who have been best friends since seventh grade can do. We drank champagne in Jeff’s office with Jeff, Bill, Eric, J.R., and the family, then the youngsters went out to celebrate while mom and dad dragged their tired selves home to bed.

On the way home I had a realization: Dear God. I am the MOTB. I have to lose weight now. Yes, my first thoughts were all for Hilary and I waited anxiously all through Saturday and Sunday, excited to see that sweet ring on her finger. But I confess it didn’t take long for my own vanity to kick in!

Here are some things that must be decided:

Do I cut my hair off in the pixie I have been dying for? If I do, it will not grow back out in time for the wedding, so I am sort of committing to a lifetime of wedding pictures with short hair, or awkward-growing-out-hair.

Must I wear the traditional MOTB dress, or can I rock a sweet number from BCBG?

What is going to be the best work out plan- yoga, cross fit, or a pole dancing class?

Which diet program is best- Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, or some silly liquid thing (I wonder if there’s a MOTB website that can tell me who’s had the highest success rate?)

Botox: yes or no?

Which fabrics will best hide the sweat stains at an outdoor wedding, and where can I place a strategic pocket in which to tuck face-blotting wipes?

Now listen, I have no intention of trying to upstage Hil, as if that were even possible. Between Hil and Libby, with Mandy thrown in the mix, I am just hoping to escape whispers of “Oh, dear, poor thing…” when people watch us line up for photos.

I cannot possible be the first MOTB to think this way. I am sure there are saintly and selfless MOTB’s preceding me whose thoughts were so focused on making the day perfect for their baby girls that the thought of their own frocks didn’t enter their minds until ten minutes before the wedding, after they’d made sure that the cake had arrived safely, the flowers were just so, the guests were all comfy, and the flower girl was not having a complete hissy fit and ruining her pretty basket. I, however am hell-bent on eliciting a couple of “Damn, she looks pretty good for an old broad!” whispers behind tastefully clever wedding programs.

Well, that’s where this MOTB’s brain is today. Except that really, watching Hilary staring at her ring and finding that she’d let the website of the most exquisite wedding venue on the computer for me to see, seeing Daniel relax and bask in the confident air of a man who’s performed a task well, looking at color palettes and vintage dresses, I really am just prepared to enjoy making this day as precious as my girl is. Well, that and prepared to get really, really thin. Get me a personal trainer and a carrot stick, stat!

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