Once, when I was about 15, my mother told me I could not leave the house like that because I looked like a tramp.
Yes, she actually said tramp. And my face immediately crumpled and I could tell that she felt bad, that it was an unfortunate word choice that conveyed a malice she didn’t feel, but I was 15 and angry and wounded and man, I made her feel that regret for DAYS afterwards, such was my fury.
The cause of this dramatic mother-daughter fallout was a jumper. Yes, a jumper. As in, the kind of dress you wear over a turtleneck. I believe this particular jumper even featured an argyle print. (I know! Trampy!) Specifically, the jumper was short- miniskirt short- and my mother thought that it was far too short to wear out of the house. (Dear Mom: I’ve seen pictures of you in the 60s. You are fooling NO ONE with your sudden fondness for demure hemlines.)
This is one of the annoying things about being a tall girl- clothes are always too effing short. (I know, grass is always greener, who am I to complain etc etc, but I say this: short people, you can always have your clothes altered to make them shorter. Taking them to the tailor to make them longer? Not so much.) Pants always hover two inches off the ground, prompting flood jokes. Coat sleeves are too short. Blouse sleeves are too short. Skirts are a constant problem, and forget about finding a floor length dress that actually reaches the floor. It is so, so much better than it used to be- thank you Gap and Jcrew for catching on to tall sizing and saving me from buying all my pants in the mens section like I did in high school- but there has not been the same kind of industry adoption of tall lengths for skirts. At most stores, there is one length of skirt, and if you are a tall girl, it just means more leg is showing. Sometimes, this problem is truly ridiculous- I tried on the cutest little dress at Old Navy the other day, then realized that if I even leaned over to scratch my knee the whole world would be able to see my underpants, so back on the rack it went.
After the Dramatic Jumper Incident of 1993, I have always been a little skittish about hemlines. Yeah, I know, Ally McBeal made the miniskirt suit look normal, but I am very conscious of not wanting to show too much (very very pasty white) leg at the office. I especially fear rear slits in skirts, since they often seem to toe the line between “nice design element” and “inadvertent peephole into a very private region”.
So help me, internet. Today was day one million of what I’m calling the “neverending negotiations that will never end ever oh my god” deal at my work, and I have worn all the suits I own at least twice, so today I pulled a black dress out of the closet, threw a gray jacket over it, and called it a suit. Trouble was, when I got to work, this is what I noticed:
Uh, so that’s, um, kind of a lot of knee I’m showing there.
I swear, when I stand up, this dress hits just above the kneecap. I do not know what is going on when I sit down. (I am choosing not to believe that it has anything to do with the size of my ass when sitting and the resultant displacement of fabric. I’m not good at physics.)
So I’d ask my mom what she thinks, but (a) I don’t live with her anymore, so she’s not available, and (b) I’m not sure my psyche could take another “tramp” comment, so I ask you, oh wise and wonderful internet: is this dress, worn with a very conservative jacket, which comes to the knee when standing, too short for the office?
People, the internet is amazing, for many well documented reasons, and I am grateful to Al Gore for inventing it. One of the coolest things about my personal experiences with the internet has been how it has led me to some cool in-person friends who I would not otherwise have met.
One of these cool people is the lovely and amazing Jess, who as many of you know is getting married shortly. I have actually met Jess and Torsten IN PERSON, and they are just as amazing as you would expect. In fact, they are somewhat MORE cuddly and cute together in person than you might expect. It would be nauseating if it weren’t so sincere. In putting together this whole bloggy bridal shower with Alice and Swistle, I’ve been thinking about what kind of wedding words of wisdom I could give to these two crazy kids and I realized something: they don’t need a platitude from me (never go to bed angry! make sure to get a house with two sinks in the bathroom, hardy har har!) They are excellent for each other, well suited in every way, and clearly in love and committed to each other. They’re going to excel at marriage. So instead of any advice, I just raise my imaginary internet glass to these two lovely people, and wish them a lifetime of laughter and happiness. To Jess and Torsten!
p.s. And cooking! I wish them a lifetime of cooking with recipes culled from people all over the world. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, see here.
I once had a very interesting conversation with a high-powered female executive who was sharing what she called “tricks of the trade.” She had a bunch of tips for us (I was with a group of young women professionals) about how to assert our authority and manage situations without seeming too “harsh” or “bossy” or “mean.”
Setting aside for the moment the (huge! looming! conversation-worthy, except I don’t have the time this morning to get into it!) question about the extent to which women feel the need to “soften” their approach in professional settings where men can be big bumbling rude jerkfaces and people will respect them for their “toughness,” there was one tip that I found particularly funny. She said that she often takes off her watch and slips it into her bag before she goes into a room to run an important meeting.
“That way,” she said, “when I know that the conversation is going on too long and we have to move things along quicky, I can say ‘I’m sorry, I forgot my watch today, can someone tell me the time?’ And then when someone tells me, I can say ‘Oh goodness, it’s later than I thought, we’d really better move this along.'”
It never occured to me that the mere act of noting the time and trying to keep a meeting moving could be perceived as being “pushy,” but this woman SWORE by this trick. “I could never do that, even if I thought it was useful,” I remember thinking at the time, “because I start to twitch and look reflexively at my wrist every 30 seconds when I’m not wearing a watch.”
Well today, like it or not, I get to test that trick. Big meeting starting shortly, and my watch is hanging out contentedly on my dresser at home, where I forgot to put it back on after my shower this morning. I’ll let you know how it works.
Am I the only one who gets nervous and twitchy when I forget my watch? Please tell me I’m not the only one…
• Being told by the crackly announcer voice lady that the el has ceased to function, and one must find an alternate way home. (She apologizes for any inconvenience, but one doubts her sincerity.)
• Realizing one’s wallet is completely empty of money, since one put all the money in the fancy dress purse one carried to a wedding in Michigan this weekend and forgot to transfer it back to everyday wallet. (See also: driver’s license, ATM card.)
• Tivo cuts off the last 5 minutes of Gossip Girl.
• Neighbor’s dog pitches a fit at 3am, barking hysterically AT NOTHING.
• Favorite workout DVD has developed a scratch and skips through a key part.
• In the shower, reaching for the razor, one realizes one left said razor sitting on the ledge of the shower in the hotel in Michigan. Now one has to entirely change intended outfit (goodbye kicky skirt suit, hello boring pant suit) and also buy a new razor. (It had a new blade on it, too! What a waste of $8 worth of shaving products!)
• Someone drank the last of the milk one had clearly labeled with one’s name, forcing one to use powdered creamer, which one thinks we all can agree is a lousy substitute.
(So you can see why one would need a large, calorie-laden scone on a morning such as this, no?)
I have this thing for projects. I love to cook, bake, knit, decoupage, you name it. (Okay, not decoupage. I’ve never technically decoupaged. But I have no doubt that if I tried it, I would like it.) My sister teases me fairly regularly about my so-called “Martha Stewart problem.” One of my coworkers has suggested I quit the law business and go into granola and jam-making full time. (I believe she had selfish motivations for that suggestion. For now I’m sticking with law, and canning is just a side project.)
It is a little funny, actually, that I have turned out like this. I am not, generally, a detail-oriented person. I tend to rush through things. I was definitely not always crafty. When I was a kid and everybody was making friendship bracelets, mine always turned out a tangled mess of knots with no discernible pattern. (Don’t even get me started on lanyards- unmitigated disaster.)
But somehow, as an adult, I’ve become drawn to homemade and handmade things. (Hi Etsy! I love you!) I find this stuff relaxing and satisfying. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that my work can be stressful, and it’s very academic- lots of thinking and writing and talking, but not much creating or embellishing or designing. It provides nice balance to come home and knit a new hat after a long week of noodling over complex legal questions. (It also provides something for one to do while one watches tv, so one does not feel quite so guilty about being a huge lump on the couch.)
But knitting is limited for me- I do hats, scarves, and quilt squares and nothing more. I am terrified by sock heels, and I am pretty much certain that a sweater wouldn’t be worth the effort- I’d slave over it for months only to discover the sleeves were too short, or the fit not quite right or something.
So for a while, I’ve been looking for a new project, and when I heard about this cool store in the city that teaches sewing classes, I was sold. Unlike pottery and printmaking (both of which I also considered,) I could see immediate, practical uses for sewing skills- starting as early as the holidays, which I’m hoping to do all handmade this year. The idea of sewing classes left me with visions of handmade tote bags dancing through my head. Plus, I remember very fondly the scores of Halloween costumes my mother lovingly sewed for me and my sister over the years, and I figured if I want to have a chance of doing the same thing for hypothetical eventual children, I should probably, you know, learn to sew. So I coerced Nilsa into signing up for a basic sewing class with me.
I made this. No one is allowed to lay on it because it is precious.
Nilsa has an awesome, thorough description of the process for making these pillows over at her space. I have pretty much already forgotten all the steps, but nonetheless I have to say: I am feeling awfully smug about my sewing skills right now:
Check out that craftsmanship!
Next stop: tote bags! Then aprons! And maybe, someday, I’ll be ready for Halloween costumes! (I just have to learn to read a pattern first. Baby steps.)