Posts Tagged ‘growing up’

Grown-Up Things I Should Care About But Really Don’t

It’s interesting to notice when you’ve stopped caring about something, especially those things you feel you “should” like for the sake of being a “legit” human being, sophisticated city-dweller, cool kid on the gentrified city block, whatever. You know what I mean: grown-ups read the world politics section everyday. Grown-ups speak at least two foreign languages and can converse upon any subject at a dinner party. When I was four, this is what I thought being a grown-up was.

Lately, I’ve stopped caring about these following things that I thought successful dinner party adults should pay attention to — or perhaps just admitted to myself that, deep down, I can’t fire up the sustained interest to pay attention anymore. I feel like I’m being a bad grown-up admitting some of these — but that’s something I’ll sacrifice, I suppose, for the sake of feeling free and honest and all those good things in life.


On Friendship, Mercury Retrograde and the Distant Shore

Ah, Mercury retrograde: when travel goes awry, computers crash, things get lost in the mail and forging ahead feels like wading in muck. Everytime I see Mercury retrograde on the horizon, I want to hide out at home with my new donut maker and some Nick Cave records and wait for the astro-storm to be over.

But there’s one nice thing about Mercury retrograde I’ve noticed: people come out of the woodwork. Friends I haven’t heard from in ages, buddies I used to carouse with, clients from past projects in past lives, colleagues just touching base to say hello and let me know what they’re up to…they all drop a line, send a quick message on Facebook, or (wow!) even pick up the phone and call. That’s such a nice thing about Mercury retrograde, right?

This particular retrograde’s been good for that, and I’ve spent tons of time chatting with old friends, meeting up for dinner, FaceTiming (is that a verb?) at odd hours with those in different time zones. Most of these friendships go way, way back, back when friends were family and our conversations were like oxygen — when we’d talk about the selves we wanted to be, the dreams we wanted to will into being, when we spent nights and weekends together, holding each other up when things were falling apart. These are the friends who kept my spirits aloft when everything looked hopeless and grim, who danced into the night together like some urban-pagan ritual, who hugged me and told me true love was waiting and we were worthy of it. Maybe we didn’t believe it ourselves, but telling another person you love helped convince you, too. Loving your friends is like loving yourself, only easier sometimes.

It’s years later now. And we are still friends. But our friendship has a different tenor, one wrought by changes in circumstance, temperament, families, babies, husbands, wives, houses, families — the stuff of roots and stability. We talk less often, perhaps. We’re farther away. Paths are wending in unpredictable directions. Social media’s had an odd effect, in a way. I know what’s happening in lives; I see the pictures of the home renovations, the kids, the trips, the weddings, so when we talk, we can get right into it. But what Facebook and Twitter don’t truly create is genuine intimacy — how we feel experiences of our friends as if they are our very own. Are these only transmitted by the sounds of a voice, shared only over a proper cocktail? Sometimes you can only really be there for someone with a hug.

Sometimes it’s like distant ships passing close to shore — you see a shape moving through the fog towards you, and maybe even hear the horn sounding through the mist. And sometimes they pull into the harbor and drop anchor, and you’ll run out to meet them, because it’s been ages and it’s just like they never left. But still you stand on land and the ship pulls away, and you watch it until it becomes a speck on the horizon, and then no more. And then you walk back to your own home, and pick up your life where you left off and live it until maybe around the next Mercury retrograde, when the next ship pulls in.

A Pair of Pink Leopard Print Sunglasses and a Bit of Bad Taste

I recently bought a scarf and some sunglasses: a rare spur-of-the-moment purchase after my epic Zen wardrobe cleanout ages ago. I was just charmed, I guess, maybe craving a bit of spring in the heart of winter. The lavender floral scarf incorporated itself well into my existing wardrobe — I’ve worn it nearly everyday since I got it — and the dark sunglasses nicely replaced a pair of Ray-Bans I smashed last summer on an impromptu weekend road trip. But I felt oddly tortured about the pink leopard print sunglasses! Don’t get me wrong, I love them — but there’s a voice inside that’s a bit like, “Oh my god, should I really be buying this kind of stuff?” I mean, shouldn’t I be more grown up and elegant and chic and all those things now? Shouldn’t I just know better?

I was thinking about something that I read recently in Vogue, in an editorial that featured very chic French actress Clemence Poesy. I read a fashion bulletin board forum devoted to Poesy’s style every now and then, and certain habitués love to complain that Ms. Poesy was so much more “effortlessly chic” a few years ago. I guess it’s true: there’s definitely something a bit more playful and experimental about Clemence’s style now, with slight hipsterisms here and there. She’s still well-dressed and a lovely woman, but her style is arguably a bit less pristine than it used to be. (I don’t think so, personally — I still love her.)

But something she said in Vogue threw a little light on her evolution. To paraphrase, she said the “good taste of Paris” can get in the way of having fun. I guess I’ve been thinking about that as well, in terms of everyday personal style and becoming more grown-up. I mean, you’d like to think that getting older style-wise means becoming a little more sophisticated, and it’s true, I do have a finer sense of craftsmanship, cut, proportion and textiles when it comes to clothes. I appreciate all those things much more, and I’m more apt to buy a quality garment these days than buying something random at Forever 21.

But sometimes “taste” is just so dry and boring and stultifying. Too much good taste = a lack of imagination? Individuality? Eccentricity? A slave to the bourgeois? I’ve always equated a certain level of taste as more about socioeconomic aspiration than anything else and maybe deep down I still do — taste gets decided by “arbiters” and that has never interested me. I feel like I should “know better” when I find myself enticed by certain things — like, uh, pink leopard print sunglasses — but then I also breathe a sigh of relief that there’s still some zest in terms of my fashion sense. There’s just something a bit fun and liberating about a little bad taste. Style that’s truly alive to me has the twist of the unexplainable, something that disrupts the hegemony of all that good taste — even if it’s just something as hidden as hot pink underwear, my other undying style peccadillo.

I don’t know how often I’ll wear these pink leopard print sunglasses. My little niece squealed with delight when she saw me wearing them, and so they’re worth it for that alone, and maybe one day I’ll pass them to her, being a good auntie. But even if I don’t wear them, I’ll probably keep them on my dressing table — as a reminder that fashion’s as much about mischief and hijinks and inspired whims as it is about taste and “chic.” And you know, screw arbiters of taste and chic! Stick it to the Fashion Industrial Complex!

How Do Quirky Gamines Grow Up?

I got a bunch of gift cards for the holidays, so this past weekend I went to a local department store at the mall and looked around for something to buy. I’m not a big shopper, especially since my big Zen wardrobe cleanout ages ago. But I thought I’d canvass the landscape and see if there was anything that caught my eye. I’m generally a proponent of buying quality clothing, and I’ve learned to hold out for something that I really love instead of buying something just for the sake of buying. But with these gift cards, I thought I’d splurge on something different, something kind of fun and frivolous.

The problem? I couldn’t find anything! I tried on all kinds of things from velvet moto jackets to sparkly tap shorts to beautifully cut sheaths. But there was only one thing I really loved, and that was a slouchy cream-colored sweater…with a cartoon owl on the front. I already have a sweater with a fox on it, but this one was three stops deep into adorableville. It was nicely cut, kind of relaxed yet flattering, mouthwateringly soft and the graphic made me smile. I put it on and found that it hit that intersection of cute and fun that I call “fetching.” But I had a strange thought when I tried it on: Is this too young for me?


Suddenly I realized that I’ve been having this thought more and more lately, as well as its more depressive counterpart: Am I too old for this? Just to be clear, this isn’t a story about “dressing your age.” I’m too much of a feminist to believe in a lot of that bullshit: I think if you’ve got the legs for it (or even not) wear a miniskirt if that makes you happy. If you like your hair long, keep it that way. Celebrate your strength and dignity at any age! Forget mutton dressed as lamb — dress like your spirit animal!

No, what I’m talking about falls into the category of cuteness, of “quirky dressing.” Or even just semi-quirky dressing. (Anyone who knows me in real life knows that I’m fairly subdued and straightforward in terms of how I wear clothes, and my version of quirky is pretty chill.) But I do dig a quirky print, have a lifelong fondness for Hello Kitty, can’t resist slightly ironic florals, and am severely tempted by those adorable Charlotte Olympia cat flats. I’m not quirky head to toe, but I like a splash of whimsy here and there, and being short, people always call me cute by default, anyway. (Oh, the woe of being 5’2″!) I guess you could say that what I’m talking about also falls into the category of “taking yourself seriously.” Meaning: would wearing a sweater with a super cute owl on it make me feel like a chump?

Ironically, I face this conundrum partly because I have a lot of sartorial freedom in my life. I’m lucky in that I work from home, so I can wear anything I want — theoretically at least. I’m also lucky to have a body that hasn’t changed drastically as I’ve entered the dark side of the thirties. What I wore in college and as a young woman is not that far from what I wear now: jeans, boots, shorter skirts, tights, lots of boys’ sweaters and oxfords. I skew Goth-y and punky, but it’s essentially the wardrobe of a wannabe Parisian gamine mixed with a slight bit of humor. It actually works most of the time, so I don’t know what I’m complaining about here. I guess it’s really the little whisper of doubt nipping at me — the weirdness of bing a lady and heading towards 40 and feeling like I should feel like more of an adult than I actually do.


That’s the rub of it, in fact. This past year I’ve felt more “settled” into my life than ever. Maybe “settled” isn’t the right word, actually. It’s more about feeling rooted and confident in what my life is about, who and what I love and value and cherish, feeling bolder about what truth and beauty I want to put into the world. It’s about going through this crazy journey and acquiring wisdom and experience, feeling battle-tested and strong and warriorlike, unwilling to put up with bullshit and wasting my time with what doesn’t matter. My heart is expansive and strong, and my game is tight! In my book, this is what feeling like an adult is about: not the acquisition of statuses and possessions, but the hard work, self-knowledge and (always evolving) wisdom that ideally should go into the trappings of adulthood in the first place.

I suppose, being a sartorially motivated person, that I’d like what I wear to reflect this lovely new feeling of being bien dans sa peau and rooted and grown-up. Yet so many “grown up clothes” lack imagination — and I don’t even know what that means, really! I don’t want to dress like Anna Wintour. I don’t even think it means wearing designer or expensive clothes, as beautiful as some of them can be. And honestly, deep down I don’t want to dress differently: I like the clothes I wear a lot. Everything in my closet is beloved to me. But I suppose I am looking that special element, something that marks this new expansive feeling in my life.

I guess that’s probably why I had another strange thought recently. I was slipping on a pair of earrings as part of what I call “Operation Sparklepony” (I know, not very grown-up of me) when I thought to myself, You know, I really should just buy myself a pair of diamond studs. Now, I’ve never been a girl who was big into jewelry or precious gems or anything like that. So this diamonds thing…where did that come from? I asked myself. I think it’s because diamonds have lasting value, they’re the opposite of disposable — they’re legacy, things you treasure and endow with spirit and significance and pass on. They last. To think of an accessory that way — that’s a grown-up thought. Who knows: I’m the least likely diamond buyer on earth, but maybe it’s just the right thing for me now. And that’s something I’ve taken time to grow into. (Plus: Operation Sparklepony!)


So I didn’t get that lovely owl sweater I tried on. In the end, I decided I’d be content with my fox one for now and would save the gift card for later. And maybe I’ll buy something diamond-y, but I probably won’t. There are other ways to create that sense of legacy and heritage in your wardrobe that don’t involve precious gems. Maybe I’ll just buy another bottle of perfume! In the end it doesn’t matter, because I know now what I want to commemorate, and it’s worth thinking over, waiting for, and working towards. Such grown-up thoughts indeed.