See, it all starts with the shoes...
In reality, where it should begin would be the location, but it never really goes that way, not for me anyway. I do consider whether or not a lot of walking will be involved -- walking city blocks and maybe an avenue or two versus merely walking from the car into the restaurant -- because that will mean I just can't wear these amazing yellow peep-toe stilettos I own because taking more than sixteen straight steps in them causes my feet to literally bleed.
I've worn them four times.
I've never not ended up with actual wounds.
Each time, when I pry them off at the end of the night in the kind of pain I pretend childbirth must be similar to, I tell myself this: Never again. You can never do this to your poor feet ever again.
But they are beautiful. They taunt me in the way really gorgeous things sometimes can.
I try to indoctrinate men early into the fact that I'm a heel-wearer, and I'm proud to commend the male sex in its entirety for never having a problem with that proclivity, at least not early on. (Not the biggest shocker, obviously. Men like women in heels. It's like the time one of my sweetly naive girlfriends told me the guy she was seeing liked lingerie, and I remember wondering if I could even get it up to feign shock. I couldn't. Some things are just not surprising.)
Sometimes, as the years pass, I'll get the, "You're wearing those to the concert?" comment as I stand, ready to leave the house in five-inch wedges. And I will just look back at him blankly and smile and know that at least I only date people who are strong enough to piggyback me through the parking lot of what used to be called The Meadowlands should it come to that.
Once the shoes are chosen, the outfit builds from there. I work literally from the toes up, which at the moment are a way paler shade of a pinky-lilac-sheen than I normally go with, and I move on to the skirt. Yes, I'm a girl who is rarely to never in pants, though winter -- especially this last one with its fucking Polar Vortex -- required denim or leggings every now and then. But no, it's almost always a dress or a skirt, and one of the weirdest compliments I ever got was when someone once told me I had perfect hamstrings, which I would never think would be something I'd crave hearing, but I absolutely loved it because the comment was unique. I'm used to words about my smile -- you have dimples, that's an easy compliment -- but the hamstring comment? Bravo, just for its sheer originality.
The thong is chosen after the skirt. One of my life's mottos is There Is No Excuse For An Avoidable Underwear Line, and I stand by that. (Another of my life's mottos is Treat People Who Have Earned It With Kindness and Consideration, but the Thong one is right up there in my estimation of Things That Just Matter.) But the thong pick has got to be strategic, and that's sadly something one learns after a very bad choice made once at 5am when I was getting dressed for work and was too sleepy to check out my outfit as closely as I normally would have. So there I was, at work, teaching seniors in high school, in a class mostly made up of guys, and I was wearing a skirt that was fully lined (it was -- it WAS -- but sadly not with kryptonite) and the skirt was so pretty and so feminine and sort of light purple, a shade I never really wear, and I'd only actually ever worn it once before to a casual premiere I went to with a friend who had just become an agent, and that night the skirt worked. But that school day? Not so much, because there I was, me and my black thong, a color I always wear, and it took me several periods of the day to realize my undergarments were shining through like an X-rated X-ray. My choices, upon realizing this fashion and personal disaster, seemed to be:
1. Quit my job immediately.
2. Pretend to go comatose and try to pass out in a physical maneuver that will allow my lower half to slide under my desk which will serve as an impromptu thong cover.
3. Go commando, but that last choice was never really an option because it can really give off the wrong impression, especially if you're at work, which, once again, I was.
So I tied a fellow teacher's sweatshirt around my waist, the hood of it covering the back of my skirt, the front sleeves tied strategically to hang across the front. The sweatshirt wasn't anything I would have ever worn in my life, and tying it like I was at summer camp in 1982 was humbling all on its own, but there was a desperation to the situation and for once, fashion didn't matter. Not drawing my students' attention to my underwear any further became paramount.
It took me years to get over that moment. I've never worn that skirt again. I have it still though. It's lace and gorgeous and it's made by Laundry and it still fits, but I look at it and I just shiver.
The top is next, and it'll either be really fitted or flowy, depending upon if I'm going for the These Are My Boobs look or the sweeter bohemian look, both which I like very much. The top then determines the bra, and there are some that I have that are really pretty and some a wee bit more, shall we say, functional, but those choices then have to be made. And of course the bra and the thong match. I'm that girl. And you know what? I will never ever apologize for being that girl. There's nothing in The Feminine Mystique that deems that matching lingerie equates a loss of intelligence or, like Ani DiFranco says in a song, that "lipstick is a sign of my declining mind." My mind's just fine, thanks -- and so is the rest of me, so it might as well look nice.
The hair. The hair!!! Always the last issue. Always my biggest issue.
"You have a never-ending battle with your hair," my friend Becky once told me after I considered taking a sick day after I once got bangs in one of the worst in-the-moment choices I have ever made.
"And it always wins!" I screamed back. She said nothing in return; she knew I was right.
The hair is just best when it's down and straight, but lots of times I'll do a pony or a high bun. Some outfits just work with the bun. And on super-humid days, that's a good thing because, really? It's kind of the only option.
This summer I got my hair straightened with that Keratin stuff, and it works. My hair is always down now and it's shiny and it was worth the fortune it cost and that I kept asking my hair stylist, "Um, is it normal that my scalp is burning? How about that my eyes are turning crimson? Still normal?"
Look: I might now be infertile, but I have good hair and it's the summer. At this point, I'm willing to call it a draw.
So the questions these days as I'm doing coffee and drinks and dinners is about the shoes and the camisoles and how to wear the hair and all the other stuff that matters when it's easy like it is now.
The harder questions will come later.