Tag Archives: apparel

Tough glove

When I was growing up on the East Coast quite a few miles from the shore, my mother carefully taught me about tsunamis. Just in case it was ever relevant, you know.

She bequeathed her knowledge of tsunamis to me like one of those ugly little magic pebbles in stories that the protagonist carries for years and years until they save his life or enable him to achieve the goal of his quest.

“When you see the water retreat, don’t follow it. Don’t get curious and pick up wriggling fish that are left on the beach. Get away from the water as fast as you can, because there will be a tsunami.”

Probably she was thinking of the 1960 tsunami that hit Hawaii, when 61 people died.

Fortunately, I have yet to use this magic pebble of knowledge. But because this information had been drilled into me so carefully, I paid special attention to the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, just in case I could learn anything else.

Indeed I did: That in the aftermath of great destruction, work gloves are of great importance to personal safety as one climbs through the wreckage. I had never thought of that before, but my soft fat paws, which I use intensely to earn my livelihood as a desk jockey, would be in great danger from broken wood, glass, and metal. Having only once handled wooden pallets and recoiled from the splinters and nailheads projecting from them, I knew I needed hand protection.

4013_Claw_v1-328x438For weeks and months after the terrible events in Japan, I anxiously scoured the internet for the “best” gloves. I decided that industrial gloves looked the ideal in terms of cut resistance and impact dissipation. Big, strong, hefty hand gear meant for first responders and rescuers, they surely would protect my squishy paws from the aftermath of a disaster.

But for almost three years afterward, I hesitated to buy them, while they languished on my wishlist. I was puzzled at my own behavior, because buying gloves seemed like a no-brainer.

Finally, some months ago I thought about the 7/7 bombings in Britain, and thought about what if something similar happened to me in the subway. Eventually, I thought about my purse, which only seemed roomy before the prospect of gloves arose. My headlamp is in there already.

WellsLamontGlovesThen last week it all gelled for me. I went down the block to the hardware store and bought much thinner, lighter, less bulky gloves that would fit in my purse.

My reasoning was that it is better to have two gloves in the hand, so to speak, than a pair at home. If I were home and a disaster were to occur so terrible as to separate me from my purse holding my identification and money, I would surely not have the time or ability to fetch out a pair of bulky industrial gloves. Thus, I choose to have disaster gloves that I can carry all the time easily. Like carrying a headlamp, a pair of coated knit gloves, light but tough, is an easy step to take for emergency preparedness.

But if you are or know a first responder or rescue worker, I can think of no better addition to the daily work gear than the Hexarmor gloves I lingered over for years.

Nothing that drastic

Some years ago, I discovered that I love staycations, rather than traveling. My style is to call them “mental health breaks,” aspirationally staying in a local four-star hotel for a night a few times a year. (My latest conquest was the InterContinental, on which I used points to get an absurdly low rate on a top rate room. My next conquest is the Langham.)

These places provide numerous amenities I don’t have at my SRO: A bed, a bathtub, movies, a pool, fine restaurant food served to me on a ceramic plate at a table with a cloth instead of handed over a counter in a styrofoam box, and access to alcohol, the latter prohibition in my SRO probably to prevent fights or people drinking themselves into a stupor alone every night.

In a hotel, unlike the smallest real apartment I could rent at three times my SRO rent, I don’t have to clean the bathtub, tub, and sink, change and wash the linens, go out in the weather to watch movies, and lug home a bottle of wine that will half spoil because I cannot drink the whole thing in time. A hotel room for a night or two gives me true appreciation of amenities for a fraction of the cost of having them where they are merely burdens. (And, as I mentioned in my post on interior design, they have given me a taste for simpler design combined with finer, more durable materials.)

I have made these mental health breaks often enough over the years to sense how hotel clerks size up the customers. But, as I’ve told you before, I tend to look like a bag lady at the best of times.

Frame Traveler in Venetian PaisleyBringing one’s luggage in plastic grocery bags means bad treatment. Using black fabric bags means routine, mindless treatment. Bringing three or four largeish bags in a loud, matching Vera Bradley pattern means being treated like C’mell in Cordwainer Smith’s novel “Norstrilia.” A generous 20-oz. cold bottle of water appears from nowhere, the lightweight bags are gently lifted onto a giant brass luggage cart, and upon arrival at the room, the bellhop carefully explains how the thermostat works before bowing, accepting his tip, and literally backing out of the room.

The bear-man leapt from his stool with astonishing speed. “Cat-madame!” he cried, “A thousand pardons. You can have anything in the place. You come from the top of Earthport? You know the Lords of the Instrumentality personally? You would like a table roped off with curtains? Or should I just throw everybody else out of here and report to my Man that we have a famous, beautiful slave from the high places?”

“Nothing that drastic,” said C’mell. “Just food.”

So it is with embarrassment at my pretentiousness that I admit that for years, I have wanted a fine leather designer purse. Not the tacky fabric kind with an “LV” or “CC” logo; I mean the real real thing, leather. And classically styled, no fringes and useless buckles hanging off it. If humble Vera Bradley can get me this far, what will Longchamp or Coach Classic or Chanel get me? On the rare occasions I have had a chance to examine them, I am impressed by the scent and flexibility of the leather, the attention to rounding off the ends of the stitching, and so on. If you don’t have one of these real bags, and you can afford it, get the real thing and not a fake.

Coach classic duffle leatherBut I also know I have an almost magical, magnetic predisposition to walk clumsily into the tongues of doors hard enough to ruin shirts and, doubtless, ruin a fine leather bag. A good watch will keep running on time, A Vera Bradley bag is loud enough to hide the marks, a leather bag is scarred forever.

And, well, there isn’t much I want from the hotel, not worth spending that kind of money on something that has to be handled with such care to present a social clue that may or may not register. Nothing that drastic. Vera Bradley you can’t miss, it punches you in the eyeball at a fraction of the price.

So I must confine my admiration of fine leather products to the other side of the screen or the window. I’m all set now. Thanks for the free bottle of water!

Evanescent. Scent.

120px-Guinea_Pig_closeupWhen the internet was much younger, I tried to participate in various forums and lists.

The only success I had was on the now-archived list alt.guinea.pig.conspiracy, which ran on the premise that guinea pigs are planning to take over the world. To grasp the belly-shaking humor, you have to have witnessed guinea pigs, as they often do, quietly going into a back corner, facing away from the room, and putting their heads together in a secret conclave inaccessible to stupid human beings.

Aglaonema_commutatum2In contrast, I was a thread killer on Aroid-L, which is about the family of plants that includes such familiar household inhabitants as the incorrectly so-called pothos and such rarities as the corpse plant. A conversation would go along fine until I posted something, and suddenly it would stop. Probably that was because the list is inhabited by scholars of botany and serious collectors of obscure species, whereas I was but a frankly ignorant enthusiast for aglaonema, a very common ornamental more easily, and also improperly, called Silver Queen (which is actually the name of only one variety). I imagine that I must have written things so simple-minded that there was nothing to be said in response.

However, I never provoked a crowd as I did on a forum about fragrances, Perfume of Life, which is inhabited by fanciers of scent both male and female. It was, I can say ruefully, my greatest success on the internet, as measured by the firestorm it set off.

Clive Christian No 1 for WomenThe thread isn’t on the revamped new site, so I must explain that my offense was to declare forthrightly that I live in a tiny SRO (where I still am today) with a shared bathroom and no kitchen, but that I was considering buying a bottle of “the most expensive perfume in the world,” Clive Christian No. 1 for Women, not because it was costly but because I sincerely liked the rather dark, large, dramatic scent a great deal. That amount of money (it was $740 then) was, and is, not nearly enough to raise my standard of living, but it seemed spendthrift to put so much into a bottle of ephemeral perfume when I had so little money to my name; yet where my accommodations are so spartan, it seemed a worthy pleasure. And so I asked what people thought.

The thread exploded with agitated perfume collectors approaching the topic from all imaginable angles. People got really upset at me. Probably they took it personally that I had unwittingly revealed to them how much money they themselves had spent on their own collections. Astonishingly, the thread rapidly surpassed 5,000 reader hits. Apparently not only fragrances but collectors thereof are volatile! The commotion so traumatized me that I fled all forums and lists to this day.

1001609_LFTEAROSEET4_A_400And so it is with great qualms (please don’t flame me) that I introduce to you something I have wanted for years but until quite recently mistakenly thought was out of production: The simply named Perfumers Workshop Tea Rose.

In the 1970s, my mother used to wear this summery, somewhat herbal, scent of tea roses, and it was really very pleasant on her, indeed far more consistently pleasant than she herself was. Also pleasantly, it was, and still is, inexpensive. You can get four ounces, an enormous amount, for less than the price of a pizza. It’s a simple pleasure of evidently enduring appeal. (Did I already ask you to please not beat me up for telling you about Tea Rose? Please don’t beat me up.)

However, I own many scents already — admittedly a fraction of what real collectors have — and before I found out that Tea Rose was still in production, my little herd of fragrances had come to include a bottle of a fabulous, tremendous rose poetically called La Fille de Berlin (Daughter of Berlin). It is the most recent release of the house of Serge Lutens,la-fille-de-berlin-main which is not a household name but is known for subtlety and artistry. It’s the kind of scent where, as perfume collectors are wont to say, when one tries it, one’s nose becomes glued to one’s wrist. You can buy a sample of it at Luckyscent.com.

I seriously doubt Tea Rose can stand up to La Fille de Berlin, although it would be fascinating to do a comparison. Really, I would be buying Tea Rose out of nostalgia and curiosity. And so, sadly, I conclude that it would be a waste of money and space to buy Tea Rose. It would make a fine present for a Secret Santa to give to a woman, so I encourage you to consider it, and it is inexpensive enough for you to try if you want the evocative scent of summer roses at the holidays. But I must show some self-discipline: I have no space for another rose.

Cinderella’s stepsister

Z9360141-Cape_fur_seal_flippers-SPLThis is so embarrassing that I can feel my face blushing hot as I begin this post. I’ve seen people roll their eyes when I raise the topic. And I fear this post will come across as one long whine. But whether we express it like a child, or not, like an adult, the fact remains that when we long for something we know we cannot have, our wish is a whine.

I want to stop fantasizing about buying anything from this entire category of apparel, so I’m getting it out in the open here.

So, anyway, it’s just this. I wish I could wear women’s shoes. That sounds pervy, but I actually am a woman. However, women’s shoes aren’t made in EEEEEE width, so I have to wear men’s shoes, or the occasional particularly wide, ugly EEEE women’s shoes that I can fit into with the edges of my feet slopping over. Maybe that’s why that guy took me for a laundress — my shoes looked too practical, even with clothes from Talbots.

Red flatsOnlineshoes.com, where I get many of my shoes, tells me that it has 19,273 women’s styles in medium width, 24 styles in EEEE width, and none at all in EEEEEE.

I’m grateful for those twenty-four styles, and for the men’s ultra-wide shoes, even as I long to have nineteen thousand styles to choose from.

But, you see, a woman’s outfit is constructed from the shoes up. If you don’t have the right kind of shoes, your outfit is severely constrained. If you are wearing what are called “walking shoes,” your “nice” clothing requires pants to hide them. No skirts, no dresses to wear to that wedding, that fundraiser, that nice restaurant.

Fortunately, I work where practical shoes are rampant and some of the executives occasionally even wear running shoes with skirt suits, so at the office, I get away with wearing mallwalkers with dresses. And admittedly, I did fit right in at the farming convent, what with some of the nuns wearing work boots with their habits and all of them wearing stout, practical, unisex-looking shoes. But I literally do not bother trying to get a job where “professional attire” is expected.

Louboutin_veryprive_roseAs relaxed as my workplace is, I wish that just sometimes I could wear shoes that are stylish or fun, or just varied — flats, pumps, ballet slippers, galoshes, multicolored jelly sandals, shoes that come from department stores, running shoes, knee-high boots, clogs, huaraches, even just cheap shoes.

A few brands, bless them, make women’s dress shoes in EE, but I literally cannot get my feet into them. Like Cinderella’s stepsisters, I would have to cut off some of my foot to get into an EE shoe. If I hold a B width shoe up to the sole of my foot, it appears that I would have to amputate at least two toes.

The footwear I have to choose from is not advertised as fun, stylish, or sexy. My shoes are advertised as supportive, stabilizing, “anti-roll,” “diabetic-approved,” and, sometimes even “post-surgical” — not for running or dancing, not for hiking or fishing, not for brides or wedding guests, and not even, like clogs, for standing.

womens-asics-gel-kinsei-5-hot-punch-white-royal-349216_200_45And I don’t just wish I could wear shoes of a popular width. I wish I could wear shoes in colors other than black, white, and brown, which are the only shades that ultra-wide shoes come in. Red shoes would be especially nice — they are apparently quite emotionally evocative for many people, and not just for me. Blue would be nice, though, too. I don’t need a rainbow.

If you can wear shoes in colors — and even men with average D width feet can find athletic shoes in all sorts of colors — feel lucky. If you can wear foot-destroying stylish high heels, count yourself fortunate (and don’t wear them too often). Think for a minute about what it is like to be forced to wear shoes that look unprofessional and are unsuited to dressy occasions, that are no good for most athletic activities. I am not telling you to be Imelda Marcos, but I encourage you to truly appreciate and enjoy the range of options you have.

New Villager_BLK_PLIf I felt like it, I could get all into Theory of the Human Body and write huffily about body shame and pressure on women to adhere to a certain slender ideal. I could accuse the shoe industry of unfairness. I could meditate on the cruelty implicit in “Cinderella,” the implication that no matter how pretty one’s face is (Cinderella’s stepsisters were not ugly; they were pretty), one can escape one’s lot in life or get a rich and powerful spouse only by having tiny feet.

I don’t feel like shaking my fist, though. I do not think that it is wrong to adorn the human body. I delight in wearing my nineteen lipsticks in a range of colors most people cannot carry off. I don’t have a chip on my shoulder, because I recognize that, sadly, I am at one end of the bell curve in terms of foot width.

Men's New Balance MW928However, and this is what I am getting at, I just wish that choosing my shoes could be a little bit fun, instead of a heavily sighing contemplation of a few styles on the basis of which one least evokes astronaut boots.

That’s it, that’s all, I’m just longing for objects that are completely useless to me.

I want to stop doing that.

Fun: How good is your subtle color vision?

I was thinking about the power that lipstick has over me. Fifteen lipsticks, including four reds? Really? Isn’t that hoarding? Am I not making clutter? I decided to explore this topic a little more.

I found a superb test for distinguishing colors. It isn’t the dots-and-numbers colorblindness test you may know. This is the Farnsworth Munsell 100 Hue test, and it is used in industries where a worker’s ability to make subtle distinctions between colors is vital.

The test is very easy and fun to take. Click here for the explanation of the use of the test on a page that sells the test printed on little pieces like a game.

Or just plain click here to take the test.

http://www.xrite.com/online-color-test-challenge

I’ve read a Comments section somewhere that I can’t find, where all the interior decorators and artists scored very well (low is better), mostly a perfect score or at most 2 or 3. The highest possible scores (over 1000) seem to include how far out of order you place the tiles.

I’ve taken this test a couple of times and the highest score I’ve ever had was 11, and I was rushing that time. I hope you get a better score! It means you have a rich world of color.

This explains the fifteen lipsticks and why I am so sure I want them all. I use them all. I strongly see rather fine distinctions in colors. When I choose what to wear each day, I take into account the light (weather), my skin tone (pale from sickness, dark from sun), and what I’m wearing (hue, intensity).

So, I like lots of lipsticks, because my fifteen look very individual and different to me; I see distinctions that some other people can’t.

And I had difficulty giving up my desire to buy Russian Red and Orgasm because I knew, without realizing it, that they would be unique colors to me. But I still had to turn them down, if weakly, because I really do have enough makeup.

The takeaway for me is that I need to continue to deal with hoarding and shopaholism in order to make space for things I really do want and use – like lipstick. I still don’t think I should get Russian Red and Orgasm, though: That’s for you, or someone you want to get a gift for.

So maybe you will find this test as reflective on your life as I did. Or, just take it for fun!

One ring that ruled my mind

I was trying to write today’s post when I realized that the first object I was describing carried so much ambivalence and confusion for me that I could not write a coherent post. My second attempt ran into similar difficulties. There are different degrees of coveting, and mired as I am in my morass of desire, I need to start with the easy pieces, the ones I can deny myself with a few hundred words.

I don’t want to write about something I cannot sincerely renounce just yet. Obviously, this blog is touching on a deep conflict inside me, which was my intent in starting it.

Hidalgo Flag RingThird object to try. Today I will write about something I have admired and wanted for many, many years, but am finally ready to say I will never have: The  Hidalgo American flag ring (at left).

It is a well known design because within the tiny field provided by a ring, it succeeds at being a blazingly distinctive, stylish, and glamorous miniature rendering of an American flag in the wind. What with the gold and the diamonds, the overall fine workmanship, and the designer name, it is certainly worth the price.

I want one so I can stare at it in the sunshine and wiggle it back and forth so the diamonds sparkle! This draws from a similar attraction to color as the Glass Gem corn I recently described, but instead of making me think of the countryside, it makes me think of myself. It’s in the same league of self-adornment as red lipstick, which I love to wear. One could perhaps get it for someone as a gift, but really, it is so distinctive, it is for the wearer to select.

Eve's Addiction flag ringI could save up to get it. And Hidalgo’s showy ring is clearly beautifully made and worth the money. The knock-off version (at right), purportedly set with cubic zirconia, doesn’t have its panache and workmanship. The stars don’t shine. At least, that’s what I feel… Or… is it just not expensive enough for me? Does the cost itself of the designer version attract me?

No matter. It is clear that the longing itself is the pleasure. In real life, I can’t bear to save up and spend that much money on something I would enjoy for a month and then stop feeling as my finger grew accustomed to it. That much money could make a real difference to a small charity, or to my future self in retirement. My longing, even though it has gone on for many years, and no matter what a pleasure it is in itself, is a sustained “Ooh, shiny!” distraction from what is important. The packrat wants to grab it and make it my own.

But indeed, in this blog, I am trying to achieve a number of important tasks, and one of them is not to say “Sour grapes!” about anything I want, but to stay conscious about both what I want and why I choose against it.

I still enjoy jewelry, and if I want to show my patriotism in a glittery way, I can always get something from Ann Hand, which is informally the costume jeweler to Capitol Hill and the Pentagon. (You ever wondered where the patriotic costume bling comes from that is worn by bureaucrats who testify before Congress, and the wives of senior military and members of Congress ? Ann Hand.)

Perhaps if I were a One Percenter or even less wealthy, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy the Hidalgo ring, because my retirement would be paid up and I could still give quite a bit of money to charity without noticing. If you can do that, maybe you would like the Hidalgo flag ring.

But I can’t do that. I can only make the firm decision to renounce any thought of buying myself this fabulous ring. I choose to spend the money and the thought-power on other things, even other amusements.

There is a reason I have not bought this ring even though I have wanted it for so long. My avarice has been caressing this particular “precious” to the point where the imagining itself is the pleasure. And now I choose to stop letting my daydreams fondle this fantasy.

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