Thursday, March 8, 2012

Goddess Dress

Took the day off from painting. Beautiful day out, temperature in the sixties. The first real day of spring. My dog certainly was affected. When I walked her she was distracted and wanted to pull. Every time she pulled I turned around and went in the opposite direction. Sometimes we would circle three or four times in one spot because as soon as I came out of the backward direction she would pull forward. The past several days we have made enormous strides in training, she has been really focused on me and this enabled me to cover a lot of ground. But today it took 50 minutes to walk around a fifteen minute block. So you see, I really don't tolerate pulling. And you see, my dog is really stubborn about doing what she wishes to do! We are equally stubborn!

Several days ago I was walking downtown and noticed that a store for sophisticated ladies had put an intriguing dress on one of its manikins in the display window. The dress had a hemline that went up and down. It was sleeveless, good for warm weather when all I wear is dresses. And it was cotton. When I was young the big thing was to dress in silk, it felt so good against my skin, (and it looked like luxury) but now with a dog I'm all about cotton. During the spring and summer (and winter) whenever I walk the dog usually I sweat. My dog likes a fast pace, the trainer said her gait is long, and I think my body too reacts to the mental effort it takes to train her. Hot brain, hot body. So I love cotton because you can throw it in the washing machine! I usually wear fresh and clean clothing every day. I just read online that 90 percent of Americans wash their hair every day, so this means that the huge majority of people are taking showers every day. I used to shower every day before my mental illness, but now, I'm lucky to shower once every two or three days. If I don't sweat much I might go as long as four days without showering. Four days without showering means that I've been pretty stressed and busy and feeling mentally ill. But I wear deodorant, perfume, and clean clothes every day. I actually think my hair looks the best on the third day. Natural oils aren't all bad. It is really a big mental effort for me to take a shower. Some days, when times are rough, my only goal during the day might be to take a shower. I always feel better, and accomplished, after. Its as easy as take a shower Karen, and then welcome to the human race.

But back to the dress. I rarely go in that store, it for professional ladies. This dress must be what a professional lady wears out on the weekend or to a party. It is too light and funky for work. But light and funky is fine when you are dog walking! Since I walked by the display window a couple of days ago I worried that they would be sold out of my size (of course what is shown on the manikin is a size small or extra small, not my size) and I worried that the dress would be astronomically expensive. Last week we deposited our tax refund check into our account so I knew that there would be extra money to spend. If I really wanted a treat, now would be the time to get it.

I dressed this morning just for the store. I thought to myself, what kind of lady shops in that store? So I wore dark jeans, a grey tee, and a black Banana Republic tuxedo jacket that I bought - gasp - in a thrift store in Connecticut. Rich state, awesome picks in the thrift stores there. Just to be extra polished, I turned up the bottoms of my jeans. Just a little roll. Just a little flash of the underside of the fabric. Just a little contrast to say look at me, I care about details.

When I stepped into the store I found the dress on display immediately. They were next to the door. It looked like they just arrived, all the sizes were there. It was a designer brand name, so you never know with sizing, some designers size small. If they are snooty designers for wealthy people. But the price was surprisingly modest. I grabbed a large and medium. Let me tell you my obsession with size medium.

I have been, in the past, a woman who can only shop in plus size stores, or in the plus size section of a department store. I know the agony and mite sized shame of walking past a Gap in the mall because nothing in there would fit me. Before my mental illness I spent my freshman year at college running and dieting. I went over the course of a year from a size 14 to a size 4, and I wasn't the only freshman to come to the City and transform herself. A third of my Barnard class were girls who had their families in New York City, and the City prizes thinness. My classmates were usually gorgeous. And sophisticated. The salad bar at Barnard was enormously popular. I felt like a bumpkin, even though I was from Connecticut. I remember discovering the magazine Vogue in a doctor's office when I was in 11th grade. I was astonished by the magazine, and thought it all too outlandish but secretly fascinating. At that time my clothing had to be approved by my father, since he was the one paying for it. Alas, I never got his approval because he usually thought I was either too fat, or too eccentric in my tastes. I was tolerated but never praised. I remember being in Lord and Taylor and arguing with him over a piece of clothing that I wished to buy but which he believed was too weird. How weird can you get in Lord and Taylor? Didn't help my ego that he had his young girlfriend living with us during high school (most people assumed she was his fourth and eldest child) and she was a size 2 or 4.

For a time, after I changed medication and was no longer on an antipsychotic that caused weight gain, my obsession was with whittling myself down to a medium size. At the time I was buying extra extra large from the Gap online. And buying clothes from the woman's section in Wal-Mart. God Bless Wal-Mart. They always have a nice selection of 1x,2x, and 3x clothing that is colorful and affordable. But in my eyes the goal was medium. The middle of middle America. I associated medium with normal. I confess, I worry that if I don't look normal, I won't be treated with respect.

I had no faith in myself this morning so I tried on the large size dress first. And I thought to myself, goodness, what an odd cut this dress has, totally unrealistic for the modern lady. What lady wants arm pockets so deep her bra is showing? And I really don't care to show so much cleavage. But the dress was a designer name, so I thought that they were going for the edgy look of showing off the bra whenever you wore the dress. I don't know why I tried on the medium. I had it with me, so why not? And when I had it on, suddenly no bra showed, the arms were normal, the bust was normal, it fit perfectly. I experienced a sudden glow, I was meant to be a medium! I had arrived at middle America!

And here now, that I have successfully reached this milestone, things get weird.

I no longer wish to be a medium. I want to be a small.

Great Thundering Jehoshaphat, what is wrong with my head? Why can't I be content?

But I want to be as skinny as I was when I was eighteen. Reality check, I'm fourty-four. I know damn well this isn't a mental illness, schizophrenia issue. This is a female issue.

In order to lose more weight I'm going to have to do some cardio exercise. More than walking the dog at a fast clip. I'm going to have to start jogging again. But here is my problem. It is all I can do just to paint, train the dog, and shower periodically. If I jog, I have to shower right after. And this might sound stupid, but its the truth; If I jog, I have to change out of my clothing into exercise gear, and then after showering, wear normal clothing again. As it is hard to shower, it is equally hard to change clothing. Even changing shoes is hard for me. That's why I need cotton when I walk the dog. I can't wear silk, change to walk the dog, and then change back to silk again after. I mean I can, but it takes so much effort. What is simplest is to dress in the morning, go through the day, walk the dog and sweat a bit, come home and sit in bed while the sweat dries, and then continue with the day, with what I put on in the morning. Oh if the dog walking sweat is extreme I'll change into a dry shirt, but usually, I'm only a little damp.

The store I went to today had a back room where all the clothing was on sale. I tried on a pair of velvet pants, no doubt left over from Christmas, but all I could think of is I can't walk a dog in velvet pants! The rubbing of my legs together would fast destroy the velvet. I will, however, walk the dog in velvet skirts, I have two of these found at a thrift store in Connecticut. Velvet skirts don't disintegrate after 60 miles, or, a month's worth of dog walking.

I know everyone has some kind of philosophy that guides the way they dress. My husband, for example, goes for what we like to call the junior executive look. He has a horror of blue pants. Why? Because blue pants are the favorite color for what the factory machine workers wear. Never mind that he doesn't have an office, doesn't have much of a title, and probably only earns a slight margin over what the machinists earn - the perception by most of the men on the factory floor is that he is part of management, and, they even fear him a little! Not because of his personality, he's a really nice guy, but because he dresses as if he were management. So all the blue collar guys think he has the power to get them in trouble! Him and I have the strategy that if you dress well this will help you get a better job. Could be true, could be false, but it seems to be working. I swear, if he gets a promotion it will be because he earned it with hard work and a smart brain. But I was the one behind his junior executive look. When I first met him he dressed all in flannel shirts and loose blue jeans. I took him to thrift stores and we completely upgraded his wardrobe. Now he would never ever wear what he wore before. In fact, there really is only three things that set him apart from the President and owner of the company, who he occasionally takes meetings with. One, the leather soled shoes. Two the Rolex watch. And three the car he came to work in. I suppose if you looked closely at the labels of the clothes there would be a difference too.

If I loose weight for my health, that's one thing. If I loose weight so that I can make my Dad like me a little more, or look like my sister or step-sister or step-mother or step-daughter - all who are small or extra small sizes! - talk about being surrounded by beauty - then I'm not accepting who I am.

And the devil in me says, - why settle for anything that is less than fantastic, stellar, enviable?

And the devil in my says, - admit it, you want to look like a princess. Perhaps a mad princess, but one never-the-less.

And the realist in me says - wear only what you can walk the dog in, and throw into the washing machine after. You don't have to throw it into the dryer after, you can air dry it on a rack and put the machine on the delicate cycle, but absolutely and always draw the line at dry cleaning.

If you splurge, at the extreme, and it is inadvisable considering how much energy you lack - hand wash.

I bought the medium dress today. This weekend, I'll try to jog a bit.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Karen,

    Congratulations on returning to a size medium! I would love to be at average weight. You have come so far. You are in much better shape than I am. I do not pay close attention to what I wear other than I want it to be comfortable. And I am still not so good with personal hygiene. Still sleep in my clothes, etc... This probably has not only to do with the schizophrenia, but with me living alone. It still bothers me that I am fat, but mostly I've given up on being feminine. It should be a joy--clean and flattering clothes, clean body, a touch of perfume, some jewelry, maybe some make-up, but for me I just aim for clean body, clean clothes and don't always succeed at that.

    But you, dear mad princess, are doing all right, despite your struggles with showering. I think it is wonderful that you take such good care of your hygiene and appearance each day (and take care of your dog and dedicate your time to your artwork...). I enjoyed reading this blog entry and I felt your triumph when you fit into a size medium. You give me some hope Karen.

    Love you,

    Kate : )


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