Throughout my life I have often felt inadequate and a bit guilty being just me. I have wanted to be a different kind of person, to have traits and talents that I thought would make a better self. But during these weeks of isolation, I have come to the realization that I’m fortunate not to actually have become any of those people I wanted to be.
Starting in high school, I have wished I were more of a girly girl. My classmate Susie Breck epitomized this type, and she was always surrounded by admiring minions. For starters is the hair. It’s naturally curly and so always has “body” and looks good. Or, if the hair is naturally straight, it goes to the beauty parlor on a regular basis to be coiffed. If the color changes as one gets older, that’s remedied by regularly visiting someone called a colorist.
There’s a feminine, put-together look about this type of woman. For Susie it was the crisp blouse with the Peter Pan collar tucked into the poodle skirt held out at the proper radii by the crinolines underneath. The fingernails and toenails always look glamorous in their pink or red polish. This kind of femininity continued to fascinate me and I was always a bit envious.
With my straight, body-less hair, which sees a beauty parlor only for overdue trims, I am much better off these days than those I previously thought blessed. Curly hair must be harder to deal with when it’s too long and has a mind of its own, and two shades of hair color can be much more upsetting than one, no matter its hue.
I have no problem with weekly alternation of my two pairs of sweatpants and pairing them with any top within reach. But others may have trouble letting go of dressing every day in a fashionable, coordinated outfit, even just to binge watch Netflix. And needing to wear a different outfit daily could add up to stressful decision making and a lot of laundry.
The first time I heard the word “mani-pedi” I had no idea what it was. When I did understand it was the insider’s lingo for manicure and pedicure, it didn’t become part of my vocabulary because I have had only one “mani” in my life and two “pedis,” not simultaneously, and only because they were gifted. It must be difficult for someone accustomed to the mani-pedi at the beauty parlor to get the hang of stretching to the toes or contorting to bring one’s foot into the lap. And putting polish on fingertips with the non-dominant hand could get really messy.
If my family minded that I was neither a good cook nor a baker, they graciously never expressed their disappointment. But in my retirement years I have become increasingly dismayed by my inadequacies in those areas. Almost every woman I know cooks and bakes and talks a whole lot about cooking and baking. I have tried, but each culinary attempt has brought only further evidence of the failure I already knew I was. Now I am so relieved not to be among the legions of bakers frustrated at the absence of flour from the grocery store shelves. When the word goes out of a local sighting, bakers have to make a mad dash to the store, perhaps only to be thwarted again. And who knew yeast could suddenly become something rare and precious. I’m not even sure what yeast looks like, so I’m thankful I haven’t been desperate for some.
Whether it’s because I’m lazy or harboring some subconscious rebellion, I am not an orderly person. I tend to keep things that I don’t need and that, horror of all horrors, no longer bring me joy. Clothes that I wouldn’t wear in a million years; expired baby aspirin, cough syrup, and makeup; canceled checks from the ’70s, and so much more clutters my living space. I have always envied neat and organized people, those with California closets and bare tabletops. But these days at home with extra time on my hands I have something tidy people don’t—things to sort through and throw away. I haven’t made much headway, but I know the opportunity to declutter is always there as a backup. Pity the people tidying up on a regular basis who now have nothing to do.
I have always marveled at women who love to “go shopping.” Shopping not in the grocery or hardware store sense but shopping as in browsing at length through department stores, specialty shops, or boutiques. I’ve never liked doing that except in the old days when I was obsessed with antiquing—not for valuable things, just the odd wooden box or old potato masher that now leaves me joyless. I can do bookstores and nurseries for quite a while, but in any other kind of store I can last only a few minutes. Consequently, I have suffered no withdrawal symptoms in having no stores in which to go shopping. But I imagine for dedicated shoppers, this is very difficult. Of course they can go online, but I would think that leaves something to be desired.
I imagine in the future I will go back to feeling inadequate and envying others, but for now, being a bit of a disorderly, nonshopping, nonbaking, slovenly dresser with naked nails works just fine.