Everything’s pretty terrible out there and I keep mining for peace in the sparkling salted crevices of various chip bags which works for a while but then there’s the downside of pants that won’t button as a result of Netflix and Refill (Your Snack Bowl) so here, a goofy gratitude journal of non-food comfort:
Hair twirling. This is a nostalgic, perhaps slightly pathological activity and it’s really only appropriate for the privacy of one’s home because no one likes watching the middle-aged lady dreamily swirl a finger around her scalp while dithering over the honeycrisps in the Safeway produce aisle but I have to say that elementary-school-aged-me was really onto something. The smoothness of running the hair over your index finger, then twirling it around your middle and ring, sorry pinky you never get any love because the dexterity just isn’t there, and you have to sort of pinch the rolled hair as you go so you get that little crunchy hairs-against-themselves sound, YASSSS, and then a gentle tug at the end, it all sends me into a half-lidded reverie and I don’t know why. Just me? Come on, I know it’s not just me.
Water. Watching it, submerging myself in it, rivers oceans nightly bathtubs filled with those scented Dr. Teal’s epsom salts, there’s nothing like water to unblock the mental rat-maze for a blissful hour or two. We did a four-day rafting trip on the Rogue this summer with the boys and my standout memory is the afternoon we’d made camp after a sweaty day on the river and I just staggering out into a slow section, clothes and all, and drifted around on my back for a while. Ospreys overhead, my kids laughing and playing nearby, the lap and burble in my ears, man. Almost enough to make up for the many toilet indignities involved in backpack camping. (Almost.) I can’t always plunge myself into a river, but I can fill the tub as many times as needed. Debate day = hooboy, let’s just keep the hot water tap open and the bubbles on max.
Pen-pal-ing. I highly recommend a snail mail correspondence, even if it’s just a card that says OMG and you get one back that says I NO RITE? There’s just something about seeing actual handwriting in your mailbox that’s so deeply cheering — perhaps there’s something to the acknowledgement that one does, in fact, exist in the world — plus you get all the fun of picking out cute stationary and using the good pens you hoard from your children. It takes me forever to get through a note in longhand because my wimpy palm muscles inevitably cramp up since I’m so unused to the activity, and my penmanship is never as Pinterest-y as I’d like it to be (I wobble between cursive and printing and my clumsy lefty style smears as I go), but whatever, slow-mail is good stuff however it turns out.
Thrifting. Oh, I know the pitfalls of turning to shopping as reward, and I try not to get sucked into the dopamine spin cycle of buy, buy, buy. But. Can we agree that thrift stores, the good ones, are just aces? They don’t cost much, and they offer the one thing all shoppers are truly inspired by: potential. Will there be a gorgeous pair of high-end denim jeans in among the weird leggings and pants with actual fur patches on them? Mayyyyyyyyybe. And maybe not, that’s just the way it goes, but you won’t know until you get in there with your rack-sliding hand — flipflipflip —- and hey-is-that-a-North-Face-vest laser eyes. Hunter, gatherer, mighty thriftstore warrior.
I’m sure there’s a way to live life without overthinking the smallest, most ridiculously inconsequential things, but I’ve been like this forever and I think it’s just the way it’s always going to be. Shoe shopping, for instance. I recently decided I needed a pair of boots. Like, those short boots. Booties? Do we really call those booties? That’s like calling shorts pantsies, isn’t it? But short boots sounds unnecessarily derogative, like I’m making fun of their height. Look, I’m talking about those boots that are kind of more like shoes, ankle boots, ANYWAY. I don’t really know why I got a message from the universe telling me to get this type of boot, my only explanation is that I exist in a mostly solitary world of repetitive housekeeping and child-Uber tasks and sometimes, frankly, I must engineer my own pleasure.
So I go out to find these boots, but I don’t like the awkwardness of asking someone to bring me different sizes because that makes me feel like an intolerable queen of some foot-specific country (“Fetch me a 7.5, peasant, and be quick about it!”) and I’m too impatient for Zappos so I head to DSW. They put DSW on the sign because it sounds slightly more trendy than its real name, Designer Shoe Warehouse. Whoo, that warehouse comes with a real lame-o feeling to it, doesn’t it? It’s like Dress Barn. Like no matter how cute whatever you buy may be, you’re always going to be embarrassed to admit where you bought it. “Oh, this? I got it at Purse Dumpster.”
DSW is uncool but I love it because I can just try on whatever without having to, you know, talk to another human being. (Although I do always feel bad about pulling out all the tissue and shoe forms over and over then inevitably being unable to get them all back the way they were, I can just imagine the poor employee going through the racks with the same head-explodey sensation I get when I find toothpaste on the mirror again, what is wrong with people.) I found a spiffy pair of boots after a massive amount of dithering over various styles and heel heights, so yay! New boots!
But then I got home with my boots and I realized I didn’t know how to wear them. I mean, yeah, put them on my feet, I had that part figured out, but I was picturing them with skinny jeans — because my idea of embracing fashion is to watch it suspiciously for several years before deciding to give it a shot, long after it’s gone out of style — and when I stood in front of the mirror with my skinny jeans and boots I did not look lanky and effortlessly edgy, I looked stumpy and awkward. Here were my legs, then a sudden transition to boot. It wasn’t really flattering. The word that came to mind was hooves.
Deep down, I know the real problem is that I’m endlessly self-critical and I will never stop comparing my own normal self to Stars: They’re Just Like Us! photos of impossibly gorgeous starlets who are younger than most of the mustard jars in my fridge, and of course I’m not going to look like them with my DSW footwear and stretched-out Target jeans. Still, I embarked on a Google quest to solve my problem and thus contributed to one of the millions of pathetic Yoda-sounding search strings typed by The Olds: “Skinny jeans and ankle boots how to wear?”
There are, naturally, a plethora of articles that address this specific cry into the void, complete with explanatory photos. I learned that one shouldn’t tuck one’s pants into the boot, because you need a break in the line of the leg at the ankle to avoid the stumpiness. Okay then! Cuffing seems to be key, but oh ho ho, not the wrong kind of cuffing. Apparently there are right ways and wrong ways to roll up your jeans, as evidenced by this actual sentence I have copied verbatim from one of the how-to posts I found: This is a cuffing style that you have to be careful with.
Well! Talk about a sentence custom-designed to send a cold trickle of sweat down my spine. This is how a person comes to own 37 identical grey hoodies, because at least if my head isn’t actively trapped in a sleeve when I leave the house I can be mostly certain I’m dressed correctly.
In conclusion, I’ve yet to wear my new boots because I’m scared of failing the jean-cuff challenge and accidentally sending out a suburban white lady gang sign that gets me roped into some sort of yoga battle, contestants forced into frog pose while struggling to clench their buttocks over the staccato outburst brewing from their morning bowl of Kashi “As much protein as an egg, more startling midday farts than a boxcar of lentils!” GoLean cereal, the young Snapchat-savvy audience standing by with their superior ankle line breaks, shaking their balayage highlights in disapproval. I knew this was going to happen ALL ALONG, I’ll be thinking to myself, stamping out a pitiful S.O.S. on the lavender-scented mat with my maybe-cute hooves.