Monday, March 22, 2010

On the Importance of Maintenance Shopping

Two weeks ago, I had the delightful opportunity to meet my good friend Frenchie in the big city to do what we do best: gab, eat, and shop. It's something that we try to do once a year, and this time it was enabled by my wonderful, miraculous leave. Generally, we have to wait until the summer when both of us are available, but this time, we were able to go on her spring break.

As we tooled around the city, I found myself in the clearance section at Ann Taylor (hey, it happens). I tried on a bunch of stuff, from the feathered to the spangled, but found myself at the register with three items: a black cowlneck sweater, a black cardigan, and a black tweed skirt (a departure, actually, given that it's got pockets and pleats). Not exactly my most fashion-foward moment. As I waited in line, I defaulted to the rationalization of "maintenance shopping."

What exactly is maintenance shopping, you ask? Strangely, I'd never articulated it that way to myself before, but it's the utterly necessary task of buying and/or replacing the must-have items in your closet that you go to again and again. Black cardigans aren't exactly exciting, but when the one that you have is little but a collection of fabric pills and mended holes, it's time to do some maintenance shopping. I should note as well that it's easy to let maintenance shopping become a rut---and you'll know when you're there when you get home, stow your new purchase next to its brethren in your closet, and then when you go to wear it, you can't tell it apart from the others---but it's not a task to be neglected. It's not exciting, but it's necessary.

An academic leave does not engender maintenance shopping (at least not for me). This is the time when I realize how shallow other parts of my wardrobe are, in fact. I'm now wearing jeans that have been idling at the bottom of the stack for years, I keep running out of clean t-shirts, and my sweat pants are on permanent rotation. My array of professional clothes are hanging in a deserted end of my closet, all lined up with nowhere to go (and I'm just hoping that some of them will fit when I have to put them on again). Given that my sartorial experience for the next 4 months will involve the same t-shirts and sweatpants, maintenance shopping was pretty far down on my list of necessary expenses. However, Frenchie's visit goaded me a bit. "If nothing else," I figured, "it will be less I'll have to find and pay for come fall."

The bigger lesson here, however, is that maintenance shopping is important for exactly the reason that fashion experts tell us to always have one LBD in our closets----you never quite know when you're going to need it, and when you do, you can't guarantee that you'll have time to go and find something. Case in point, when a semi-random employer that you never really expected to hear from calls you and asks you to come for an "informal lunch" the next day. 24 hours notice is barely enough time for me to check in with every person who's ever given me advice about this kind of thing, let alone to go through my closet to see what fits and isn't stained. Thank you, maintenance shopping, for ensuring that I at least looked cute on short notice. [I just mis-typed that as "shirt notice" which would be a far better title for this post...]

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Oil Me.

I can't help feeling a bit like the Tin Man as I return to this blog---I'm so rusty I'm frozen in place. Perhaps some girl with cute shoes and a dog will come and rescue me? And then I can go and get a heart! Or discover that I had one after all!

In the spirit of full disclosure, I really hate The Wizard of Oz. I know it's heresy to all of you Garland-worshippers and members of the Lollipop Guild, but I've never been able to get on board the train (flying house? whatever). But the metaphor remains, I think, and since I appear to only be able to think in metaphors, it will have to do until I can find another.

So what have I been doing since, oh, JULY 31st? (good grief.) Mulling. Wandering, sometimes in the desert. I did effectuate a house move, which really threw me for a loop (I don't recommend it, kids, I really don't. Especially not the weekend before classes start). I taught my first semester with tenure. I backed out of a major conference at the last minute because I couldn't finish my paper. I pulled off a pretty tremendous athletic feat, only to beat myself up about it later. I weathered the pedagogical nightmare of the most severely disabled student (and her team of resource people) I've ever had. And, as you might imagine, I complained. A lot.

Here's the part that's going to be tricky: garnering your sympathy, even as I reveal my incredible, incredible privilege. Because here's the deal: I'm on leave this semester. For good behavior. And it is everything you might imagine it to be: lots of time to read, and think. Weekends are mine own. I've seen movies, I sleep through the night, unplagued by anxiety dreams. I work out when I want to (and because I have to, because leave=fatness, let me tell you). Bliss. Thank you, oh gods of academe, for this most excellent of job perks.

In the midst of all of this goodness, then, what could I possibly have to complain about?! Truly, bitch, wtf? Feel free to do some slapping around, if you must; it's nothing I haven't said to myself already. The economy has tanked, taking the profession with it. I'm lucky to have a job, lucky to be tenured, incredibly lucky not to be furloughed. And yet, I'm plagued by this rudderless feeling. Call it mid-life crisis, call it bourgeois pseudo-nausea...I attribute it directly to the post-tenure moment, and I'm stuck between wondering if it's a professional problem or it's one that I've just created for myself by running my career in the wrong way. Basically, it goes something like this: work work work to get into college, work work work to get into graduate school, work work work to finish dissertation, work work work to get a job, work work work to get tenure, work work work to? for? Bueller?

I think that I've always imagined that I was a pretty independent thinker. I've been lucky to have been in situations where people that I admire and respect were willing to listen to some pretty hare-brained, cockamamie ideas that I had and to help me to go forward with them. This post-tenure, academic leave situation, however, gives the lie to that whole idea. For what feels like the first time in my life, I'm without an inspirer/mentor, and really, without a clear goal. And without those things, all work seems arbitrary. Could I write an article on this contemporary novelist that no one is publishing on? Sure. Could I research a famous columnist who needs more academic attention? Yup. But I could also learn to play an instrument, or build a website, or practice my armpit farts. They all seems equally valid and exciting on any given day. All this directionlessness is making me absolutely fucking batshit crazy. And sendentary---because without a direction, I can't bring myself to move at all. I'm going to assume that someone would tell me if there were an albatross hanging around my neck, right? [Look, Ma, from The Wizard of Oz to Moby Dick in 10 paragraphs or less!]

My return to the blog, then, is a bit of a flail, but one that I'm hoping will be productive. I've missed this little thing, and those of you who remain (and how impressed I am by those of you who continue to write! Kudos! I bet you have goals and shiz!). Let the navel-gazing begin!

Labels: , ,