I have never been a creature of fashion.
I would maybe like to be someday. I have vague dreams of expensive tights and bolero jackets, and clacking around in shoes that mold my feet into strange geometric shapes. I would be envied by be-jeaned employees of my Albertson’s and the pizza delivery guy’s eyes would linger on my sculpted and beauteous form as I answered the door and paid for my pepperoni pizza, extra olives.
There are a number of obstacles to this unrealistic goal, however, the first being that I don’t own a full length mirror.
It didn’t seem like a large problem when I was unemployed. I could slip on whatever schlumpy skirt was my favorite at the time and spend my day job hunting in relative obscurity. But now that I am A Figure at work, now that I have A Chair to sit in and An Office in which to conduct My Job, it’s suddenly a bit more important to understand how the two halves of my body look in conjunction with one another. In this way, the lack of a mirror has become kind of an issue.
Take Friday, for example.
In the morning, I realized suddenly that I was out of clean pants. An unfortunate decision in sorting my laundry had kind of limited my options for the week, and I was left with my khaki skirt with a stuck zipper. And unshaved legs.
I had already worn that skirt with black tights and boots earlier in the week, and I obviously couldn’t wear that same combination again because somebody would notice. Maybe a different color of tights? I didn’t have a different color of tights. Note to self, get some different tights. Maybe socks? Like, knee socks.
Yes. Knee socks.
Turns out that I only own one pair of knee socks, a frightening argyle affair with an olive green background spattered with pattern in mustard yellow and royal purple, all interwoven with burgundy detail. It’s just as charming as it sounds. Out of options, though, I ran with it. I put on a green shirt and brown kitten heels and went to work.
As soon as I reached the large reflective windows of my office, I realized I had made a tragic mistake.
I looked a bit like a zombie schoolgirl, with a splash of circus freak and just enough frump to whip the whole thing into a disappointing souffle of fashion disaster. It was the socks that did it. The dreadful socks.
Note to self, get new socks.
Nobody noticed at first. This is an advantage to being short. The lower parts of my legs don’t register on any radar until someone makes a special occasion out of looking down that far. Finally, though, as I was standing self-consciously by the copier, an agent rounded the corner and stopped dead.
“My,” she said, “don’t you look exciting today!”
I smiled broadly and fled to the safety of my office.
The rest of the day was a minefield of attempted compliments. The office couldn’t ignore the socks. How could they? They were there, howling out loud in a cacophony of color and pattern. They were both exotic and diseased, and trying to gloss over them was like trying to deny a leprotic tiger, groaning morosely in the lobby as its tail falls off. All one could really do was comment on how interesting it all was, how daring, maybe.
In the middle of the day, I slipped into the safety of the transaction coordinator’s office. Our transaction coordinator is a sweet and brilliant young woman named Cindy who has quietly nudged me in the right direction since I was hired. I appeared in front of her desk under the pretense of asking her about one of our files. After receiving an answer, I stood awkwardly for another minute.
“I don’t have a full length mirror at home,” I finally said. Cindy glanced at me over the top of her computer.
“I don’t have a mirror. That shows all of me at once. Heh. Thus the socks.” I felt the need to nip this in the bud. If I acknowledged the hideosity of my socks, then it would all be out in the open.
“What socks?” Cindy leaned over the desk and gazed at my legs. “Oh,” she said. “Those socks.”
“Yeah, kind of an unfortunate decision,” I giggled. That’s it. Self-deprecation. Beat ’em to the punch.
“Oh, I don’t think they’re bad,” Cindy said kindly. “They’re…fun. You look lively.”
The rest of the day was spent with my legs tucked thoroughly under my desk. When I got home, I tore the socks off like one picks off a scab from a particularly dreadful accident and buried them in the bottom of my laundry basket. The worst thing about the situation is that I have an unusual brand of fashion amnesia. Friday was a long day, full of embarrassment and anxiety, but in about three months I will find myself in the same situation, no pants. Unshaved legs, and I’ll pull those socks out of my drawer, and the entire day will have faded into the fog of my scattered memory. I’ll study them, and think, “Oh, I remember these! These are…lively, yes. Let’s go with these.”
It’s like the circle of life. Only with socks and bad decisions.