Jeans are not just Jeans (and the Memory Motel)

Just about 20 years ago, I was living with a man, may he rest in peace, and it was not good.  We reached a point where he took everything out of me.

I have never real been a jeans person.  I was brought up in a household where ladies didn’t wear trousers, let alone jeans.  I always had the odd pair for mucking about.

I left him, started a new job and moved.  Not too much stress. Still, as is my way, we stayed in contact.  Prior to getting the new job, I had been pretty much subsisting for several years.  Jeans were not a necessary.  I was unhappy with him.  I gain weight when I am unhappy.  He gave me jeans that no longer fit him.  At my new job, there was dress down jeans Friday. The 20 year old used  to laugh and say “Boyfriend jeans.”  I was happier and walked tons every day.  The weight melted off even though I had a big cookie every day!

I had been in straitened circumstances for a year.  However, the following year, I bought a pair of jeans for me for nine dollars.  I also had tons of vacation time and little money.  One of my friends had a holiday voucher he hadn’t  used for Montauk.  I loved Montauk.  This was in the very early aughts before it became a hipster destination.  I paid my friend  a nominal sum and headed  East.

Now, in the early 80’s I had a share in a house in Amagansett with the 70’s high school cheerleading squad.  They were preppy before  it was a thing.  They used to line up their Weejuns at the edge of the beach.  I was so not preppy.  Definitely, not a Weejun person.  They slept in T shirts.  I slept in lingerie.  We would go dancing at Shagwong’s in Montauk.   It was OK.  I wanted to go to the Memory Motel.  Yes, the Memory Motel  Rolling Stones one.  Memory MotelThe cheerleaders opted out.

Fast forward to 2001ish and me in Montauk.  I made a beeline to the Memory.  Well, in the intervening years, things changed.  It was now a dive bar.  Fine by me.  Me and my 9 dollar jeans and flip flops walked in.  Happy hour.  Pool tables.  Beer.  My poison has always been Scotch on the rocks.  I breathed it all in.  The man I left did not like going out at all. And when we did, he accused me of coming on to everyone.  It felt so good to be out and about.  I walked, so no worries with drinking.  And as always, men bought me drinks.  It was a different world to when I had last been up and about.  Men were trying to sell me on their prospects.  Inevitably, I picked up someone, Billy.  We went out for steak.  And he asked me out for the next night.  Dilemma – what  to wear?  I had already packed myself into the jeans.  I had to do it again but with a changed top, one that could cover my packed in tummy.  And please know, I HATE  wearing the same thing twice.

So, we go out for drinks. And he said, ” I know that Susan likes to drink.” (Ya think) “but what else does she like to do?”  Great question.  I had fought so hard to retain what identity I had that there wasn’t a lot leftover.  I forgot that I read, garden, cook, write.  Lesson learned.

I bought other jeans and no, I never saw him again.  I always packed my tummy into those jeans when I could.  Sometimes, I couldn’t even zip them up.  They became my gardening jeans.

Fast forward again to this past weekend.  Life has changed and I own more jeans.  But, and there’s always a but, I have lost weight and they don’t fit.  And the rest were somewhere else.  I don’t wear jeans in the summer.  It’s the change in season so no clue as to where they are.  The weather snapped and it was cool Sunday morning.  I had to drive Tom to the blood bank.  Gardening jeans! Hadn’t worn them in ages as gardening is something that’s been taken from me. And they were baggy.  First time, ever.  But… the spectral leg can’t be hidden.  When this nonsense and that’s how I like to think of it, first started; I preferred to wear the spectral leg on the outside.  It was a clear indication of what was not right with me.  I wasn’t using the cane at that time.  I nearly sacrificed a favorite pair of black leather pants because the spectral leg could not be seen.  Now, because of the cane, I try to keep it hidden when I wear pants.  But  Sunday, I wasn’t even going to get out of the car. Tom was upset that it was visible.  I am upset that I finally fit into the jeans, I don’t want to wear them in public.

Instead of representing the freedom they once did , they now represent the limits I face.  It’s time to give them up and move on.

Captive

Lately, I feel like  Rapunzel, no gold hair, no tower.

It’s summer.  I have always loved  summer.  I have a tropical background and on hot steamy humid days, I thrived, bloomed and glowed.  I’d wake early on weekends and days off and drive down to the beach in the early morning.  I’d walk on the wet sand, breathe in the  air, feel the salt on my skin.  Sit a bit in the warm sun, reading and dozing.  I would be off by 11 or so.  Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.  After 4, I’d drive down to the beach and  walk the boardwalk.  Friday nights were the best – all the international families strolling, smell of suntan lotion mingling with the sea and other perfume. Evenings in the backyard with the scent of flowers mixing with the citronella torches and bug spray.

I used to be teased that I always managed to be unemployed in summer.  I would spend so much time outside that my dark brown hair would bleach.

Fast forward to now.  I am not working again.  While I was still working this summer, I was considered very glamorous as I would leave the office with a broad Italian straw hat and Audrey Hepburn-like glasses.  Yes, I like dressing like that but I also had to because of the way the sun impacts me.

Now I am confined to the house.  I cannot get into or out of the backyard without help.  It has a few steps.  I found this out the hard way a few years ago.  I was gardening and found that I was like the little mermaid.  My legs were useless.  I have been able to do it since with assistance and a cane.  We have a gazebo/screen house in the back and I have loved sitting there reading, working, studying.  So far this year, I can’t manage the steps or the bumpy grass.  I look out the back window.  I feel like the Lady of Shalot without the mirror.

There’s a butterfly bush outside the kitchen window and I watch the butterflies flitter on and off.

We plant pots of flowers against the house.  This Saturday was the first time I was able to walk up to the pots and see them after planting them in June.  If I say so myself, they are spectacular.

The other day, there was no humidity and low 80’s.  T was outside and I sat reading on our front stoop under an awning.  Maybe 30 minutes.  I was able to stand but struggled to get up the two steps.  Then I have to step into the house.  Not happening.  I tell T I need an ice pack.  He screams at me that it is only 4 inches.  It could be Mt. Everest.  The ice works.

The plan is, if the weather holds, between T and his son, I may be able to get in the back.  I weigh less now than what the “kid” used to dead lift.  That’s a positive.

Just blue as I can’t really leave the house and do anything.   Taking the mail in from the end of the drive is sometimes insurmountable.

The sky is that rich August blue.  I am inside, looking out.

I am finding it hard to be my joyous self.   I am mourning my body.

Out of Work Summers – Beach and Bleach

I am writing this from my laptop in the backyard.  I am sitting in what we call our screen house so I am protected from the sun.  There is a delightful breeze.  I have been unemployed for 9 months; second longest period so far.

In periods past, I would be just returning from the beach.  Due to this condition that has been closed to me for now.  I can no longer tolerate the heat nor can I walk on the beach.  I used to find solace, peace and joy at the beach especially when I was out of work.

I started my unemployment  career in the garment district.  I went in and out.  Then I ended up at a major company and wa there for almost 9 years.  I loved what I did and was excellent at it.  The 90’s happened as did a merger.  I was treated in a textbook/case study manner.  I stopped getting invited to meetings.  My work was taken away from me.  I was let go with severance.  It was the end of May.  All my associates were let go after me.  I was grateful for this as it angered me and I would have been fired.  They let go a woman who had been there for almost 20 years.  She was paid less than what I used to expense for lunch and dinners weekly.  Ah, that expense account.  For nearly 10 more years, I didn’t make as much as my expense account.  I’d clear out my files and cry as I shredded the expense stubs that were larger than my current pay stubs.

When I lost that job (and I hate that term, I didn’t lose it, it was taken away from me) I was depleted.  I headed to the beach and spent so much time there my naturally dark hair bleached.  I also decided that I was going into business for myself.  I wanted a company that would never treat people like my low paid friend that way.  I have a great sense of what  is going to be popular fashion-wise and I had made connections literally all over the world.  I reached out to my network and received enormous support. What can I say? Great idea.  Wrong time.  Poor capitalization.  I showed merchandise to Brooks Brothers and was told it was too forward; try Paul Stuart. I had an existing relationship with Paul Stuart and was told it was too conservative; try Brooks Brothers.

I became seriously depressed and got married.  Bad, bad choice.  It was not convenient.  I made more money on unemployment than he did working.

I fought my way out and up and ended up part time at a financial services firm.  I was over a thousand hours and forced  to take nine weeks unpaid leave.  It was summer.  I hit the beach and the want ads.  Again, I bleached out.  I had an interview with a company that wanted someone who could do what had been done for my fashion employer.  Uh, that was me.  I came up with a portfolio of designs to show them, arguing the whole time with the late Joebe who wanted to impose his personal taste on the process.  I arrived at the interview deeply tanned from my beach time.  The interviewer took one look at me and said “Obviously, you are not seriously interested in working.”  He wouldn’t even look at the hours of work I had put in.

Fast forward, that  company made me permanent but I left after almost 7 years for the monolithic Bank. Finally, after 10 years was making a little bit more than those old expense account checks.   After 4 years, I was let go.  Back to the beach and back to bleaching out again.  And I married, again!  But this time I knew I would be working in the fall. It was a dream job at a major retailer making more than I had.  I also started moonlighting at the Bank.  What could go wrong?  Chapter 11 at the end of May.  For the 2nd time in two years, I was off for the summer.  Yup, beach and bleach.

Except for the first time at the end, I  was optimistic.  I had ideas and possibilities.

This time, I was let go in the fall after a total of 15 years.  I didn’t have the same hurt I had had with fashion.  My associations were different.  I was optimistic and calm.  I didn’t want to do my own business as I had done previously but actively look for work.

What’s different?  The Internet and my scads of experience.  Even if I was able, no beach and bleach for me.   I spend hours daily sometimes including the weekends looking for a job.  Today is one of the only days I am taking a “break” and writing.  What’s also different this time is that I am getting really good interviews.  What’s the problem?  Well, I am mature.  Experience costs money.  “We want you do but with someone out of college.”  Good luck to ya on that.  Didn’t you hear “You get what you pay for.”  And then, the elephant in the room.  My mobility.  There is nothing wrong with my brain.  I participate in research studies and I can remember the answers I missed the previous year!

It’s summer.  I HATE this condition.  It is taking so much away from me:  no beach and bleach, no walking, no gardening, no JOB!!  I need to channel that sense of optimism and possibility again.  I need to recharge without the beach.