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Tuesday, Apr. 13, 2004 - 12:10 p.m.

The deskworkers at the Writing Center were so excited when they heard I was going shopping. I don’t think this says much for their impressions of my fashion sense. They pressed coupons on me: “Here’s one for Ann Taylor Loft!” “Here, I have one in my purse for New York and Company!” “Is someone going with you? You’re going ALONE?” Do you want one of us to go with you?”

It’s a good thing they burdened me with these coupons, too, because when I got home from work my house was so clean and cool, the sunlight so soft and the couch and books so appealing that I wanted very much to stay in. But I couldn’t disappoint the desk girls, so I got in my car and drove to the mall. I had to look at a map to find it – in three years of living here, I had never been there. (Oh, I’m sorry, did I splatter you with my indie pride just now?)

I needed a suit for job interviews, and I needed a second pair of pants. My weight has been unstable what with three different brands of birth control in almost as many months, and I have been loath to buy anything new until my body comes to a decision about what size I will be. But I have been wearing the same damn pair of pants for five months.

Well, no more. I bought many things at the mall, and none of them were black. Okay, the shoes were, but that doesn’t really count. No black clothes. Gray, tan, and white, but not black.

So now I have my first ever business suit, my first ever white button-up shirt, and I have a pair of high heels that are not for the prom. The heels are pretty: they are your favorite schoolteacher’s shoes from 1913 but with a kitten heel, and they are very unstompy.

Despite my successes, though, I felt very odd at the mall, like Rip Van Winkle – my years of ignoring mass culture have finally caught up, and I do not even know what I should snub anymore. There were all these scary shoes with toes so pointy they looked like medieval court fashion illustrations. There were lots of shirts with folds and tucks and appliqué roses pinned to the shoulders. There were booths with cell phone accessories. I was aware that all these things existed, but I have managed to construct a life where I am never submerged in them, and it was a shock.

I exaggerate somewhat here: I still have a soft spot for fashion magazines and catalogs and I do notice what people are wearing, to an extent. It’s just that I’m afraid part of me is irrevocably stuck in early nineties girl clothing mode. I am still most drawn to shoes with big, thick soles, to straight legged pants, to shirts that hit just above the hips rather than just above the belly button. I am sick sick sick of the highlighted hair of the white Southern girls around me. There are others like us out there – I see pictures of early-thirties authors and bloggers in striped tights and Mary Janes, and I understand them. And I finally understand why my mother buys tapered pants: she can’t shake it. Though some parts of her taste may change, she thinks tapered pants look pretty. I will be wearing chunky black boots when I am eighty.

I went to Savannah this weekend with L and another couple. We wandered the streets, beers in hand (legally!), watching gigantic boats pass on the river. We read historic markers and slapped at gnats. We ate amazing pizza, the pizza I have been combing the South for these three years. And late that night, when M’s eyes were closing and my drunkenness was no longer holding off the chill, we went back to the other couple’s room and partook of a certain leafy substance I have not smoked in four years. And for the first time ever, it was fun. L attributed it to the quality of the product; I attribute it to being an adult. Really: as much as I wanted to like it in high school and college, I never did – I always sank immediately into self disgust and mild fear. But this time L and I giggled all the way back to our room and were thoroughly delighted by “The Ed Sullivan Show”.

I like being a grownup.

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