Many years ago, my grandmother took me shopping, as she always did, to buy my mother something for Christmas and something for her birthday. One year, when I was perhaps nine or ten, my grandmother spent a long time convincing me that what my mother would really like was a fancy frilly set of underpants with a matching bra and camisole. I thought this was insane. Who cared about underwear, which no one but you was ever going to see?
My grandmother told me that whether anyone saw it wasnâ€™t the point: the point was that you knew your were wearing it, and it was a sort of secret that made you feel more powerful and good. I still didnâ€™t get it, but I acquiesced, because I loved my mother and my grandmother, and my mother seemed pleased when she opened the Marshall Fields box.
All these years later, of course, I understand both what my grandmother was saying and what she wasnâ€™t (that, in fact, sometimes other people do see your underwear, and by other people I mean â€œpeople other than the girls in your cabin or the old hippie ladies at the swimming pool,â€ and it can be kind of exciting), but more importantly that there are things you do for yourself even whenâ€”perhaps especially whenâ€”no one else can see them, or no one else is watching.
Iâ€™ve been sick for most of the past week and living in pajamas, which was lovely except for the being sick part. Yesterday my fever finally went down, and I put on real clothes and walked my son to the park to meet his friend. Today I put on nicer clothes and went to work.
My work at the moment is, like many libraries (though by no means all) closed to the public, but weâ€™re all still there, trying to figure out how to reinvent library services in a time of pandemic. We donâ€™t have any patrons in, and the only people who see me are my coworkers and the occasional delivery person, but it bothered me inordinately that I didnâ€™t have any lipstick on, because my doctor mother told me to throw out all my old lipstick and lip balm, and I complied.
Those of you whoâ€™ve known me forever probably find this lipstick thing confusingâ€”I often do myselfâ€”but a couple of years ago when I had to wear contacts for awhile, I started being inordinately bothered by the dark circles under my eyes, and I decided Iâ€™d rather wear lipstick to detract from them than eye makeup to cover them up, and now Iâ€™m just in the habit more days that not.
I had to pick up a prescription on my way home, and I wandered around Walgreens for a little while just seeing what was in stock and what was not, and marveling at the â€œAs Seen on TVâ€ aisle, and wondering if I had any excuse for buying office supplies (I donâ€™t), and generally being impressed by the wide variety of bizarre consumer items for sale in the midst of this crisis, and then I noticed they were having a â€œbuy 2 get 1 freeâ€ makeup sale. As with most such sales, at the rate I go through things this is not really a good deal, but years of frugality in order to pay off debts mean I almost never buy anything but food and clothes, and the temptation was too great. I picked out three lipsticks (of the kind that the New York Times once told me was the best of drugstore makeup) and some more lip balm and my prescription, and $30 later I was out the door with my day to day equivalent of a white lace camisole trimmed with pale blue ribbon, plus some lithium.
Of course, that was once more than a weekâ€™s grocery money for me, and half of me wondered if now was the time for frivolity. After all, someone broke into my friendâ€™s office and stole her hand sanitizer the other day. As a therapist I was talking to recently said, we are going to see the best of humanity, and the worst.
Iâ€™d like to think of my purchases today as derpyâ€”a word my son and his friends just taught me, which they say means â€œa tiny bit stupid and a lot funny.â€ Given the gravity of the decisions so many must make nowâ€”decisions that quite possibly affect peopleâ€™s very livesâ€”I hope there is still room for some derpinessâ€”or at least for some decisions that give you your secret superpowers, whatever those are, for surely we all will need them.