Dressing As If You've Given Up On Life

Nov 26, 2019

Credit Qinghong Shen

Last year, the locker rooms were under renovation at my gym. Each morning, I headed to a tiny, co-ed space where, for obvious reasons, no one was allowed to actually change.  You could take off outer garments, like jackets and shoes then put them in lockers, but that was it. In addition, the space was so cramped, you had to be a contortionist to remove and stow an item. To be fair, there was a place for women only where I could have changed, but it looked like the set from Stranger Things, so I avoided it.  I’m not complaining—that’s just the way it was.

One day, I had to go to a meeting right after my work out. I was late. Rather than walking to the Stranger Things women’s changing place, I stayed in the coed room. I discreetly attempted to shift my attire in a way that may not have been 100% by the books. Because I was maneuvering quickly in a cramped area, I wound up twisting my back. I didn’t quite complete my task before a man walked in.

Being in a hurry, I dashed out of the locker room without fully addressing my wardrobe issue. Once I arrived at my car, I saw that the space on the right contained an empty parked vehicle and the space on the left was vacant. I thought, “If I dress quickly, all will be okay.” And, it was, mostly. A car pulled up just as I was approaching decency. However, maneuvering around the steering wheel caused further irritation to my back, making it go out completely.

When my back is out, I can’t bear dressing in anything uncomfortable. Over the next couple of weeks, I wore black stretch pants I’ve owned since college. About ten years ago, the elastic gave out, meaning I could fit three of me in them. I sported loose, raggedy shirts—easy to get on. To avoid bending, I trudged around in scuffed, slip-on loafers. If you were to spot me walking down the street, you might conclude, “There’s a person who’s given up on life.”

When the holidays arrived, my back was still bad. A family member invited me to a fancy Christmas party—a gathering where I couldn’t get away with my I’ve Lost My Lease on Life attire. As usual, I waited until two minutes before departure to choose an outfit. I decided on a red, short-waisted sweater and loose, low-riding black pants.

I sped out of the house without glancing at a mirror. On the way over, my mid-region felt curiously breezy. When I removed my coat at the dining hall, I still experienced that disturbing sensation of cool air. Turned out, my high-waisted sweater and low-waisted pants did not overlap in the middle. I looked southward to see a band of exposed flesh. Had I been sixteen and willowy, I might have gotten away with this look. However, I am neither a teen nor would the kindest of my friends describe me as willowy. Most of the evening, I worried about being mistaken for an aging belly dancer. I dealt with the wardrobe malfunction by staying seated all night. No mingling, no dancing, no fun—all because I bent the rules in a co-ed locker room.

The gym renovations are complete. My back is better. Currently, I wear outfits that reflect my impeccable taste; I am a veritable vision of sartorial splendor. The world is right again and might stay that way unless I tempt fate by bending another rule.