Let me paint the scene for you: it’s 11 a.m. on the Tuesday morning before Christmas week and I am on an airplane that is headed toward Houston. I’m wearing a navy blue cashmere crew neck sweater with leggings, brown socks, and a pair of New Balance sneakers that I saw on a shelf in our fashion closet and then bought. I wonder if shelves will be the new influencer in 2020. My toes are numbingly cold but no one seems to care enough to turn down the air conditioning on this aircraft. My hair is dirty. It’s oily enough to look like it’s wet while slicked back into a bun, which it is, but I can still smell it from here.
I just sent a Slack message to Mallory, “The best stories are the lives we live.” It sounds so ominous without the context—which was essentially a parade of compliments for three stories that went up last week. The first: Haley’s hilarious takedown of “eat-acting.” It was born out of a conversation that happened in the office and turned into what read like an intimate e-mail from a very funny friend who has a better vocabulary than I do. At its best, a Man Repeller story could always be mistaken for an e-mail from someone you really like.
The second: Her simultaneous graveyard and recycling bin dedicated to the slang of 2019. News you can use, people! We created a graphic card to stick in your back pocket and everything. Another tell of good substance: comments so robust you could skip the article. But don’t do that to yourself, you deserve the gift of comedy.
And third: Harling’s impeccably styled and dreamily written act of public service in the form of a story on how to make the clothes you already own look better for holiday parties. I don’t know what’s in store for 2020 as it relates to sustainability but I know that talking about it in a way that is so on-the-nose instead of applying it practically to different life use-cases that are grounded in what’s up now (like the need to get dressed for a holiday party) feels more helpful.
Did I mention that my hair is dirty?
Last year, when I wrote this letter to announce we’d be closed Christmas week through New Years, I was also on a plane. Back then, I was going to Australia for a wedding and feeling pretty sad. Time travel was robbing my 30th birthday, which was sending me down an existential spiral of ponderance: Why didn’t I know more about myself by the inauguration of this third decade on earth? Why wasn’t I more decisive? Why didn’t I have it All Figured Out. Don’t they say you settle into yourself at 30? If it is possible, and I can only say this from the vantage point of hindsight, I was only further away. Actually, that’s not fair, there was a fire. And it was a new kind of fire—I was ready to know. Be more responsible. I was ready to act. Make me accountable! But how?
I started with a list—things you want to do more and things you want to do less. More doing, I wrote. Less thinking, I wrote. But I never thought of it again after writing it out because here’s the catch and the most important part:
Stuff sorts itself out. One time I went to a rabbi who told me I could hold my phone effortlessly in the palm of one hand, or wrap both my grips around it, aggressively and possessively, exerting all the energy I have to keep my phone in my hands. Either way, though, I’m holding the phone and now I’m sharing the story with you because stuff sorts itself out. I was sad on my 30th birthday, but feel like a spring chicken on my 31st, and though time has passed—people have come and people have left, not that much has changed.
I’m still running what once was a personal style blog, that has become a media brand operating quietly on the fringes of an economically volatile firestorm. I’m also still wondering, “What now?”
I’m still throwing spaghetti at the wall of parenthood, maintaining eye contact as my children stare up at me as if to ask what this—life—is and I think to myself, then say out loud: I don’t know either. I probably never will.
I’m still married to a guy who gets excited about a new humidifier but is curious enough to learn how the reason changes, and as you can see, I’m still finding ways to make even the most benign, abstract announcements—that which could be handled in 100 words, lengthy and ALL ABOUT ME.
I used to think I wanted constant change; the thrill of an up, made better only by the unnerving distress of a down. But I’m finding that actually, stability (which is different from complacency) is pretty good. And as I reflect on the sameness, it occurs to me that this is why I feel so different. It’s happening, I’m doing it, settling into myself and while I am certain that next year will kick my ass (to a degree, don’t they all?) I am excited. Excited as hell! I haven’t felt that in so long.
Do me a favor over this break, would you? Don’t forget when you’re holding your phone, deciding how much force it needs to stay in the palm of your hand, that stuff sorts itself out.
And that my hair, god dammit, is really, really dirty.