Dispatch #005: I Know How You Are, But How Are You?

How important is fashion right now? I asked this question to Google yesterday and in response, it spat back a Quora reply telling me to dress for the job I want, not the one I have. It wasn’t the answer I was looking for, but let me backpedal for some context: I woke up around 6:22am this morning, which is typical of a weekday morning. Various thoughts of inadequacy trailed through my head in silhouette, causing me to acknowledge how flimsy and overexposed and trivial I have been feeling. After completing a week in review that collected the contents of all the food I’d made for my family in the week prior, all the clothes I’d worn, the clothes my kids had worn, and all the times we’d run from one end of the apartment to the other, I felt, I don’t know, disassociated from the present state of: hunger, deprivation, loss, catastrophe and, in some ways, myself.

I feel a little bit like a sociopath from the dikes of quarantine. It’s the mood fluctuations, I think. At times, I find myself incredibly appreciative of, even savoring, this intimate time of joint-solitude with Abie and my kids. I’m learning how to cook and disproving doubts I’ve had about my domestic durability—one such silhouette of inadequacy that has trailed me with its shadow for as long as I’ve known time. Yes, sure, I can be responsible for myself, but it’s so rewarding to find that I can, and further want to be, responsible for my people, too.

But then, you know, at other times, I am like: Enough with this. When will it be over? If I hear Madeline’s screech, experience Laura’s refusal to pound another roll of Playdough, or build another magnet castle, I am going to knock myself unconscious just to escape the byroad after byroad that it seems I am trying to converge.

And then, I’m also like: I want to get dressed, I need to get dressed, I’m going to get dressed. I want to feel normal, clothes make me feel normal. Ah, now I feel good, I want to share good, I need to share good, let me share good, ah, the photo has been taken. And from within the valley of puffy velvet sleeves and a pair of silk shorts, I surmise that the photo will be published.

And then after it’s published, sometimes I’m fine. But other times, I’m just like, Who the hell do you think you are? And then I stop myself and ask who is asking the question and who the “you” to which I refer is? And that really confuses me, so I revert back to the question and try to understand why I’m having this unsettling reaction to an effort that seemed good and honest and pure just moments earlier. The same thing happens with all the cooking photos. I’m so satisfied every time I make something and it’s edible, and that satisfaction gives me great pleasure, then that pleasure instigates the churning of an internal wheel—the one that hums: Share this! Share this! And I know it comes from a good place—that the wheel is asking me to spread a pleasant feeling, so often I do. I rarely regret it when I don’t share, but sometimes I regret when I do.

I’m trying to figure out why. The best I’ve come up with is the broad spectrum of feelings that punctuate time always, but especially in quarantine. The immediacy of the disparity of the moods that occur in rapid succession, seemingly for no palpable reason beyond the physical motionlessness of our days. Mostly, I cling to hope because I can’t see how indulging the inflammatory anger, irritating frustration, depressive discouragement, desperate sadness, and worry can be channeled toward anything productive without it.

Productivity can mean a lot of things. For the purpose of this dispatch, I guess I’m talking about what you need to do to pass the days without feeling like you’re floating in space, or getting sucked into a vortex of insignificance.

And that which comprises “what you need to do,” by the way, is going to vary a shit ton person to person and you may not always have the same answer—on one day you might need to make, pack, and send masks, on another you might need to cook, but this is all in order to do the same thing: prove your worthiness. The best you can do, I think, is ask yourself, without any fear of judgment because this is a conversation to be had within the intimate quarters of your mind: What can I do to make me feel constructively good right now?

There seem to be two schools of thought on how to pass this quarantine. As one goes, you can either make the most of it. The other states: Go easy on yourself. But I say those thoughts aren’t binary, you don’t have to pick one. In fact, you can’t pick one. I think we all have to do both to a degree. But before we can, we must first define what “making the most of it” really means. And we can only do this practically if we go easy on ourselves about it.

I think.

Do I sound preachy?

Originally, when I came here it was to tell you that I want to get dressed again. Scrolling down a product page on a shopping website reminded me of how badly. Not literally, right now (I’m not trying to put on jeans) but I think what I mean is that I want to have to get dressed again. That’s why when this started, I asked how important fashion is right now. But who’s to say that any answer is right? My clothes bring me comfort. But that might just be me. They’re like photos in a camera roll. They remind me of the places I’ve been and the things I’ve felt.

Example: I looked at this Rachel Comey tulle top this morning and it took me back to February, at a dinner where I sat sandwiched between two strangers and across from one other. I shared a giant bowl of chocolate mousse with these strangers and we exchanged handshakes and ideas. I was completely unaware of how badly I—probably we—would long to do it again just a month later.

I don’t know if it’s absurd that I’m somewhat comforted by the notion that everyone could be connected by the same, singular dilemma at the same, singular time. I guess all of this has been a very, very longwinded way to say, I know how you are, but how are you?

Leandra M. Cohen

Leandra M. Cohen is the founder of Man Repeller.

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