Thursday, October 23, 2008

Work clothes

In 1995 I quit my library job under disagreeable circumstances, and burned a couple bridges as I left. This was during my divorce and once I moved to Wilmington, NC, I went in search of support groups and counseling, and found an absolutely delightful counselor, a Methodist minister with a weird sense of humor.

In one session I complained about one of the more trivial annoyances in my old job, the wardrobe thing. For some reason, my boss had decided that we should dress like corporate execs. Kind of. We were expected to wear a jacket over every slack-or-skirt ensemble. I've never before or since set foot in a library in which librarians dressed like the cast of Law & Order.

I thought this was absurd, but I dutifully put together a tasteful working wardrobe with jackets. In the final report that the boss wrote up on me, she wasn't content to accuse me of insubordination and similar offenses, but had to throw in a bizarre statement that I refused to dress as ordered. Considering that I'd done exactly as ordered and, in this case, had the credit card balance to prove it, I was still fuming about this as well as about other matters, some months later in the shrink's office in Wilmington.

My counselor said simply, "Why don't you send them to her?"

I gave him a confused look.

"After all," he explained, "you bought them for her. Why not send them to her?"

How I wished I'd thought of it, but it delighted me. With glee I did exactly that. I just happened to have the perfect box, one from the library's book supplier -- anyone who worked there had a garage full of Baker & Taylor boxes -- and I neatly folded most of my ensembles with their coordinated jackets, placed my 10-year county service pin on the lapel of the top one, and shipped them without explanatory enclosure or return address to my former boss. At work.

This apparently caused something of a stir. There was no doubt that I was the sender; my clothes were recognizable. I only wanted to make sure nobody could easily send it back as "refused." So the boss and some of her underlings went through the box, but found no note or explanation. A short while later a friend of mine, with whom they all knew I was still in touch, got pulled aside on a library visit and asked, sotto voce, "What do you know about the clothes??" He feigned utter confusion, then happlily told me about it.

All that for a post about cleaning out my closet. When I mailed off the Mystery Clothes box in 1995, I kept a few items I really liked, but their fashion day is too long past. The short version is that the towering plastic closet shelf was close to collapsing, and has led to a complete closet dismantling and a general cleanout of stuff I'll never wear again.

Flowery droopy skirts and long, boxy 1990 blazers. Gone.

Pleated slacks with tapered ankles - gone.

Lacy collars, 1980's L. L. Bean dress, Wednesday Addams dress? Time to go.

Elaine dress...? Well, I loved my Seinfeld dress-like-Elaine era. I confess, it stays.

I love my dumb baggy Forenza pants and there's a very nice poor girl's version of the black Princess-Di-Dancing-With-Travolta formal that I just can't part with. Most qualify more as "costumes" than as clothes now, but that's OK. They say the '80's are becoming a theme for costume parties.


Mike said...

So, are you suggesting that John McCain should expect a similar package in a few months?

Catherine said...


Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

Mike - only if i can bill the RNC for $150,000...

Cath - Never was therapy money better spent!