Short Story Sunday: The Witch and the Wardrobe
The last real date I went on was months ago, before there were any whispers of a pandemic in the air. And, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what to wear. More on this later.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been going through my mom’s closet. No fonder memories than those of emotional, tear filled, teenage-hormone fueled breakdowns that take place in the moments before life’s biggest events. A bat mitzvah, some other girl’s bat mitzvah, your boyfriends cousin’s wedding in the woods, a date your mother negotiated for you with a nice boy from synagogue.
How come it’s always in the 30 minutes before you leave the house that you become a completely different person? Suddenly, everything in your closet is hideous, your hair could not be more frizzy, and you can’t find the goddamn eyeliner. For me, it was always in these moments that I’d go to my mom’s closet for the answer. Somehow I’d find a sweater I forgot about, or a pair of earrings that I’d missed. In a wardrobe that I’ve visited hundreds of times, there’s always a piece that manages to solve all my problems.
I want to note that there are some wild pieces in there too, like a white fur coat I’ve only seen leave the house once (Prince concert, 2012), and a size 2 strapless number that has yet to see the light of day. Sometimes I end up in one of these.
When I moved out of my parent’s house, I felt like I was finally getting started with my life. To me, adulthood really kicks off when you start signing hefty Bay Area rent checks. In a two bedroom apartment, 20 minutes away, I was making moves. Taking names. Kicking ass.
I love everything about having my own place: picking out furniture, buying groceries, doing my own laundry, complaining about the neighbors. Over the past few weeks I, like the rest of you, have had a chance to actually live in my space rather than just pass through for breakfast and bedtime. As I spend days going from balcony to kitchen to bathtub, I’d like to think that I’ve built a comfortable little slice of home.
Yet, every time I go to fish out a pair of sweatpants from the piles on my floor, I think about my mom’s closet. It’s not like I’m going anywhere or that I need to dress up, but confronting a rack of my own garments reminds me that something’s still missing from my new home.
My mom always said that there’s nothing magical about her clothes.
What I realize now, is that the magic is in having a place to go during those last 30 minutes when nothing’s going right. It’s the opportunity to reach into someone else’s closet and put on something that gives you the confidence you need to walk out the door. In moments when I just don’t have the guts to be myself, putting on one of my mom’s scarves feels like borrowing a little bit of her strength, her energy, her beauty. Just a little bit of her power.
No matter how many of her dresses I slowly migrate to my racks, I know that the magic of that closet can never exist in my own apartment. But that’s ok. Maybe that’s the part of adulthood that really matters. Maybe its not about the rent check, but about being able to curate my own closet, or kitchen, or living room, or whatever, that makes me feel powerful. It’s building my own space that I can reach into in those last 30 minutes, or whenever, to give myself that boost. And maybe later, it’s about being a place for somemone else who needs a sweater or a scarf
And back to that date: I had finally settled on a pair of my mom’s flare leg jeans just as the nice boy from synagogue was pulling into the driveway. Lip glossed up and ready to go, I stopped in the bathroom on way out to meet him, where I immediately broke the zipper on the jeans. Was it too late to tell him I was sick? Or die?
I sat down to pee and texted him “I need 10–30 minutes” which he said was no problem at all since he’d rather drive around the block and listen to his Lord of the Rings audiobook anyway. I ended up in a pair of my own high waisted jeans which I hated it, but he said he liked. He did end up ghosting me though, and who knows, it could have been the pants.