Monday, January 17, 2005

City of Chicago: An Open Apology

We interrupt this series of feminist essays to announce some breaking news. We will return to your regularly scheduled programming shortly and apologize for any inconvenience.

Here’s what I was wearing:

  • Ginormous 1990’s elastic-at-the-cuff grey sweat pants. Why? Because my old favorite plaid lounging pants ripped at the crotch last week and I had to throw them away.
  • Old Navy® camisole/bra. It’s a bra and it’s a camisole. All in one. But there’s no denying that it’s essentially a bra.
  • Brown argyle dress socks from work.

  • Here’s what I was doing:

  • Laying on my couch.
  • Drinking scotch.
  • Watching The Parkers.
  • Reading last week’s People magazine.

    Here’s what I was eating:

  • Pringles Reduced Fat sour cream & onion potato crisps.
  • Leftover Thai noodles.
  • Half a banana.

    Here’s what happened:

  • My cats, Punch and Judy, were screeching by the window.
  • I yelled at them to be quiet.
  • There was a sudden and loud knock at my door.

    Here’s what I did:

  • Freaked out.
  • There was no way to pretend I wasn’t there, since I had just screamed: “For the love of god, Judy, will you shut the hell up? For the last time - you are an inside cat!”
  • Frantically searched for clothes.
  • Grabbed a giant plaid flannel shirt that was in my laundry basket.
  • Put on some huge black penny loafers.
  • Answered the door.

    To say that I looked like a bag lady would be an insult to bag ladies. There are so many questions that can be raised and fingers that can be pointed, but really, hindsight is 20/20. Questions like – if I had time to find a flannel shirt, why didn’t I have time to find normal pants? Or why didn’t I slip on tennis shoes, so it at least looked like maybe I was working out? Or why was I wearing that outfit in the first place?

    But what’s done is done, so to ask me these questions now is really just pointless and hurtful. I try very hard to live my life without regret, or at least to repress the regrettable choices I’ve made so that they only haunt me in my dreams or during hypnotherapy. This day is no exception.

    When I cautiously opened the door, I discovered that it was my new next door neighbor, Klaus. He’s from New York – Brooklyn, to be exact – and simply wanted to know where the laundry room was. As soon as he asked me that, he looked at my outfit and thought to himself, “I’m pretty sure that this woman and washing machines are not well acquainted. I wonder what the penalty would be for breaking my lease.”

    “Ummm… oh. Laundry? Yes. Out back. There’s a big lock. Need quarters. By dumpster. Duh… duh… duh…”

    I became completely incoherent because all I could focus on was my sheer humiliation at answering the door in this outfit. The word “mortified” just kept running through my head, over and over. I didn’t even have the presence of mind to say something like, “Oh, you caught me in the middle of sweeping the chimney.”

    This was my one chance to get in good with one of the neighbors now that the couple with the meowing daughter moved out. He’s from New York, not familiar with Chicago, and this is the impression I gave him. Yes, not only is Chicago a city where the Mayor can bulldoze the airport under the cover of darkness, but this is a place where it’s acceptable to wear loafers with outdated sweat pants and an ill-buttoned flannel shirt.

    I probably had some noodles stuck to my face… I can’t be sure.

    He was so polite, but he couldn’t take his eyes off my shoes. As we spoke, I tried to be very expressive with my face and gesture a lot with my hands to draw his attention away from my outfit. Just as I was channeling a combination of Lucille Ball and Marcel Marceau, Punch somehow escaped in between the elephantine columns that were my legs. I had to run up the stairs after him in my gigantic loafers, clomping up each flight like some sort of storm trooper.

    I’m so sorry, Chicago. I’ve let you down. Not only are we the 5th fattest city in the nation – again – but now I have single-handedly put the entire city on Blackwell’s Worst Dressed List for 2005. Will you ever forgive me? I’m not sure I can forgive myself.

    Now, I’m not trying to shift the blame here, but is that the way people do things in New York? They just knock on some stranger’s door in the middle of the night (7:30pm) like savages? I mean, we may be obese, but in Chicago, we have an unwritten code. We call people. We schedule appointments. We leave post-its. We don’t just knock on doors! And do you know why? Because we are all too aware of the likelihood that the person on the other side of that door may have potato chip crumbs in her hair and be wearing GINORMOUS ELASTIC-AT-THE-CUFF GREY SWEATPANTS!

    I now feel compelled to walk around the apartment in a ball gown, just in case Klaus ever knocks again. But let’s face it – the next knock I hear at my door will be the Homicide squad when Klaus turns me in because he thought he smelled a dead body in my closet. I will tell the police that it was just the unusual combination of sour cream & onion and banana, but they’ll still need to search the place.

    And then they’ll find them: the ginormous elastic-at-the-cuff grey sweatpants. And Klaus will say, “Those are the ones! That’s what she was wearing when I stopped by the other day. She seemed jumpy, like she was hiding something. Get out the black light!”

    The police will take me down to the station for questioning, and release me after a few hours due to lack of evidence. But it will be too late. They will have already seen my sweatpants.

    Oh god. I can’t say it enough. Forgive me, dear city. Forgive me. Forgive me.