Monday, April 21, 2008


I hate to get angry because I feel vulnerable, exposed, as if my anger had pulled out my old poems or scattered my e-mails across the server. The horror of anger is the possibility that I will say exactly what I think. My words will be forever attached to me (not to "august" but to the person behind august); all will regard that moment as the true me, and will be right. Anger will reveal my deceit, and so I hate it.

Is that the reason why, in the moments following anger, the pause after storming out of the room, I always wish I were better dressed? I wish that my true self were more sartorial? I wish that my boreal anger arose from somebody well kempt, tucked in, put together.

I used to think fashion was fake, that clothes masked insecurities and promoted eating disorders, that vanity was a gateway to avarice (and perhaps to a gambling addiction). Certainly, a good suit can act as a shield, and I sometimes like it when a coat gives me a place to hide.

More and more, though, I find that I dress well when I am happy, not because I am unhappy. Putting on new shoes is like buying a book: it's an aspiration to improve myself, to show myself to be a person capable of improving. I remember an episode of My So-Called Life in which Claire Danes refuses to take part in a mother-daughter fashion show because she feels too ugly to be seen. I aspire to be less scared. I aspire to walk through the world feeling I deserve to be here, to inhabit many worlds, to exude dignity, to maneuver like an assassin.

When I am angry, you will want to see me. You will not want to see me angry.


Dawn Coyote said...

It's interesting that you think about clothing concealing the "true" self you're afraid your anger will lay bare, because I think I spend most of my time wrestling with masks, with poses, trying to find my way out from behind them.

Scared, though, I can relate to. Every pose is a trap. Every mask a permanent stain. I would like to be a ninja. Being unseen, I aspire to be invisable.

august said...

I don't think I wrote this very well (which is why it took me longer to post than I anticipated). I was trying to say that clothes can be masks, but for me they seem like my true self. That is, when I feel happy and together, I am more likely to look happy and together. I see anger as splitting me open, and the thing that is seen I hope will be well-dressed, put together.

In other words, I used to think of clothes as the eggshell, but now I think they are part of the yolk.

My fear when angry is that when the egg cracks open, it will reveal a poor sense of style (in clothing and in life)

One of my all time favorite novels is Invisible Man. I love the idea of bathing yourself in light just to be seen. And I agree that poses are traps. Dressing well feels to me like organizing my closet. It requires me to think about what is really important to me, to include the essential and cast off the superfluous, and to make sure I can find what I need. Dressing well makes me feel clean and (sorry to keep repeating this word) put-together, as if I has reassembled my various parts into a whole that makes sense. If I must be revealed, that is the way I wish to be revealed.

I'm pretty into yoga nowadays. It surprised me that doing yoga has made me want to dress better. I'd expected it to lead me to conclude that clothes were non-essential. Instead I pay more attention to detail.

Dawn Coyote said...

I like your association of mood and clothing. Public displays of anger are often seen as weakness, aren't they? My former housemate used to say that it's not the asshole that gets to look bad, it's the person reacting to him or her. That hardly seems fair.

I take very good care of my clothes. I launder them carefully, press when necessary, de-lint, hang pants and tops in colour groupings.

When I'm especially anxious, I become afraid that I'm literally coming "undone." Like I'll peel apart in layers and be revealed to the world in all my neurotic hideousness. The truth is, though, that I rarely betray my inner world. "You're always so calm," people say to me, which makes me laugh.

Thanks to you and the Sartorialist, I'm rethinking the way I dress. Perhaps there's middle ground between poses and the rejection of poses. Perhaps I'll try to think about dressing like I imagine a man thinks about dressing (when he thinks about it).

I was getting back into yoga and then I injured my shoulder. Pretty hard to do downward dog with one arm. I think physical challenges of any kind make us live more in our bodies, less in our heads. Running makes me more aware of my body in space, and makes me more graceful, I think. Which is good, as I'm clumsy.