Has the Coronavirus Ended Dressing Up?

Most of the clothes in my closet have not been touched in more than a year, largely due to my illness last year. During my three-month hospitalization, I lost one-quarter of my weight, so my clothes hung on me when I was finally home. As I regained my strength, I slowly regained my weight, and am right back to where I was before my ruptured aneurysm. In theory, I can wear anything in my closet.

But I haven’t. Just about the time I felt like myself again, ready to enjoy a night on the town and maybe even doing a little traveling, the pandemic hit. I haven’t been inside a retail shop or a restaurant since mid-March. My bank is doing business only in the drive-through window. I’ve been to FedEx twice, feeling moved to share physical possessions with family and archival repositories — my mother’s collection of family letters, poetry and other paper ephemera is going to the Winona County Historical Society.

So, I’m home, laundering the same small pile of clothing over and over. Workout clothes for the morning, one of three pairs of shorts and a t-shirt for the afternoons, sweats or even pajamas by dinner time. Now and then, a pair of jeans. A suit and cover-up for a couple of careful beach visits. Sketchers. Running shoes. Flip flops.

Forget heels. Even in my professional 1990’s business days, the height of my heels was never more than 3 inches. I last wore a pair of pumps to read at the annual luncheon of a Boynton Beach book club a year and a half ago, and my daughter assured me that they had seen better days. Into the garbage they went.

Who knew that I’d have something in common with opera diva Renee Fleming, who has traded her 5-inch heels for clogs. Yes, clogs! In her recent article in USA Today, reporter Carly Mallenbaum quotes the star:

I don’t think I’ll ever wear high heels again.

Renee Fleming

The sales of dress shoes has plummeted 70 percent, Mallenbaum cites. Slippers and Crocs are the Coronavirus shoes-of-choice. Crocs were my go-to shoes in the hospital. About half-way through my three-month stay, one of my many roommates left behind a pair of worn pink Crocs and they became mine. Although it took a minute, I could get them on and off without ringing for assistance. The day I first walked, they were on my feet.

Walking for the first time, OLVG Physical Therapy. A fellow-patient took the video on my phone, for which I thank her: Dank u wel!

And socks. Mallenbaum tells us that socks are now qualifying as shoes.

Socks certainly make a statement. My gift of palm tree socks to the nurses and doctors who saved my life in Amsterdam was a huge, optimistic thank-you!

The nurses at OLVG, 7-A!

This pandemic has people wondering if dressing up is a thing of the past.

In April, clothing sales fell 79 percent in the United States, the largest dive on record. Purchases of sweatpants, though, were up 80 percent.

Stephanie Gonot, The New York Times Magazine

I’m right on-trend with the slob-chic style Patricia Marx wrote about in The New Yorker:

People are feeling that they are getting away with something. We’re conducting business and making money, but — ha ha! — we’re in our pajamas.

Polly McCall, psychotherapist

It is bad enough that everyone is dressing like a hospital patient, but now I’m realizing that it’s worse: the working cohort has stolen the retiree wardrobe.

No. You are supposed to earn loose-fitting lounge wear by suffering through years of tight waistbands and pantyhose and high heels. That’s why they call it work. Slob-chic has lowered the bar.

I worry that the lowering of the bar threatens retirees with losing our special status until I remember that there is still one thing that we can call our own: carping about change. “Why, when I was employed we wore slips and padded shoulders and heels…”

It’s good to know that you’ll still know us, not by our outfits but by our endearing whining.

Together, Again!

I have recovered sufficiently since coming home from Amsterdam in August to have reconnected with many people and places in my community. In fact, I’ve never better understood the dearness this place holds for me.

Of course, I’d never lost the connection with our dear daughter: Victoria was bedside with me in the ICU and welcomed me back to the United States at her workplace, Shands Hospital. She was at my side when we returned to Shands earlier this month for a clean CT scan.

At the Butterfly Exhibit, Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville FL

My South Florida neighborhood friends have gone out of their way to encourage and support me. My friend Maria Consuelo (Coni) and I do a pool workout every Sunday morning, catching up on each other’s lives and racking up a whole lot of strength-producing activity.

April, another neighbor, has driven me to Weight Watchers once a month. It’s a program I’ve been a part of for a decade now. I have gained about 30 of the 35 pounds I lost in Amsterdam using the healthy WW food and activity structure. Food for thought?

This week I closed the loop with two more critical parts of my pre-Amsterdam life: my car and writer friends.

My husband and I have spent more time sitting next to each other during the past six months than we have in many, many years. It’s is one of the multiple silver linings of my medical saga.

My ten year-old Prius sat in our driveway for the three months we were in Amsterdam, and it sat for another three months while I slowly recovered my body and my wits at home. My car and I are so simpatico that it actually died while I was away, leaving a ghostly, weed-filled outline on our driveway.

My ten year-old Prius
A sandy garden sprouted under my car while it waited for me to recover.

Since our return, my husband has been my dedicated chauffeur, ferrying me to doctor’s appointments, physical therapy, blood labs. A couple of weeks ago, we switched seats, with me driving his Highlander and he in the passenger seat: like a teenager on training wheels, I drove slowly around the neighborhood for a few days, and eventually pulled through the gates into the larger world.

This week, Ray put a new battery in my baby, and I sat myself down in the driver’s seat for a solo lap around the neighborhood. Felt like I was finally home. Off I went for a massage and a doctor’s appointment, aware of my surroundings and profoundly grateful. I I have not fired Ray as my go-to chauffeur. But now he has a go-to chauffeur in me, too.

Al Pessin’s hysterical murder mystery

And this weekend I spent a wonderful evening with writer friends. The occasion was the production of Al Pessin‘s new murder-mystery farce, Murder at the Butcher’s, winner of the Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Awards Dahris Clair Award for Best Play of 2019.

Scroll in for a chuckle. Al swears he did not pose for this creepy creation.

It was silly: one character had the notion to open an Elvis Presley-themed garden center called Thank You Very Mulch. It was nerdy: the butcher delighted in identifying figures of speech mid-dialogue. It was a madcap evening in which murder, love, language, and cue cards played with a happy audience and everything turned out just right. I hope many more audiences, far and wide, will have the opportunity to enjoy this romp.

Al and friends onstage “at the butcher’s”

The production was in the Willow Theater at Sugar Sand Park where we must return during the daylight: what a great family complex with a community center, a science explorium, an athletic facility, and a carousel!

sugarsandpark.org

Yesterday’s Virgo horoscope describes the way my husband and I now approach life:

Wherever you go, arrive as a tourist: it’s the heightened awareness that helps you see everything as new, interesting, and delightful.”

Virgo horoscope, pbpost November 24, 2019

Wishing you such an outlook!

Community, Antidote to Loneliness

My parents’ calling card

Long after my father retired from the Foreign Service, my mother revealed that each time we changed Foreign Service posts she experienced what she called “the blues:” a six-month period of depression that she stoically endured, knowing that it would evaporate as she sunk her roots into the new environment. As she learned her way around a new house, with new staff, in a new city, Mom became a part of the new Embassy community and met the other FS wives through State Department protocols like “making calls” on established senior wives. Pretty soon, she was at home again.

We need connections. And, from what I’ve been reading, the saturation of digital connecting is scant cover for what some are calling an epidemic of loneliness and its negative physical, psychological, and life-expectancy impacts.

In his recent Palm Beach Post article, How to avoid America’s epidemic of ‘loneliness’, Steve Dorfman (@stevedorfmanpbp) quotes former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy: “The increased mortality associated with loneliness is equal to the increased mortality we see with smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” Murthy told CBS News in February. “It’s in fact greater than the mortality associated with obesity.”

Boynton Beach’s Valencia Pointe Book Group and Fitness Committee leaders

As a Florida retiree, I understand that I am now in a group in which social isolation is a problem. What I found surprising in Dorfman’s piece was that 18-22 year-olds suffer from loneliness at nearly the same rate as the elderly. We often seek out face-to-face time with people — exercise classes, volunteer work, mah-jongg, book groups — while the younger demographic sit alone, staring at their smartphones with the hope of being “liked,” but more often being criticized, or worse, by the digital universe.

I was delighted to speak at the Valencia Pointe Book Group Annual Luncheon this spring

I give “community” as one big reason for my survival and recovery from a serious illness in Amsterdam earlier this year. I lay in a single bed for three months but rarely felt alone.

The excellence and compassion of the medical staff at OLVG ER saved my life in May. During the weeks of medical whack-a-mole, the ICU doctors and nurses were dedicated supporters. When I graduated from the ICU and moved to another hospital unit, I received this wonderful gift: a daybook containing encouraging messages like this from my nurses.

My husband, daughter and sister surrounded me with loving during my long weeks in the ICU, and they were looked after by both the nursing staff (“Get out of here and have some fun!”) and by the family of my Turkish roommate. He has recovered very well and we have a standing invitation to stay with them in Amsterdam!

Our daughter and my sister were my husband’s saviors during my weeks in the ICU. And the staff of 7A became both of our community after Victoria and Susie had to return to the States during my weeks of recovery. You can see how I didn’t feel alone in the care of these warm men and women:

I have stayed in touch with Anne, a remarkable nurse, and my doctor, Emo

And throughout my long stay in Amsterdam, I was buoyed by well-wishes from family and friends, thanks to my daughter’s diligent correspondence while I was really sick. Water exercise students in Boynton Beach were frequent correspondents, including this group:

The water class at Majestic Isles

Sometimes, digital connections can save your life! And, as one correspondent said, “On the upside, you now have a great new story for your blog and memoirs.” True that, Linda!

Dorfman says that Americans are not alone in feeling alone: “There is now an Australian Coalition to End Loneliness, Denmark has created a National Movement Against Loneliness and Great Britain appointed its first Minister of Loneliness in 2018.” I know: that last title just begs a Monty Python response, but, still …