Archives for the month of: February, 2017

fox2When I was in my twenties, I decided to take on a new persona of sorts. I didn’t want to be the girl who blended in anymore. I wanted to be what I referred to as a “vixen.” I wanted men to notice me for my looks and not just find out I was fun to talk to after giving me the benefit of the doubt. So I started dressing in more revealing clothing and wearing a little more make up when I went out. I discovered something about that vixeny greener grass; when I looked that way, I attracted men who didn’t care about much else. Lesson learned. I’m glad I got to hop the fence to find it.

Twenty years later, I have begun wondering about the other side again. Because most places I go, I blend in. Way in. Like invisible. And functionally it’s ok because I’m not looking for a partner or trying to impress anyone, but being invisible can feel a lot like being irrelevant. And that feels awful.

I go to bars with my friends, with my boyfriend. I look around at people. There is no eye contact. I may as well be a ghost. I guess this happens when you’re 40 and you’re not a vixen. I don’t get down about it but wish I knew what it would even take to be visible again.

This week, I was at work and by late afternoon, I found my car with a flat tire. I called my mechanic for help. He drove over to inflate it so I could make it to his shop and get it repaired. When I got to the shop, it was toward the end of the work day and one of his friends sauntered in. I think he was in his late 40’s. He was “old Chicago”, just like me. Born and raised here, Chicago accent, Chicago friendly. We tossed around old Chicago memories and reminisced about Jane Byrne and Chicago Fest. He was genuinely sweet and interested in both how I looked and what I had to say. He was all “It’s lovely to meet you” and “it’s not every day I get to hang out with a beautiful young lady” and “I hope to make your acquaintance again.”

After leaving the shop, I realized how flattering it was not just to have the compliments but to have the attention at all. My hair wasn’t washed. I wasn’t wearing make up. I made no fashion statements. And I was still visible.

The next day, I discussed the exchange with a coworker who is also in her 40’s. “Ya, I’m invisible too,” she shared. And she is tall and stunning and I felt so much better not to be alone under this cloak.

On Friday night when I went out, I took my new confidence as a semi-visible woman and did my hair, wore make up and put on an outfit that was both fun and authentic. While I didn’t stand out, I didn’t disappear. I drank. I danced. I enjoyed the company of my boyfriend and friends. Men asked my girlfriend and me to dance. Men talked to us at the bar. I wasn’t haughty or inappropriate. But I was there. Present, visible, relevant and without a fence in sight.

 

 

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I try not to be a “thing” person. Things aren’t people or experiences or emotions. If I lose, break or otherwise ruin a thing, I don’t want to feel hurt. However, I do have a favorite shirt, a favorite jacket, a favorite pillow, a favorite plant and many other cherished things. They’re my favorites because they’re hand picked by me or by someone close to me. I’ve attached emotion to them. Emotion creates energy. And energy goes into the thing- both positive and negative. I am unfortunately still holding on to some negative clutter as well as necessities, like an alarm clock and a few different sized wardrobes. I didn’t really think about the effect these negative items were having on me until I got rid of a significant one- my old car.

Whether I wanted to admit it or not, my old car had a lot of baggage. I inherited it from my mom, though it was before she passed away. She was too sick to use it any longer so I paid it off and used it to get to her house from the city. This car was a means to an end, in too many ways. And because it wasn’t a car I ever wanted, I just tolerated it. While it enabled me to do things like grocery shop without a backpack and go places without calculating bus and train transfers, it was just a car. The line between A and B. A silver 2002 Toyota Corolla. The most popular car. The most generic car. The Smith of cars.

When it had troubles, I resented it. At times I thought about getting rid of it and not having a car at all. But once you own a car, it’s hard to go back to life without one. So I persevered.

Last month, when I could no longer justify the cost of making repairs, I knew buying a replacement was inevitable. Sticking to a conservative budget helped considerably narrow my car options. My list “must haves” included:

  • A hatchback, so that I could load things into my car easier
  • Some sort of aux connection to listen to music through my phone
  • Heated seats, because Chicago
  • A sun roof because it makes summer way more fun
  • Not silver
  • Not a Toyota

I had it in my head that I would get a Mazda CX5. The lines were sexy and it met all the points on my checklist. But after trying this car and a few others, I didn’t feel certain that it was the clear winner. My sister, and car-buying co-pilot, suggested I try the Ford Escape, which was a smaller version of the Ford Edge that she drove for work. I grimaced. At first glance, I thought:

  • This is an SUV
  • It’s way too “mom”
  • I don’t want this car

escapeBut to rule it out, I had to try it. So when it was my time to take it on a test drive, I got in, put on the turn signal and peeled out of the Carmax parking lot. This car was different than the others and different than I thought it would be. As I drove a very short distance, I had the biggest, dumbest smile on my face. Like, when you meet someone and you are CRAZY about them. In this car, the seat felt better. The ride felt better. The dashboard looked better. Everything about it made sense. And it had a PANORAMIC SUNROOF.

I took a week to think about it. Even though I risked someone else buying this car while I was thinking it over, there would be another one out there. It’s certainly not as stressful as buying a home or a formal dress.

The following weekend, I visited a Ford dealership to test drive brand new models. I debated the merits of buying a newer car and weighed the price tag that came with it. I worried I would regret the loss of disposable income and owning more car than I needed. So now the decision was clear- my sister and I returned to Carmax, where I traded in my old car for way more than the bag of Skittles my sister thought it was worth. The old car was now just a credit. The baggage was released. A weight was lifted. I would now get to buy a car of my choice.

I named it Gary.

At the end of the day, it’s just a thing. But it’s special because my sisters generously helped me buy it so I could avoid financing. And it’s not only got working brakes and air conditioning, but also a bunch of tricks like a large digital display, navigation, remote start and keyless entry.

I have never felt this way about a car. I think it’s because I decided to love this car allow myself to feel all the feelings. I bought Gary Weathertech mats to protect the floors. I placed a mango candle in the cup holder so Gary smells fruity. I keep the gas filled above the half mark at all times. When I’m parked at work or running errands, it feels like I have a loyal buddy tagging along, waiting for me at all times.

Gary reminds me that loving something doesn’t mean the thing has to be lovable, though this car is pretty lovable. Loving something (and someone) means that I decide to love it. Or not love it. Half-full vs half-empty.

Gary reminds me to keep an eye out for the things I love most and to let go of the things I’m keeping for the wrong reasons. I feel gratitude every time I drive, think about driving or simply think about how fortunate I am that this purchase was possible.

And now I don’t have to just focus on my destination; I can love the journey too.