Chaos has moved in. We are in the midst of installing the new wood floor… which must be done before we install radiant heat (as to avoid shooting nails through the tubing)… AND, we need to finish ripping walls out of the basement to pour new flooring over said tubes… AND yes, with 40 degree weather last night, we realize that time is of the essence.

Can you say frenetic?

I came home from class yesterday to find the living room crammed into the dining room. Our friend brought his tools and his son, Zack. Poor Zack. He promptly stepped in dog shit. The dog is lost, as are most of our shoes. His bed is shoved in a corner, our shoes in the office closet. 

Still, we managed to move forward. The couches are now stacked in a way that defies gravity. Like “The Fountain,” a urinal turned on its side in the name of modern art, they seem to say, “Sure, we ‘normally’ offer ass support, but if you sit here now, we’ll snap you up like a Venus flytrap because?you must BE an ass to have placed your faith in form alone.”

All comfort, familiarity and order is destroyed in the name of two rows of boards which were finally nailed into place prior to midnight.

When life gets turned upside down you notice things, like the table that has been quietly sitting in the main hall for three years. Last night, for the first time in forever, I thought, “Hey, I like that table.” Of course, other things get lost, like my husband’s wallet, which he returned to retrieve only shortly after leaving the house. As for me? I realized, during lunch, after spending an entire morning on campus, that I had been wearing one black and one brown boot. One lost, one found in each color.

When you no longer blend into the background, say, by not wearing the same pair of shoes, things begin to stand out. Following a tractor beam stare to the object of interest I discovered, much like found poetry, my new-found style. No fanfare for this nut. Instead? Instant mortification followed by paranoia.

I wondered, “Are other people looking at me? If so, have they noticed? Will they say anything? Are they thinking, ‘That’s the dumbest shit that ever walked the face of the planet in two different boots?'”

I was not only hyper-aware of the impact my footwear had on the judgment of others, I was also forced to recognize the ways in which I feel pressured by the fashion police. Yes, even I thought, “I am the dumbest shit that ever walked the planet in two different boots.”

Why should any of this matter as long as the body’s extremities are protected from the elements? Aren’t warmth and protection the premise of clothing at the most basic level? As I was reminded today with new vision, the frightening answer to that question is no.

Clothing conformity matters because we assign meaning as a label-obsessed society. Breaking the rules reaps real consequences when we step outside our class, gender or ethnicity. The boots are no big deal, I realize, but they provided an interesting experiment, allowing me to feel society’s demand to define identity through appearance.

Here was my chance to throw back my head in defiant laughter, revel in the moment, and shove my feet in the face of the fashion police. Three blocks worth of prideful strides carried me to my car and I enjoyed every inch travelled. Will I do it again? Not intentionally. Besides, fashion anarchy is nothing new. (If you’ve ever seen’80s pictures of St. Mark’s Place in NYC, you know that my boots and I offer no competition.) Still, I learned what it felt like to be on the outside, if only in my own head. You should give it a try sometime.

How does any of this relate to Winterson’s novel,?Written on the Body? Maybe I’ll explore that question tomorrow when I can get down and dirty with the book. Tim just got home. I need to get down and dirty hauling out old carpet and feeling the brute force of a compressor and nail gun.