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Ten Years

2014 June 3
by Jill

It’s been far too long since I’ve updated the blog. A combination of work and a general feeling of malaise are to blame, as usual. So, what follows is a little bit of a self-indulgent rant about my college reunion and the hunt for that perfect dress. I got a little carried away, but I think that’s just what the blog needed.
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This past weekend I went back to my college for my ten-year reunion. It was, of course, wonderful to spend time with my closest friends from college, the ones I keep in touch with regularly but don’t get to see very often. It was also a lot of fun to see the people I don’t keep in touch with, but really like. We stayed in the dorms and ate in the dining hall and got coffee at Cool Beans, the same coffee shop in the campus center where I spent my Sunday nights senior year, making smoothies and lattes. The campus is beautiful, especially in summer, and it felt good to be back–everything smelled the same, and it felt like we’d never left.

But, for me, there was a dark side. It’s not unusual to get nervous about the prospect of a reunion–seeing people you haven’t seen in years, making small talk about your life, and making sure you look good is enough to make even the most self-assured person a tiny bit anxious. But I’m not the most self-assured person to begin with, and the prospect of this reunion was terrifying.

I became obsessed with finding the perfect dress to wear to the class dinner and dance party on Saturday night. I reasoned that I wasn’t going to any weddings this year, so I could splurge on a new dress. I shopped up and down Newbury St., in and out of boutiques and consignment shops, then all over the Prudential Center. I tried Zara. I tried Express. I tried Banana Republic. I tried J. Crew. Nothing was right. I wanted to find something vibrant and fun, just a little bit sexy, and nice enough for the occasion, but not too fancy that I could never wear it during the day. I wanted to find the dress that was going to make me confident enough to face all of those people I hadn’t seen since college and feel good about it.

Finally, after three hours of schlepping around Lord & Taylor, the Prudential Center, and Copley Place and trying on ten different dresses, I FINALLY settled on a dress from Elie Tahari. Because it was Memorial Day weekend, the dress was 65% off, the only one left in my size, and looked pretty good. I was desperate by that point, and though it wasn’t “perfect,” I really liked it, so I bought it.

When we got to campus and  I looked at the list of our classmates who were attending, I noticed that a significant majority were married. It’s not that I wasn’t expecting that, but I think it was a little more difficult to see in black and white. And then the Saturday picnic came and the babies descended. Babies and strollers and men in baby bjorns everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Even though I’m not at that point in my life where I truly want that for myself, even if it was possible, it was still tough, seeing all those perfect little families.

I have always had trouble with comparing myself to others. I’ve gotten much, much better as I’ve gotten older, but it was definitely an issue in college, when I wasn’t at my most attractive or confident, and I was surrounded by a student body that could have doubled as Ralph Lauren models. But after making a life for myself, living in Boston and New York and growing into the person I didn’t quite know I was yet back in college, I’ve come to appreciate the way I look and the things I like. But lately, I’ve been comparing myself with one person in particular–not skinny enough, not pretty enough, not fun enough, etc., blaming myself for not being the person someone else wanted me to be. Even though I know, rationally, that my current situation isn’t my “fault,” it’s difficult to stop the worrying and comparing, and this weekend was just more of the same, intensified.  I don’t fit into the Vineyard-Vines wearing, stroller-pushing, one-hundred-pound mold of many of the women who were my classmates, and most of the time, I’m happy about that. Except that when I’m surrounded by those women again,  all I can do is think about the ways I don’t measure up or fit in.This would have happened even if I was married with babies, I think, but it was especially wrenching to be there alone, thinking about how I’d planned on going with my husband, and instead, I was avoiding talking about my life as much as possible so as to circumvent the topic of divorce at all costs.

Unfortunately, putting on my new dress didn’t solve any of these problems. Everyone looked great, and I think I looked pretty good too. I had hoped that wearing a beautiful dress would make me feel so good about myself that I would be able to dance the night away, worry-free. But, it turns out that you need to put in that extra effort and stop looking at everyone else, worrying that you’re the only person without a partner on the dance floor or at home, waiting for you. Because that’s toxic. (And also, untrue.)

So, absolutely buy that beautiful dress. But don’t count on it to shield you from reality or change your attitude. It’s up to you to do the work yourself. And now that I’m back in Boston, outside the bubble of my old college campus, I’m feeling much better about my life–how I look, what I’ve accomplished, how far I’ve come. You can’t see most of those things just by looking at me or even by making small talk by the bar. It’s up to me to remember all of that, every day.


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*photos by Abbie Finger

6 Responses Post a comment
  1. Raquel permalink
    June 3, 2014

    A. That dress looks great on you. Those colors are positively fantastic on you. It may not have shielded you from reality, but it is a fabulous dress for a fabulous woman.

    B. My dad has a saying: Igual que yo, todos, pero mejor–nadie. It means: Everyone is my equal, but no one is my better. It’s hard not to compare yourself to other people, but it’s also good to realize at the end of the day that it doesn’t do much except make yourself feel shitty, and who needs that. No matter how accomplished and put together everyone else looks, we all put our pants on one leg at a time. I’m sure all those accomplished people you compare yourself to probably compare themselves to even MORE accomplished people, because that’s just how things go. (And in a sense, what does “accomplished” mean anyway? It means different things to different people, so perhaps you see someone as accomplished and they see themselves as a failure. Etc.)

    C. You are fucking awesome. Never forget that. ***HUGS***

  2. June 4, 2014

    My grandfather had a similar saying, only it was in Ohio hillbilly, not Spanish, and thus a little rougher. But regardless, it’s been helpful to me over the years: “It’s good enough for who it’s fer.” It means essentially the same thing–that everything you wear or do or are is perfectly adequate to put in front those who might be judging you; in fact, it and you are better, but don’t tell them that. Also, you looked gorgeous.

  3. June 5, 2014

    Great post, Jill. So thoughtful, honest, and well-written.

    Sometimes I reflect back on things I did or ways I behaved when I was younger and I’m like “What was I thinking?!” — and I find that I can especially feel that way after a reunion and/or a return to a place where I spent a lot of time when I was younger. (Hell, I live in the same city where I went to college but I still feel different when I’m over near BU’s campus than I do when I’m wandering throughout the rest of the city…)

    I can, at times, beat myself up a bit about past behavior too but then I have to remind myself that you did the best you knew how to do at the time. I love your line about growing into the person you didn’t know you were yet while living in Boston and New York after school. It’s so true for so many of us, I feel.
    (How in the world society expects a 21 year old who has really only known school – assuming they’ve gone the traditional route of education – to know what they want to do with their lives or where there place is in the world is beyond me.)

    ANYWAY, I am rambling a bit here, but I clearly have a lot of thoughts on all of the topics you mentioned in your post. As for seeing old friends and their happy little lives…I can completely emphasize with that feeling as well. Even if I’m content where I am right now in my own life, seeing all of that can be harder than we think it will be at times. I read a great essay earlier this year in which the writer spoke about this is your now. Good or bad, hard or easy, it’s just your now. And it will pass, either way. I find I think about that a lot – both when I’m having a “good” now that I want to savor…and when I’m stuck in a “bad” now that I just want to say goodbye to.
    (And I’d be willing to bet PLENTY of people walked away from that reunion envious of where you are in your life too. The grass is always greener right?)

    For the record, your dress looked great.

  4. Melissa permalink
    June 5, 2014

    You looked amazing in that dress, and I give you so much credit for going to your reunion and making the most of it, despite your apprehensions. I did not have the same courage in facing my 20 (!) year high school reunion. Everyone has their stuff that they worry/obsess/compare over, its just different for each person. But every one of those experiences that you are able to get through really does make you stronger. And you are truly one of the strongest, smartest, most stylish and beautiful people I am priveledged to know!

  5. Lauren permalink
    June 7, 2014

    You look great, Jill. So awesome seeing you the other day.

  6. nancy permalink
    June 8, 2014

    i absolutely adore the dress fablous colors for you! we are so proud you had the intestinal fortitude to attend this “event” you are you and thats why we love and admire you so much. daddy’s saying is be your own island. i say YOU are just what and who YOU are supposed to be. so be an island and celebrate the uniqueness that is you because you are fucking awesome

    always thinking of you with love

    mom & dad

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