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.
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.
*photos by Abbie Finger