Let me know if this scene sounds at all familiar: It’s Sunday morning and you’re sitting across from your friend at a mimosa brunch, in the booth with the corner windows. He’s chatting away about one date gone terribly wrong or other, and you’re smiling somewhat tightly, trying to pay attention as you cross and uncross your legs. You nod your head and pat your beret. And let the convo you’re having on the inside take over. “How are my bangs looking right now with this beret on? God I hope they don’t look wonky. Remember that one time we slipped it too far down our forehead to keep it on while the wind blew, and it looked like we were some extra off of the Cosby Show? What if that’s happening right now? I can’t handle that again — maybe I can somehow catch a glimpse of myself in this spoon here…” You're trying to find out how to overcome your insecurities, but instead you're indulging in a mini mental breakdown. That’s when you notice there’s a pause in the conversation and your friend is expecting you to say something. Slightly panicked, you shove a big bite of crepe in your mouth and nod your head in agreement, hoping that that was the proper reaction he needed.
Does that moment seem all too familiar? There’s nothing like being out for the day in an outfit that isn’t quite what you wanted. Maybe you stepped out feeling brave in a statement dress, but lost that courage somewhere on the third train stop. Maybe you rushed out of the house running late, and didn’t quite have the time to polish up your outfit. Now you're left glancing in every shiny surface and regretting every decision you've ever made in life. It's a common story: We were either too shy to wear that dress out, or we listened to Coco Chanel's rule on taking one extra thing off before leaving the house, and the regret dove our whole world into a tailspin. No matter what you do, you can’t stop fidgeting because you. Hate. What. You’re. Wearing.
The steady mental decline of being out on the town and wishing you were back in front of your closet is a real thing, and it goes something like this:
1. The “Wait, did we just have Daylight Savings like, right now? How is that the time?!" stage
You shouldn’t have watched that extra episode of Seinfeld, but you found that soft spot on the couch and were burritoed into your blanket just so, which is why you stuck around against all better judgement. It’s not a big deal though, you know what you want to wear tonight. Or at least, you thought you knew what you wanted to wear tonight. But it turns out — as you’re standing in nothing but a towel and a wild expression — that outfit didn’t go quite as planned. Especially seeing how half of it is currently hostage at the dry-cleaners. Shit. You’re now pulling out jeans, blouses, dresses you didn’t even know you owned, trying to ad hoc an outfit together before it’s absolutely time to leave. Which happened to be 10 minutes ago…
You say it again: Shit.
2. The “I think I’m okay with how this turned out” stage
Alright, alright: We had some choppy waters back there, but I think we pulled through okay. Sure, those shoes might not go swimmingly with the look, but I mean, we’re not headed to the offices of Vogue here. It’s just a casual lunch with an old friend. No one’s going to notice those shoes. No one’s going to notice you’re a fraud. You nod your head in agreement. And tuck your legs underneath the bus seat in front of you. With, ah, confidence.
3. The “I think everyone is staring at me” stage
You’re 15 minutes late, so you power walk from your train stop to the restaurant, where your friend is already waiting with a drink. You shove your hands into your pocket as you weave between slow-moving pedestrians, trying to fight the feeling that everyone is staring at you. As in staring, staring. They know. They know you should have worn that striped sweater instead of this heavy knit one. You blimp out on the fact that your coat is buttoned and they can’t see the sweater, but the frustrated pink blotches on your cheek are telling you otherwise. You clear your throat and quickly cross the street as the light changes green.
4. The “Maybe I’ll buy something really quick” stage
Ok, now we’re officially spiraling. You begin to notice the shop windows as you walk past and think of ways to fix the situation. Maybe you can quickly pop into the drugstore and buy a new lipstick? Maybe the pop of a red-orange will help mask how completely wrong everything is. Why do we even own this sweater, god. Or — you quickly look up as something striped catches your eye in the window — maybe you can buy a whole new outfit? You falter and double back to the mannequin wearing your dress — uh, the store’s dress — weighing your options. You could use a new dress (who can’t use a new dress?). You might have thought that with a slightly manic pitch, but whatever. You’ll just change really quickly in the dressing room, and ask them to take off the security tag at the cash register, while you’re… wearing the dress. Who cares? They’ll understand. They’ll take one look at the sweater and completely understand. Heck, they might even give you a discount. Your eyes start taking on that wild look again, and you take a half step towards the door.That’s when you remember your friend has been sitting at the restaurant for 20 minutes now, probably on the second basket of bread. Oh god, she totally looks like she’s being stood up. Panicked even more, you keep jogging forward.
5. The “Can’t stop fidgeting” stage
You’re finally at the restaurant and you’re on your second drink to try and drown out the pain. Why? Why did you have to watch that extra episode? Fool. You pull on your sleeve and take another sip, smiling tightly at your friend as you try to pay attention. She continues on, unaware of your turmoil. You cross and uncross your legs, thinking of what you could have worn tonight. How about those bell bottom pants? Those would have been brilliant. Where the hell were those while you were tearing through your closet? You cough as you lean back in your seat, trying to get comfortable. Then cross your arms to try and hide some of the disaster area. Then uncross them because you don't want to look awkward on top of everything else. You fight the urge to put your head down on the table and weep. To compensate, you order the table another round. Because alcohol.
6. The “Activate invisibility cloak” stage
At this point, you’ve pretty much admitted defeat. You look terrible, you feel terrible, this whole night is terrible. You actually look really cute, but you’re now a drama queen and are about one sigh away from completely unraveling. Your chin is in your hand and you’re letting your pal do all the talking; something she’s all too happy to do. Bless her. You nod your head at something she says and resign to your situation. Fine, this outfit is lame. And since it’s lame, no one can see you any longer. You’re basically in incognito mode. No one’s going to take the time to stop at Frumpy Sweater when there’s a room full of babes wearing real clothes. Wearing Non-Hamper clothes. You lean back in your seat, feeling somewhat relieved. The madness. It’s over.
7. The “Never again” stage
You’re walking back home from the train stop, feeling exhausted from all the emotional upheaval from tonight. You vow to burn this sweater the second you get home, and take out your phone to double check on how to start a safe bonfire inside a small apartment. Never again, you swear. Never again will you sit on the couch 30 more minutes than you’re supposed to. You can’t handle another night like this one.
But as you unlock your door, you know that’s a total lie. And so it goes.
Images: Fotolia; Giphy