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War Paint

This is how I felt
If it weren't for my stash of stiffly ironed shirts, for a while there, I wouldn't have been able to stand up.

I have been in a place that feels not unlike a dark, black wet paper sack--a very thick paper sack--Tyvek or strapping tape--the kind of stuff you can't rip or tear with your teeth--I was in one of those. And it started to scare the hell out of me.

I had no idea how to fight my way out of it.

Ideas are my stock in trade. And I was completely out of 'em. Good ones, anyway. And that's a scary thought. Oh, I had a few, very bad ideas. I was practically infested with those. I felt like a tightly crushed container of toxic waste--black and greasy and twisted and heavy and the bad ideas were making their little wormy ways through the little black banana peel that was serving as my heart.

Nope. I couldn't fight my way out a wet paper sack. And every day seemed like a fight. So, I turned to clothes as my armor.

I dressed carefully every day. Deliberately--like that scene in The Last Samurai where Tom Cruise is dressing for battle. Except that I didn't have the goo-goo-eyed Japanese woman helping me get dressed or the romantic soundtrack playing in the background. It was just me, my clothes and a not-quite housebroken spaniel puppy that kept trying to make off with my shoes.

I worked out every morning. I did not want to work out. I hated every minute of working out. So I made the minutes very short and I punched things and threw things and growled and hissed and hogged the incline bench where I could hang upside down and let the blood rush to my head. Then I showered very carefully--if I was going to be a depressive lunatic, I was going to be a clean depressive lunatic. I flossed. I wore my most expensive perfume. I got waxed. I got my nails done.

I chose ironed shirts and boots. Always a pair of kickass boots. Accessorized with sparkly things.

I put on makeup every day. But it just seemed the thing to do--like applying warpaint. My hair fell out in handfuls. I bought an expensive boar bristle brush so that I would not look like a witch. I avoided looking in mirrors because at times like these the only answer the ol' mirror-mirror-on-the-wall is gonna give you is "DON'T BOTHER." And who needs that?

These things seemed like impossible tasks. To lift one leg to put it in the pants took concentration and force of will, and hail marys--don't even consider the spiritual strength of buttoning them-glory be! Choosing a bra and undies--always careful to match those--was agonizing because they just didn't seem to fit in quite the same way--they were too tight here, pinchy there, not quite full enough where it counts. But like mom always said: you never know if you end up jumping off a bridge, you want to be wearing pretty brassieres and clean undies when they wheel you into the morgue.

And then, I just sort of wandered around, drinking bloody marys for lunch, eating all-chocolate lunches and shopping--retail, mind you. I folded laundry and ironed shirts in 1950's style shirtdresses and pearls, just like Donna Reed and June Cleaver, if Donna Reed ever wore a pair of black lizard Tony Lamas or June Cleaver ever found a pair of Frye motorcycle boots at the Goodwill.  I put on lipstick to go to the grocery store--it felt like putting on clown makeup--in expensive China red. I was absolutely useless and horrible to be around, but at least I was well-dressed.

May I recommend some form of this fashion-behavioral-therapy for anyone fighting the good fight. Smell good. Put on your favorite, prettiest clothes. Your kick-assiest boots. Iron your shirts while watching the Marx Brothers--now those guys were nuts. Make the wrinkles go away. Kick some ass.


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