The other day I was looking for a decent shirt to wear to dinner. As you may or may not remember, this is a challenge because it seems like all of my shirts, after a period of time, develop holes near the waist. But there’s another problem now, and that is that my tops are nearly all stained.
I’ve always been something of a slob. My mother likes to joke, as mothers do, that she remembers how I was always unable to eat anything without half of it ending up on my front. But when she says these things, she’s thinking about Betsy from maybe ages 0-10, who really didn’t care what she looked like, not the one who, upwards of 47, is expected to go places not looking like she recently walked through a fountain of grease. Who does this at my age, regularly decorating their shirts with globs of food in a way that most middle school students have learned to avoid? Thank goodness for Ecover stain remover, which, despite its claims that it doesn’t damage the environment, has saved many pieces of clothing – but not all, see Exhibit A above – from having to be tossed (which makes me doubt that it’s really environmentally friendly, but I’ll continue believing that it is to soothe my liberal guilt).
Lately, doing laundry has become a laughable/mortifying (depending upon whether I have the laundry room to myself) experience, because the size of the the pile that needs stain remover is rivaling the size of the pile that doesn’t. I basically had to go through my entire shirt drawer the other day to find something that had no holes and wasn’t badly splotched, or wasn’t badly splotched in especially bad places. For instance, I’ve learned that if there’s a splotch to the side of a breast, it’s in shadow and possible to overlook. If it’s right on top, where people are likely to look anyway, then it’s a problem. And of course, because my chest sticks out, just waiting to catch anything that falls from my mouth like one of those birds or fish that attach themselves to certain animal species and feed off of their leavings, it’s likely that that’s the first place where spots are going to end up. My stomach is next, and while I don’t like the fact that it’s the next protrusion down, or a protrusion at all, this is a more acceptable landing area than my chest, both because it doesn’t invite as much attention in general and because it can be hidden by a desk, or dining table, or a sweater that can be partially zipped or buttoned (unlike Exhibit A).
In overthinking about why I seem to have gotten more stain-happy lately, I’ve come up with a few possibilities. First of all, I’ve been cooking more — and by “cooking” I don’t just mean what I mainly did for most of my adulthood, which was throw a pile of food into the oven at 450 (although some of my favorite Jamie Oliver recipes still involve doing just that. They also ask for “a handful” of something, as if that’s an actually measurement, while “full whack” is an oven temperature and “smash it all up together” is considered an instruction). I actually sauté a lot now, in a pan or two, on our teeny tiny stove, which has trouble fitting two pans comfortably. It can basically do two uncomfortably, and fitting three means one of them is going to be only half on a burner, so most of my cooking has to be limited to two-pan meals, but still — I make two-pan meals. That’s something an adult does, right? This has come about partly because I have a slow cooker. Actually, it’s not mine, it’s on more or less permanent loan from friends, but I’m pretty sure they’ve forgotten I have it, which basically makes it mine, along with the lamp they also gave me. Now, you would think that a slow cooker just requires you to, again, throw a bunch of stuff in and let ‘er rip, and you can in fact make dinner in it that way. All of the recipes I’ve found for it that are really good, though, involve browning meat, and wilting onions, and possibly deglazing with wine, before you throw it all in. So I have been spending more time within the range of spatter.
I’ve also traced many of my spots back to meals at work. I think this is probably because, like everything else I do at work, I tend to eat fast, often while simultaneously doing something else. At lunch, that something else is probably just making conversation, which is challenge enough for me, but I’m still often eating as fast as possible so that I can do something with the remaining 20 minutes or so of lunch after eating: get out and go for a walk, or visit galleries (when I shoot at Chelsea Piers), or make phone calls, or grade assignments, or in some way try to deal with my other responsibilities. At breakfast, the stain-inducing speed derives from the fact that I’m often eating after call time. For those of you not familiar, “call time” is when your day officially starts on a film set, the time at which you are “in.” I’m not sure where the “in” part comes from. Inside the set? In hell? At any rate, it’s the moment at which you are supposed to be 100% devoted to your job, until they tell you you can break for lunch, in 6+ hours. Call time is often quite early, but while I may have I unceremoniously dragged the rest of my body from sleep at 5 or 6 am, my stomach somehow still manages not to wake up until at least 8 or 9, which is probably when it thinks is the right time for all of a human being’s various parts to be waking up. (If only my stomach were a producer, the world would be a waaay better place. Call times would be sane, days would be short, and there would always be fresh mango at craft service, and manchego cheese, and olives, and Iberian ham, and…well, basically it would be a tapas bar.) As a result, I often try and have my breakfast after we are already “in,” which is considered verboten by many of the people I work with, or at the very least says to them that I have slacked and didn’t get to work early enough to eat breakfast before call. So I tend to inhale my breakfast to avoid being seen eating it, and sometimes in between plugging stuff in and checking batteries, so it tends not to have my full attention which, as I said, is a recipe for sartorial disaster.
And my time not on set, lately, has been the same harried frenzy of activity. In addition to working freelance two to four days a week, I’m teaching two classes, supposedly writing this blog, and doing other projects on top of that — my own, Flat Daddy’s (yep, that’s still going on), a film or app for hire (which happens not that often but did recently), applying for a job, researching adoption, etc. It’s that one additional thing that makes it all go from much to too much, because when you add in making dinner, and grocery shopping, and laundry, and cleaning, and exercise, and sleep, and trying to have a life, there really isn’t room. Something or things must end up going by the wayside — lately it’s been writing this blog and cleaning and my sanity — and even with those gone, I often find myself eating too fast, in front of my computer. Trying to keep all of these balls in the air, and trying to move from one to the other as fast as possible, inevitably leads to something getting dropped. Apparently, on my shirt.
Sometimes I think that maybe if I finally decided to be a grown up — get one, full-time job, make enough money to have an apartment with a real stove and other appliances and furniture that are 100% mine rather than 9/10ths mine, wear an apron, adopt a child — I would stop having these kinds of not-very-adult problems. But I happen to know that my friends who have all of these things that adults have are also juggling, and the ones who have kids are used to juggling even more than I am. Women are supposed to be multitaskers, it’s what we do. Or perhaps more accurately, it’s what we’ve been forced to learn how to do. Maybe at some point my friends just managed to get better at it, or they learned to eliminate that one thing that puts them over the edge, or they earn enough to have a personal shopper and really good dry cleaning.
Then somewhere in the back of my mind, I remember that the other person my mom said couldn’t keep food off of her clothes was my grandmother. She also worried a lot. So maybe I’ve started the inevitable slide toward my second childhood early (I always was precocious), or maybe being a slovenly worry wart is in my genes. The nice thing about this answer is that it’s not a solution, it’s an opportunity to throw up my hands and say, Well there you have it. These stains are not a life choice, they’re not a sign of things out of whack, it’s just me becoming who I would inevitably become. I should just accept and embody my identity as a slob, the way I’ve accepted my bad knees and grey hairs. I don’t remember seeing “The Stainer” on the MBTI, but they probably just gave it a better name.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have laundry to do.