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Ellie Black


Getting dressed at all these days feels strange and decadent. I don’t do it very often. I usually find myself in sweatpants, pajamas, exercise gear. But once a week or so I’m struck with the urge to put on real clothes—often with more (fake freckles, red eyeshadow) or less makeup than I usually wear, jewelry layered up in ways that might make me feel self-conscious in public, something either brand new or unworn for years. I know this impulse comes from the same place as the Twitter and Instagram fashion hashtags that were so prevalent at the beginning of the public pandemic response (#distancebutmakeitfashion, #goingnowherebutfuckitimgettingdressed), which have since fizzled out and in which I never managed to participate.

Clothes hover even in the most regular of times between luxury and necessity, and the current circumstances have elevated their place in our daily lives—simultaneously and paradoxically—to both untouchably rare and also one of the few matters over which we have complete, minute control. Others have already written on this far more eloquently than I could. I’ll note that none of this, not fear nor guilt nor lack of practicality, has kept me from ordering several new pairs of earrings.

Meanwhile, when I’m not thinking about clothes, I find other ways to fill my days and stave off the low worldwide hum of panic. I’m reading as much as possible—this week Susan Choi’s Trust Exercise, Chuck Palahniuk’s Consider This, C.D. Wright’s Deepstep Come Shining. I’m taking online guitar lessons to go back over the basics I was too stubborn to learn when I started playing at 14. I’m cooking more, like everyone. Getting ten thousand steps a day, looping uselessly around my apartment complex. Trying to get other kinds of exercise too, but the walking takes up so much time.

Given that my roommate is out of state with family, I’ve been left alone to do a lot of thinking, which—though ostensibly good for my writing practice—feels alternately revelatory and bad. Mostly just bad. A few days ago I decided to go through my old Tumblr account, unused for years now, and tighten things up: remove identifying information, password protect the embarrassing side blogs that should have been deleted long ago. I’m about to turn 24, but my “About Me” page still said I was 18. This work felt, of course, like closing a door to a room that contains many things I still want. (I almost used the second person there—a room that contains many things you still want—but I’ve been trying to remind myself that my experiences are not universal.)

Realizing what you’ve outgrown aches. I understand, as I’m sure many of us do, that if any change comes from all this, it will be too little, too late, too much harm done—but at least there would be change. There would be growth. And then maybe we could try to explain away some of the ache.

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All images other than author photos and artist artwork ©Matthew Batt 2020