Before I became an appellate lawyer, about 18 years ago, I was a trial lawyer for nine years. And when I was on trial, I wore suits. Suits with skirts, because believe it or not, not many women were wearing pantsuits to court that long ago. I wore tasteful, classic suits, I like to think. So tasteful and classic that a number of them were still hanging in my closet, until this past weekend. Because who knew when I might have cause to wear them again?
Secretly, I knew when: never. Not because the suits were old, but because they no longer fit me. Not, I must admit, through any fault of their own. The suits were entirely blameless, remaining at the ready whenever I might choose to call on them. I was the one who had gained fifteen pounds or so over the years. But I kept the suits. Obviously, if I really wanted to, I could shed those pounds right off, couldn't I? It could happen miraculously, at any time, through no effort on my part. I would just wake up one morning, and zowie! I'd be 15 pounds lighter, and you know what? When that day came to pass, imagine how tragic it would be if I DIDN'T HAVE ANY SUITS TO WEAR!
So I went on for years and years in this state of blissful denial, until about a month ago I finally opened the closet door, experienced a temporary whiff of sanity, and said to myself: What if you did miraculously lose 15 pounds? These suits are twenty years old. They have passed so far beyond the realm of out-of-style that they might be considered retro, if they were cute and funky items that the cool kids would wear. But they're not cute and funky. They're conservative business suits in muted colors and no hipster would be caught dead in one of them. They need to go.
But I still couldn't bring myself to put them in a bag with all the other clothes I was planning to donate to charities, because they were of such good quality! Look! Pure wool! Jones New York! Impeccable condition!
And then I remembered the consignment store I regularly pass on my training-for-the-Avon-Walk walks, but have never entered. The signs on the plate-glass windows read TOP QUALITY! and DESIGNER LABELS! How perfect is that? And so last Saturday, I put an armload of clothes in the back seat of my car and drove over.
I approached the store empty-handed, which seemed to me like a classy way to handle this. I'll just ask them first whether or not they might be interested, and then I'll dazzle them with the actual goods. One tall, thin, middle-aged woman was sweeping the sidewalk outside the shop. She smiled and directed me inside to speak with her business partner.
The business partner, another tall, thin middle-aged woman, did not smile. Instead, she listened, expressionless, to my proposal, eying my shorts-T-shirt-flip-flops ensemble with deep skepticism. But, as luck would have it, there wasn't a single customer in the store and she was clearly doing nothing but tidying up the racks, so she sighed and asked me what kind of clothing I had brought. Dresses and suits, I told her. "Business suits?", she asked in a tone of barely concealed revulsion. I had to admit that was, indeed, what they were. She shook her head sharply. "Business suits don't sell." But she stoically permitted me to go out to my car and bring back my wares.
When I returned, before I had even crossed the room halfway in her direction, she was already shaking her head definitively. "Our customers only want clothes that are very current. Everything moves fast in this business. And we carry only high-end labels."
"Like what?," I asked curiously. She didn't even answer that question. Obviously she believed that the odds of my having heard of any of the high-end labels they carried were slim to none, so why waste her breath? Instead, she fixed me with a peculiar look and told me about a store that would be much more likely to meet my needs. It was a combination thrift/consignment store in a nearby town. Yes, it would be perfect for me and my poor, dead merchandise, she was sure of it. She slowly repeated the store's name several times, as if she wasn't quite sure about the mental capacity of someone so fashion-impaired, and it was at that point that I recognized the look she was giving me. It was one of naked pity. I felt rather shaken. I knew quite well that I was no fashionista, but I had always believed that I looked generally acceptable. The clothes I wore were seldom new, but they were clean; they fit me, and matched whatever else I had on. Was I delusional in thinking that was good enough? Had I really let things get so far out of hand?
When I got home, I googled the magical place that was evidently designed specifically for me, and discovered that it accepted consignments on Tuesday mornings beginning at 10:00, and that - O joyous omen! - it was located only a few blocks away from the doctor's office where I had a 9:00 a.m. appointment that very Tuesday. As in, yesterday. Clearly, it was all meant to be.
So at 9:40 yesterday morning, there I was, standing outside the store. The website had said that once the doors opened I would need to take a number and wait, but I was second in line, ready to roll and feeling pretty jaunty. I would be in and out of there in no time and on my way to work, with the pleasant prospect of earning several hundred dollars to speed me on my way.
Well. The doors opened at 10, but as I soon learned, I couldn't just walk in and consign, oh dear me no. I had to first go to an office in the back to meet with a woman who was in no hurry at all. At her own leisurely pace, she repeated to me everything I had read online about their organization and the consignment process, had me sign a form inducting me into the sacred society of consignors, and then finally took me to the front to get a number, at which point there were about ten people in line ahead of me, and each of them had many, many, many items to offer.
I was in that store for an hour and a half, and for almost all of it I was standing and waiting for my number to come up. I could have walked around the store and looked at the items for sale, but I could see plenty just by standing right where I was. It felt like one of the saddest places I had ever been in, not counting hospitals and rehab centers. The housewares on the shelves were mostly items I could not conceive of anyone having owned in the first place. I won't go into detail except to say that cute woodland creatures were heavily featured, perhaps outnumbered only by angels. And all I kept thinking was: this is the place where I belong. These are my people. The woman in the other consignment store told me so.
At 11:00 a.m. my number was called and I got to pull my clothes out of the bag I'd stuffed them into and show them to the woman whose job it was to price them for me. I started off with a pantsuit I considered quite chic, and in excellent condition. The woman took it from me, inspected it closely for damage, found none, and suggested, "Sixteen dollars?"
I walked out fifteen minutes later with my list of the five items that had been accepted for consignment (yes, a few others were rejected due to minor flaws), and added up the total prices in my head. Well, I thought philosophically as I walked to my car, I had just squandered an hour and a half of my time, but that was okay. My dear, stalwart clothes were going to support a good cause, and at least I might end up with a grand total of $64 out of it. (Actually it was $74, but I had to pay $10 for the privilege of being permitted to consign.) Still, I was able to focus on the silver lining to all of this until I got to work and glanced through the brochure I had been handed, only to be reminded that at most, if every item sold, I would receive 60% of the sales prices. I didn't pause to figure out what 60% of $64 is because, honestly, I don't want to know.
So, if you've read this far, you've been wondering for at least the last dozen paragraphs why I entitled this post AND OTHER REVISIONS. Here's why. Because I've concluded that there's one lesson I need to take away from this entire experience, which is: do yourself a favor and buy some new clothes once in a while, would ya? I mean, just grow up, okay?