Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Day 63 -- Itchy Business

Below is the original musings about this sweater...written exactly 8 months ago.  Apparently, I was overcome by the greatness of this Abercrombie crewneck and could no longer continue my evaluation.

Sunday, Feb. 24

It doesn't take Dionne Warwick or the Long Island Medium to see the writing on the wall: "This sweater, while somewhat high maintenance, is still perfect for those Sunday afternoon errands followed by hanging around the house pretending to care about football or watching a Dance Moms marathon. And it's such a great shade of orange to boot."  I guess I don't even have to bother wearing this today then, do I?  Or do I?  What if it is dramatically different than his oatmeal brother that I suffered through earlier this week?  What if the boxy shape is actually a plus, and makes my boring old corduroys suddenly seem straight off the (Old Navy) runway?

The day they perfect the technology to actually
feel something that you see online, I'm going to
submit this picture.  I'll call it itch-o-vision.

Did I really NOT caption this photo?  Was there nothing about this sweater that made me wax poetic?  How tragic!!

And that's all I wrote.  Was it so incredibly comfortable, flattering, warm, and cheery (no, NO, sort of, and not really) that I could find nothing of note about which to blog?

Well, not exactly...but [spoiler alert] it made it through the rigorous cut last year (and was neatly stowed in a sweater bag on my shelf), so there must be something that I liked about this sweater. At this point in the sweater blogging, I had begun to be (ever-so-slightly) more discerning about what made it through the process, so I'm a bit surprised that this one was taking up so much valuable real estate in my closet (not to mention that large size sweater bag from The Container Store that it inhabited with no space for a pouch-mate).

So, as a welcome back to the blog, I will wear this one again.  If I liked it enough to give this vintage (and by "vintage," I mean mid 90s...in the life of an Abercrombie sweater, that's practically a senior citizen) crewneck its very own sweater bag, I certainly can find it in my heart (and closet) to give it another whirl today. Because it is "in season" right now, I think this will be the perfect opportunity to put this sweater through the ringer (but not literally...I think that would be even more cruel than it's powerful itch fibers are being to me). As has been established, orange sweaters are my kryptonite (okay...pretty much any sweater is my kryptonite, but orange is the deadly kind that forces Superman into the Bizarro world--and that's based on my viewing of Smallville, so there might be some errors there).  And this is not just a plain orange...it's chunky, and laden with harvest colors.  So, while I know for a fact that this sweater (barely) survived the cut the first time around, I'm wondering if it will actually hold up to my standards this time.  

As soon as I pulled it over my head (wearing my usual brand of "first layer" shirts...not too thick as to disrupt the integrity of the sweater, but substantial enough to provide warmth), I wondered what kind of anti-biotics I might have been on last February...because this fella was one big orange ball of itch.  Constantly.  Sure, had I been frequenting Coldwater Creek or possibly the matronly section of L.L. Bean, I could have picked up a cotton turtleneck in a sensible color that might have protected me from the abrasions from this sweater...but there was no such armor today.  This brother scratched me like an S.O.S. pad all day (and, unfortunately, this was a day in which I started work at 6 a.m., so it got in a lot of extra itch-time).  Could I really justify keeping this sweater simply because it's got such a great autumnal color to it?  Perhaps it's time for one of those Pro/Con lists I read so much about in Readers' Digest (while wearing my   Carroll Reed cotton turtleneck, of course).

The pros: It's a really great color of orange--dare I say, "pumpkin spice?"
               It is nice and big, and doesn't cling to any part of my body.
               It is short, which enables a breeze to come up the sweater, which offers
               some temporary relief from the itchiness.
               It's warm (because it's a sweater and it's made out of wool and that's the job of    
               a sweater).
The cons: It is itchy.  Oh, how it itches.
               It has kind of a weird shape (or shapelessness) to it.  Not exactly flattering.
               It is short, which enables a breeze to come up the sweater.
               It is warm, but not very cozy...BECAUSE IT REALLY ITCHES!

In this case, I believe that the cons far outweigh the pros.  Until the day that the government shutdown affects sweater manufacturers (especially those that specialize in deliciously autumnal shades of orange), I don't feel that I need to hang onto every sweater in this color family.  Because, unlike how I might have felt before I started this blog, I am not actually saving any money by hanging onto this sweater.  It's not as if I'll walk into a store, see a beautiful orange crewneck and think, "Oh, this is lovely. But I already have a sweater in this color, so that's $60 that I won't have to spend.  I guess I'll just use this money to purchase some hydrocortisone cream to put on my skin to relieve the itching from my Abercrombie & Fitch orange sweater."

My rating:   Tom Cruise. I realize that it's almost impossible to talk about Mr. Cruise without bringing up his couch-jumping-Matt-Lauer-baiting-Brooke-Shields-hating behavior of late...and that's entirely my point.  There was a time when I would see a movie simply because Tom Cruise was in it (and, yes, that includes Cocktail).  Now, and I doubt I'm the only one who feels this way, I will avoid a movie for the very same reason (and when I slip and accidentally see a movie he's in, I get left with Rock of Ages.  Serves me right).  Sure, he still has his looks, talent, and his winning smile, but, underneath it all, there's a whole lot of itching.  Although I have trouble reconciling his work during The Outsiders through the Jerry Maguire era with what he's become lately, there isn't enough Aveeno or Gold Bond Medicated Cream in the world to get me to admit to being a fan of Tom Cruise anymore. While you might get a few compliments on the lovely nutmeg (or is it allspice?) color of this sweater (although I didn't get any), and some thought that Cruise's performance in Tropic Thunder stole the show (Wrong!  Robert Downey Jr. did...and was nominated for his work, so there!) does that outweigh the constant irritation by its woolen fibers and smugger-than-smug attitude? After surviving the original War of the Wools, this sweater has just become the next casualty.  It had me at "orange," but it left me at "seriously itchy."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Day 62 -- Zig Zagnut (i.e. the candy bar that one can only find at gas stations in the Midwest).

On a recent season of America's Next Top Model, Tyra Banks decided that it would be a good idea to give all of her would-be runway walkers the "gift" of a super power (or, in this case, super model power).  As she is well on her way to total and complete dictionary domination ("H to T modeling," "Booty tooch," and, how could I leave out, "Smize"), it was about time she unearthed yet another Tyraism...Intoxibella (which means, of course, "Super Model.")  On this very special episode, Tyra assigned one of the "beautiful young women I have standing before me," the Intoxibella power of "Zagalicious."  According to Madame Smize, this model "zagged" while the other models "zigged," (or was it the other way around?).  After every photo shoot, Tyra would either commend or scold this model for her use of this Intoxibella power.  In the end, Zagalicious did not see her photo, and, therefore, had to, "Immediately go home, pack her bags, and leave the competition forever."

All of this is to say that I feel that, were today's sweater a competitor in Model Land (the title of Tyra's Pulitzer prize-winning novel), it would have that same Intoxibella power.  Some grey cardigans just button up...this one is Zagalicous. Will I be able to handle this superpower, or will I send this sweater home to pack its bags and leave the Top Sweater house immediately.

To button or not to button: That is the question.

This ain't your grandmother's grey cardigan.

No, the moths didn't get this sweater--it's a whimsically placed buttonhole.
My Mom gave me this sweater, so you can all rest assured that it's of the finest quality (cashmere, of course), and was meant to be worn with something other than Adidas track pants (sorry, Gap turtlenecks...you never get that luxury).  I think that the only reason that I have not worn this sweater too much (or ever?) is because I was a little bit intimidated by those buttons.  What's the protocol here...do I button some of them...all of them...none of them?

After spending the day in this sweater, I'm still not sure that I can pull this much look off.  I did go out on a limb and belt my waist, so that I would at least appear that I knew what I was doing. I tried for that effortless, qui moi? look...as if I just finished my morning at the fresh flower market (or do they have those only in movies?) and am now headed to a gallery to see the latest installations by one of my favorite artists (neither of those activities, by the way, actually sound appealing to me). Instead, I had diagonal buttons, a belt just under my sternum, and a skirt that had Ray Bans printed all over it (hey, just because I still grant asylum to mock turtlenecks under my roof does not prohibit me from having any kind of stylish clothing).  I think that once I figure out how to wear it (right now it's wearing me), this sweater will become my choice to make a dull outfit just a wee bit more "zagalicious."

Blogger's admission: I wore this one again (I may not adhere to the rules of of the food pyramid or even Draw Something, but I am very good about sticking to the doctrine of the knitwear).  I think that it works best with a skirt or a dress, and looked much better when I didn't button every button.  I always seem to have a problem with that...I feel like not buttoning something is an admission that it doesn't fit.  Apparently, that is not the case (which I should remember from Carson Kressley's "Sometimes, Always, Never," rule when it came to buttoning jackets...or is it the other way around?).

Re-admission: Since I still haven't caught up, I relegated myself to only wearing repeat sweaters, lest I get even more behind (not that anyone is watching me, but I would hate to skirt the rules, even if I did create them myself).  Hence, I'm giving this one its third go in a little over a month.  This time, I put this zagalicious cardigan with a pair of corduroys (let's pretend that these were the stylish kind...not the ones that are still in your closet because they're "so comfy"). Once I got over the whole buttoning dilemma (since the sweater comes up ever so slightly in the front, I decided to go Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle and button. every. last. button.  And, hey, it wasn't even that bad (because, of course, I have six-pack abs, so cardigans always lie flat). "Lie" being the operative word there.  Or is it "lay?"

So, grey cardigan, congratulations.  You're still in the running towards becoming my next top cardigan.

My rating: Scott Caan. Just a bit off-center, but fairly conventional at heart. He's not the typical "heartthrob" type actor (I doubt that, even if it were age-appropriate, he would ever be featured in Bop or Teen Beat magazines), but there's something indisputably charming about him.  Sure, these buttons are a bit daunting and there are times that he walks a little bit too much like his father, but sometimes a little left of center works (hey, wasn't that a song in Pretty in Pink?). Usually, I am wary of any tweaking to a successful ensemble cast (Gossip Girl, my perfectly manicured hand is pointing squarely at you), but, surprisingly enough, Scott Caan actually blended in quite well with the cast of Entourage in its later seasons.  Although I am purely Team Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon, of course. I don't think I've ever forgiven Matt Dillon for some of the tough delinquents that he played to perfection in the early 80s), I have to give it to Mr. Caan--he manages to steal almost every scene that he's in (which, admittedly, is not hard to do if the scene involves Turtle or E).  I must confess that I am not a regular viewer of Hawaii 5-0 (and that even included the episode that Rick Springfield was in), but, from the clips that I see of it, it appears that Mr. Caan's charisma and cock-sure attitude are in full effect and really take command of that show. Sure, most of the time we want our cardigans to play by the rules, but every so often it's nice to find a maverick out there who is willing to buck convention and do things his own way.  Book this cardigan, Danno (yeah, I went there).

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Poncho That Brought Me Back.

Remember those early days of the Internet, where life was simple (except for making mix-tapes--that was still difficult ) and it was actually a novelty to "chat" with friends online (which usually equated to people saying, "Hi, where's everybody from?" right in the middle of the rest of the room's conversation about last night's episode of Suddenly Susan).  At some point during all of that, I recall finding it actually fun when a friend would unexpectedly perform the cyber-equivalent of tapping me on the shoulder...yes, the good old "Instant Message" of yore.  At first, we all enjoyed the "Hey, what are you doing" routine...especially since we were probably on AOL to get our email in a time in which Tasmanian diplomats hadn't figure out that email was a more efficient way to reach us than phone calls during the dinner hours.  A few bon mots exchanged with our long-lost person that we see every day at work, and we were back to trying to navigate AOL's still-chartered but ever-so-slow waters.

But oh how the tides turned (both for AOL and Instant Messages).  Now, I'd sooner log off Facebook and my sure-to-clear-all-the-jelly session of Candy Crush than to be spotted by anybody online.  Not that I don't want to "talk" to them...it's just that I have the social media attention span for a sum total of one Maru video, a George Takei pun, and whatever Sesame Street or Muppet meme is going around these days.  I'd rather not use social media to be, ahem, social.

Flash forward a few years (but the sweaters remain.  Oh how they remain). It might not be a tug on the sleeve or a virtual poke, but I have something just as intrusive now (and it's far more guilt-inducing).  Yes, it's called (in the spirit of the early 90s) "My So-Called 100 Days of Sweaters."  I realize that I don't actually have readers out there who are worried about my well-being and wonder what happened to me after the travesties of Day 61 (hey, that snowflake sweater really wasn't deadly.  I actually found it kind of sweet...even if I did wear it in meteorological spring)--if there are any of those people, I assure you that I'm fine and no worse for the (100 days of) wear.  

And, yes, I really did wear 100 sweaters last year...in fact, I wore 101 (the hidden bonus track that was so prevalent in 90s/2000s CDs).  I actually could have kept going, but forced myself to stop the experiment, even if the weather dictated otherwise.  I really was diligent about it...so much so that when it remained cold well into May, I did not allow myself to wear any sweater that I hadn't already written (or planned to write) about. Why waste a perfectly good entry for next year's extravaganza?

Except for one thing: as much as I adore sweaters, I find it really difficult to write about them once baseball season has started (and, yes, I did re-wear one of the former contestants on opening day...and found it lacking).  Even though that little "to do" icon on my computer showed a shameful crimson "39" every time I turned on my computer, I was able to block it out for a while.  Those 39 entries would get done sometime, just not when I had such important things to do like complain about those infernal "Back to School" ads in July or ponder that moral dilemma about whether it's okay to sit inside watching "Pretty Little Liars" if it's really hot outside and, if I were outside, I'd just be running the air conditioning in my car which is, of course, bad for the environment (plus, I left off on a really good episode and I seriously need to know who "A" is).  Eventually, that garish "39" became white noise and I could enjoy Grumpy Cat in peace.

That is, of course, until this little beauty popped up on the side of my Facebook page (and, yes, I'm sure there's a way to turn those off--but, sometimes, they provide lovely products such as this).

What's that you say, Facebook?  A Michael Kors poncho in my favorite color that also features a turtleneck (perhaps a cowl, but it didn't look like that in the pop-up that I saw)?  Where do I sign up?  It turns out that I had merely to click on the poncho, enter a few numbers (otherwise known as my credit card numbers) and then, voila, it was mine.  I mean, it has to be stylish...it's Michael Kors (and from his commentary on Project Runway, I know that he has no intention of making me look like "A Mother-of-the-bride on crack," or a "Schlumpy woman at a buffet on a cruise").

In my mind, a poncho (and one in harvest colors, no less) signifies fall activities like no other.  If I'm not playfully raking the leaves (taking time to undue my work by jumping in a leaf pile or two), then I'm most certainly in a corn maze at a pumpkin patch, smugly wearing my poncho while eating that ideal taffy apple (no nuts, just candy bits or cookie crumbs).  As the sun sets on that perfectly crisp autumn day, I hold my hot apple cider in one hand and fresh kettle korn in the other, and am so content that I could spend this day in my Michael Kors poncho (or any of the other ponchos that I have purchased over the years...all in the hopes of living this same moment).  All is right in my world and in this poncho.

So here's a word that you don't often see in my life (except when it applies to a certain genre of TV shows)--reality.  Yes, for a brief moment my sanguine moment in the apple orchard was interrupted by that little bugger. At first it was a small thought like: "But how will you reach up for that high apple if you don't have full range of motion in your arms?"  And to that I replied, "But this poncho is superior to those ones in the past because it has sleeves," (well, they're kind of abbreviated, but they are still sleeves).  And then it got louder, "But what if it's really cold at that football game you plan to wear this poncho to?  Can you wear a coat over it?"  Silly voice in my head, this is fall in the midwest.  Every day will be a sunny 65 degrees and then will dip down to 60 just in time for that bonfire.  But that voice remained, and it didn't give up.  Whatever whatever...I will find a way to carry a purse (that's why they created clutches), drive my car (both hands on the steering wheel is so last century) or swing that sledgehammer for that carnival game that they always have on TV shows at their Fall Fest where the bell rings and you win a really large and unattractive stuffed animal (my solution: I'll stick with the "Guess Your Weight" game because, in a poncho...who knows?).

And then there was a whisper...it was so quiet at first, I assumed it was the sound of the wind as I rode on that hayride after a trip to the most sincere pumpkin patch in town.  But then it got louder and more forceful, and, finally, I could ignore it no longer: it was the cries of the turtle and cowl necks that had met their untimely demise on the blog.  They were speaking to me from their graves (or at least their new homes...and maybe in a new incarnation like re-purposed mittens or cat toys) and they had just one word for me "neck."  What were they talking about--this neck was great...it was orange and chunky and...oh, wait a minute.  It really isn't sitting right, now is it?  NBD (as the kids say)...the rest of the sweater is so cute that...hold on.  This isn't a sweater.  It's a poncho.  And a poncho with a dubious neck has an entirely greater set of problems than a regular proletariat sweater.  It's fine.  I think.

After fussing with the neck a few times, I did the mature thing and put the poncho back in the closet and decided to think about it later.  Then I also went to the Nordstrom website to read the comments section--oddly enough, nobody mentioned anything other than how large it was (something that I will almost never complain about).  I went to other websites, but found nothing--except that every time I saw that poncho, I fell in love with it all over again.  Such great colors, and did I mention that it's Michael Kors?  Oh, I did? Sorry!

A few weeks later, I decided that maybe I had better heed the words of my fore-sweaters. If the neck is bugging me now, imagine how I'll feel at that proverbial pep rally? Why would a poncho get a pass from the rules while so many other, perfectly fine, turtlenecks be branded with a scarlet C (for cowl)?  While I think that I could have lived with this neck being slightly thick and non-committal (Was it a cowl? Am I supposed to "slouch" it?), perhaps it was time for me to learn something from my past behaviors and this poncho became the innocent victim for my crimes of those 100 days.  So, hat in hand (don't get me started on my hat collection.  Another time, another blog), I brought this beautiful specimen back to his rightful home at Nordstrom.  And that's when I saw this mannequin...taunting me, daring me (and, let's be honest, looking far better in this poncho than I did).  And how come the neck looks normal on her?  Maybe I should give it another try...

If she had a real face, you would see it glowing.  I almost want to buy this poncho all over again!

I'm sure at this point, those of you who are betting folk would put money down that I turned around and kept my poncho.  Which I almost did.  Had I not been in a remarkably speedy line at the checkout desk, I probably would have done just that.  But I did it.  I learned from my past mistakes and decided that an angst-causing turtleneck (no matter what his pedigree is) will never bring me the happiness that I have come to expect in a sweater.  Congratulations, me.  I have finally turned over a new (albeit changing color) leaf.

And yet, even as I was leaving the store (for once, $150 richer), I was wistful.  Whatever will I wear when I go to the town's annual pumpkin carving contest?  Because I'm so the type to just grab a pumpkin spice latte (except I don't really drink coffee), throw this on over my (non-existent) skinny jeans and go.

Oh, but wait...I can totally justify this purchase when it goes on sale.  I mean, at the inevitable $69 price, this is practically a steal, right?

And that's when I knew that, despite spending well over 100 days wearing sweaters of questionable taste and quality levels, I still have a lot to learn.  Not the least of which is that waiting until, oh, say, January, to add this sweater (okay...let's face it...it's a damn poncho) to my collection will only ensure that it never gets worn. Because while I may not have changed my wicked woolen ways entirely, I do know that sweaters in harvest colors do not make the grade in January.  Not only can we not visit an operative pumpkin patch over MLK weekend, if we did, we would most certainly need to wear a coat...which this PONCHO does not allow.  So, while I might save a few dollars buying this on sale, I would almost certainly never get to wear it, rendering it practically useless (which, for a poncho, is, admittedly, redundant).  All of which makes me think that I should have kept it, and were it not for that meddling neck, I might have done just that.

The fact that I'm still kept up at nights going over this transaction in my head makes me realize that I will never get any peace if I don't at least finish last year's blog.  Or, at the very least, spend a week trying to act like a functioning human being, all the while wearing a poncho.  That ought to cure me of my affection for them (or at least the notion of them).  Either that, or I'll come up with a whole set of coping strategies for how to eat corn-on-the-cob, pump gas, and do the Gangham Style dance without the full range of motion that a poncho prohibits.

So I'm going back to the blog. It won't be fun.  It won't be pretty.  But it is necessary.  I have all of these sweaters, their school pictures at the ready and in draft format...all awaiting my wit (or, at the very least, my extensive use of parentheses and ellipses).  I did consider not allowing myself to wear any new (or unwritten about) sweater until I finished the entire blog...but, c'mon.  That would be seriously cruel..and I have such a great cinnamon (or was it allspice?) half-zip sweater from Boden that is just waiting for a day at the Fall Fest.  Or the football game.  Or the hayride...

Yeah, I need to do this.  Bear with me.  I'm still learning...

Blogger's note: I still haven't gone back to re-purchase that poncho.  But, let me tell you, just looking at these photos is similar to showing pictures of chocolate chip cookies to someone on a diet (also me).  So tempting!  But, as they say, those who does not learn from the past, is destined to wear a cowl neck...or a poncho...or a mock neck...or a funnel neck...or...