Five steps ahead of me on the stairs exiting the Q train, the rarest sight emerged. A sight I haven’t seen since 2019. A woman in a fitted, checkered dress that skimmed her knees climbed the steps before me wearing… stilettos.
Gold. Patent leather. Pointed toe. At least 5 inches high. Stilettos.
A blister burst on my foot just from looking at her.
If you have blisters you should subscribe.
Her fitted, checkered dress was too stiff to be a date dress. The pearls around her neck and her tote bag with a laptop peeking out confirmed my suspicion even more.
This woman. Wore stilettos. To the office.
This is where you gasp.
Pre-pandemic, stilettos were a far more common occurrence on the subway from 9-5. But of the many things the pandemic stripped us of, adornment seemed to have been one of them.
Not for the woman five steps ahead of me on the stairs exiting the Q train, though.
How we physically adorn ourselves can be telling for the status we might be trying to achieve. Which makes sense why the pageantry of stilettos and double-breasted suits seem to be reemerging. You can take Americans out of the hustle by making them work from home, but you can’t take the hustle out of Americans.
However, what about the adornment we add to our sentences? What about the ways we embellish; not our outfits, but our statement about ourselves?
You guessed it. I’m talking about (read this next bit as if you’re the guy who announces the basketball players as they enter the arena) li-li-li-LIES!
I happened to strike up a conversation with the stiletto wearing woman. It turns out we were heading to the same place. Since we both came from the same train, she asked me if I lived in the same area as her. I do. I answered yes.
Then she asked me how long I’ve lived there. And I answered, “about a year.”
I moved in December 2021. That’s just under 9 months.
It wasn’t an instance of shoddy math. I knew that August did not equal December, meaning it could not have been a year.
However some instinct within me propelled me to embellish my statement. A year does sound more official than barely 9 months, after all.
But what is it about this need to embellish? In the same vein as her choice to wear stilettos, and my choice to wear sparkly earrings, I believe verbal embellishment to come out in moments of “ah I do not feel worthy.” Andy Johns says it comes out in moments of low self-worth. Which you might see as another way to say “ah I do not feel worthy.” But here’s where I think those two things are completely different.
Johns may see self-worth to be a noble quest; the quest of betterment, to love what he sees in the mirror. But to say that verbal embellishment only comes out if you do not yet possess the high self-worth we’re all chasing is the same as saying that achieving self-worth is a task that will one day be ticked off the to-do list. As if there’s an elixir that will cure you of any negative self-talk. As if you’re a magician.
No one is a magician.
I believe the pursuit of self-worth to be noble, but it is not a quest. Because a quest implies that there is a dragon to slay, behind which lies the princess to be rescued and the happily ever after that comes next. There are dragons, but there is no princess. Meaning, there will be turbulence, but there is no finale, no end of act, no stroll into the sunset. The pursuit of self-worth is one that will continue throughout our lives. Meaning moments of “ah I do not feel worthy” will continue to pop up. Meaning embellishment will pop up. And that’s okay.
Next Thursday I’m going to talk about how important it is to put yourself in situations where the thought “ah I do not feel worthy” comes up. But for now, tell me, when’s the last time you embellished a statement about yourself?
(First, there are magicians and if you ever come back to Chicago I would love to take you to the Chicago Magic Lounge.)
I used to always embellish how long I've been working professionally as a lighting designer/technician. Sure I started when I was 18, but I didn't get paid to do it as a professional until I was 20, and even then it wasn't consistent until quite a while after that. I always thought it would give me more authority, a person to trust when he voiced his opinion, someone who mattered. I desire(d) to be seen as important, because a lot of times, I don't feel it.
Even if we counted that 20-year old a professional, there have been large chunks of my life where I haven't done theatre at all due to life kicking my ass, so to say I've been working professionally for 15 years now still feels like an embellishment. However, it's such a nice, round number and invites people to assume I'm an expert while I'm dealing with imposter syndrome.