Weekend Vibes, Edition No. 164: On Performativity.

My Latest Snag: Shortalls.

I love putting my little butterball baby in shortalls these days. It’s like he was meant to wear them — he’s sturdy and big and hearty-looking and the vibe just fits him. Sadly, he’s more or less outgrown all of the size 12M shortalls I purchased lovingly for him last summer (and he’s not yet a year and it’s not even summer yet…AHHH!). My two favorite brands for this traditional look are Florence Eiseman and BusyBees (specifically their George romper, which he owns in a few prints), and I layer them over Peter Pan collar onesies from Kissy Kissy and Babidu. (I have tried seemingly ever brand of peter pan collar onesies under the sun and those two are my absolute favorite — I find the collars on other styles are either too big or too small or look cheap to me or are difficult to keep down after washing.)

At any rate, can I let you in on a little secret?! I just discovered the children’s consignment shop BAGSY, where clever mothers consign their lovely children’s clothing, often WITH TAGS STILL ATTACHED. You can find darling shortalls from Florence Eiseman and BusyBees for a fraction of the retail price. If you’re comfortable with gently-used clothing — I mean, these for $25 for the fall are a STEAL.

I would say both brands run TTS.

P.S. More traditional children’s clothing for under $31.

P.P.S. Also very excited for him to wear this, which just arrived in the mail.

You’re Sooooo Popular: Le Flutter Sleeved Tee.

The most popular items on the blog this past week:

+Chic update on a tee.

+Our coffee table!

+Darling grandmillennial-approved pillow shams at a fantastic price.

+Dream one-piece.

+Best undereye concealer ever.

+Sweetest bubble for a baby girl.

+Gorgeous maxi dress at a fantastic price.

+Duralex pastel tumblers — obsessed!

+Cutest shorts for a little boy.

+The best tea set for little kids (currently on sale) and fun storytelling blocks.

+Sophisticated solution for outdoor storage — at a reasonable price.

#Turbothot: On Performativity.

My first year of high school, I fell into an easy friendship with a bubbly girl who lived not far from my home in Cleveland Park in Northwest D.C. Her interests were — oddly — both more mature and more frivolous than mine at the time, and I quickly borrowed them as my own, trying them on for effect. She liked, for example, to meet at the CVS makeup aisle to pick out face scrubs and eye shadows and daunting depilatories, and then to try them all in the bathroom across the hall from my childhood bedroom, perched on the vanity next to me. She blow-dried her hair and rolled her uniform kilt high and shopped for undergarments at Victoria’s Secret — all styling decisions that startled me with their “adult” mystique at a time when I still wore Carter’s underwear with a little pink rosette on the front and used watermelon-scented L’Oreal Kids 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner. She was the one who insisted I needed to pluck my eyebrows — I’d never done it before, and, honestly, she was right — and I let her, and it was under her tutelage that I tried my first face mask. She had lots of boy friends, most of them from The Heights, which — I hope my readers will forgive me if their male loved ones attended the school — had a kind of offbeat, “alt” reputation at the time, at least alongside the blue-blooded, lacrosse-centric all-boys prep schools with which my high school more routinely consorted. I gamely but shyly hung out with her and with them, a wallflower feeling ill-at-ease in so many ways: I was less sophisticated and less confident than she was, and at the same time, more serious, more academically-minded, more pious. Beyond that, I didn’t understand boys, let alone these “alternative” ones.

One afternoon, while I clung to her coattails among the machismo and awkwardness of a handful of teen boys, my friend sat down at the upright piano in her downstairs living room. She was laughing, flirting, and then, out of nowhere: a Rachmaninoff concerto.

My jaw dropped. I had studied piano since around eight and knew that Rachmaninoff was not a joke. Her skill and speed far surpassed my own and I watched in dazed admiration as she nailed measure after measure.

But what startled me even more than her previously undetected talent was the way she was playing, her entire body rocking back and forth in dramatic movement, at times her face coming so close to the keys I thought she’d knock them with her teeth. During the allegro bits (and some sections of Rachmaninoff are meant to be played with unbelievable, super-human speed), her shoulders shot up by her ears as she’d move her shoulders in an exaggeratedly choppy motion.

I was, frankly, mortified for her. I couldn’t process this outlandish display of emotion, especially among these affected boys, who looked on with glassy disinterest. And I couldn’t reconcile it with her bubbly, jovial personality either. It was as though she’d transformed into a different person–someone so into the music she was unaware of how insane she looked.

I flushed for her, bit my lip, avoided looking at the boys in the room, but of course applauded her effort and said nothing about her strange theatrics as she suddenly stopped playing and slank back, giggling and shrugging, returning to herself.

A few weeks later, after I’d shared that I also played piano, she invited me to the Kennedy Center to take in a piano concert with her. “My parents buy me tickets all the time,” she shrugged. Aha — she was a musician’s daughter. I cannot recall the music we listened to that afternoon but I remember — distinctly — the pianist who sat down on the bench with flourish, throwing the long skirt of her dress behind her, and then proceeded to rock back and forth wildly herself as her fingers flew across the keys. I looked over at my friend, who seemed entirely unperturbed by the performance and how closely it mirrored her own just a few weeks prior, and it suddenly dawned on me that my friend must have been conforming with norms of musical performance she’d witnessed for what must have been a long time before I’d even known that they existed. I turned this over for a minute. Here, in this concert hall, the pianist’s performativity seemed appropriate — even laudable. Somehow commensurate with the incredible talent. But in my friend’s living room, in front of self-aware boys, it had felt wrong, out-of-place, too earnest, too expressive.

Looking back, the entire sequence reads like a set of funhouse mirrors: there I was, desperately trying to perform my own womanhood in front of her, and a set of boys I didn’t understand, as she projected her own femininity and then coolly slipped into the role of musician, whose norms felt decidedly too loud in certain circumstances and entirely right in others. I occasionally think back and want to applaud her for owning her musical talent and the performative subculture in which she had so clearly been raised, boys be damned. But was it that she was brave or, for the lack of a better word, imperceptive — in that she saw her theatricality was rewarded elsewhere and did not at the time distinguish between the two contexts. Either way, the experience often leaves me tugging at just how performative we are in so many venues of life. How much of the way I behave is learned and projected, and how much is authentic? Are we always performing in some sense?

Post-Scripts.

+This wicker side table is such a steal!!

+Still a few of my beloved Innika Choo romper available for only $61!!

+This linen smock dress reminds me of something from high-end label Gul Hurgel!

+A fun, kitschy lamp for an eclectic living room.

+In love with this floaty dress.

+Chic way to display hand soap in your powder room.

+If you’re not into the labelmaker (…why?! I LOVE MINE), these are a clever way to label big jars of flour, sugar, rice, etc.

+With the weather warming, I’m beginning to contemplate running again. I used to identify as a runner. Now I don’t even think I could run two miles back to back. I think I need some new exercise gear to motivate, and I’m eyeing these leggings from Tory Burch and these relaxed-fit tanks.

+This skirted ottoman is SO elegant and well-priced! Love.

+Cute gift for a new puppy.

+Super pretty (and well-priced) scallop-trim Euro shams. Look like Matouk!

+Dead over this gorgeous white eyelet skirt.

+And speaking of white eyelet: this is fantastic.

5 Comments

  1. So much food for thought here. In a nutshell: yes, I do think we are performing — if not always, then often — and that this is an inevitable part of life. I think of the way I act at work, versus at home with my partner & stepkids, versus with my siblings, or my childhood friends, etc. etc. I feel that although I surely “perform” by altering my mannerisms and behavior with each respective group, I’m still me at my core. But maybe that’s not what you were getting at?

    I’m intrigued by that white eyelet skirt … I’ve been looking for a white midi skirt (eyelet or not) in linen or cotton. May have to try it! I’m keeping my eyes peeled for slightly elevated brands on sale, though 🙂

    xx

  2. Ooh, how did I not know about Bagsy? I have gone to some amazing consignment stores in Mt. Pleasant, SC, the last couple of years when we’ve gone there on vacation – managed to sneak in a visit to my favorite one there before ending this year’s trip early due to Covid-19 and picked up a bunch of Jon-Jons for the newest one. But until we go back next year, Bagsy will have to do!

    Re: crafts – mine only gets free access to the “less messy” supplies, such as stickers, markers, crayons, colored pencils. Only lately have I included a pan of watercolor paints (but she has to ask for water so she can’t get into too much trouble unsupervised). We’ve had this craft cabinet for her since she turned two, and she’s also responsible for putting everything away when she’s done, which surprisingly she’s usually pretty good at. (If she doesn’t put her supplies away when she’s done, I quietly mention that I guess they’ll go in the trash later, oh well, which always spurs her to tidy up.) I like that it allows her the freedom to engage in art whenever she wants, even if between her desk and cabinet, it takes up a good corner of our family room (our place is sadly too small for a separate playroom, and she would never play in her room herself right now – maybe someday!)

    1. Yes!! I’m so excited about this new discovery — I can’t believe how many pieces you can find NWT or very gently used. Will be frequenting this site 🙂

      I love this, Jennifer! You’ve encouraged me to put more stuff out for her to play with 🙂

      xxx

  3. Yes — so much to think about here.

    I meant to comment here about Bagsy because I knew you’d appreciate them. I found so many great, brand new things a few months ago, but meant to check back to see if that was still the case given current conditions.

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