I have a pale pink silk robe hanging in my closet. Every time I open the door, it makes me feel delicate and artful and foreign and adventurous. In life, I am better off in a gray zippered sweatshirt because of the coffee I dribble, the olive oil spatters that zap me when stir-frying onions, the mascara wiped on my sleeves from the night before. Once a week I put the silk on, feel chilly, and go back to the sweatshirt.
But, god, I love that robe.
I bought it at the Casbah on Sunset. The Casbah was my favorite place to write ten years ago. Everything was beautiful and curated and sheer and perfect and the coffee was strong and there was the sense that the owner didn’t treat the staff like garbage. It was a good place to be. A good place to write and get hopped up on caffeine and candied apricots and look at huaraches and baby T-shirts and Turkish towels I could not afford.
When I look at the robe in my closet now, I think of the day I got it. I was with two friends. I had stared at it during previous visits. The perfect, barely blushing pin-up, nippley shade of pink with a muted, red, woodblock pattern, a simple cut, sheer-ish, a belt.
I said I wanted it.
I said, I love it.
Friend One said, “You should get it.”
Friend Two said, “Uh, that’s pretty expensive.”
They were both mothers. To their children, and occasionally me.
I touched it and felt an electric shock. An actual prickle. The robe took
me to a veranda with jasmine-scented air, long smoky chats with Paul Bowles, a room with bright blue walls. I touched it and flew away. It lifted me over internalized unconscious mother beliefs that kept my mom in avoidance of anything that wasn’t aggressively functional. This robe was an affirmative passport outta there. My whole life had been an exercise in outta there, and I had been chastised for it relentlessly:
No sorority? No interest in table setting? You know what they say about damaged goods, dear…. HOW CAN YOU NOT WANT TO CROCHET?
If it’s true that for daughters growing up in a patriarchal culture, there is a feeling of having to choose between being empowered and being loved, I had chosen the loneliness of empowerment.
Mother wound: aisle five.
Friend Two ate the last bite of her goat cheese salad and shook her head.
“I think I’m going to get it,” I said, feeling dirty. Buying this made no sense, fuzzy pink empowerment. But I was so drawn to this thing that was gorgeous and frail. Despite the domestic Ph.D., women in my home were not allowed to be frail. Ashamed, I added, “Maybe.”
Friend One smiled.
Friend Two left to do some business.
I waited until I was sure she was gone to buy it.
I was afraid of her judgement, of her not understanding how moved I could be by something so uselessly beautiful. Her voice didn’t quiver when talking about clothes. I wanted to be as clear and unwavering as she was. She wrote new spec scripts in a week.
But I needed the robe.
It addressed my lack of ‘divinely feminine.’ (Once I learned this phrase it clicked. So thanks, new agey chick books!) I had just wrapped writing on a show and I felt jagged. I felt abrasive and full of rage. I’m not sure it was true— that I had become abrasive—but it was how I felt. Watching my female boss get torn apart terrified me. She was talented and brave and this whole business seemed senseless and cruel. I was unsure what to do next. What I wanted to be. So I’d go to Casbah, write, and stare at robes.
Friend Two left, and I bought it.
There is a certain, occasionally self-destructive, impulse that I am okay with. It is grounded in suspension of disbelief (This will not be your life forever!) and in faith (All of this is leading someplace!). There is a need to follow beauty right off a cliff sometimes. For the sake of chasing beauty. It is vital and imperfect.
The pancake does not always land syrup side up. Sometimes there is failure. Sometimes the flip falls on the floor and the lovely breakfast has now been covered in cat hair and lint. But so much of being creative is daring to make the flip.
You can’t expect everyone to understand that for you. That having even compassion, nee reverence, for that irrationality, is part of your maturation and occasionally expressed in retail transactions.
I never told Friend Two I bought the robe, afraid I would be considered a frivolous fool who deserved to wind up at a soup kitchen for indulging in whimsy. I worried she would find me unlikable.
A few weeks later, I got a new job on a new show. My new boss did not get strangled. She was supported. Years passed, and every time I looked at the pink silk it made me happy. The Casbah is gone now, too. I’m not sure where one buys French Moroccan sundries now, but I am glad I have one.
So much of being a human, an artist, a whatever, is knowing what turns you on, and hewing to that. So much of being a woman is learning how to mother yourself. A robe, a song, a snack: you must take what seduces your senses. You must follow the prickle.
You must also make peace with the pain that comes from being your mother’s daughter. Our first brush with the Divine Feminine was tired, on a budget, and enraged at balancing demands that were virtually impossible (aka the ultimate showrunner).
But she was doing her best.
It is hard to hold the pain, but if you sit with it, it ceases to be about her. Something is transformed. Sometimes I think it happened to me when I did forty days of kundalini. Sometimes I think it happened on a walk down Fairfax. I’ll never know the exact moment when I began accepting my desires, without—okay, with less—shame.
Knowing you’re good for it. That the next gig is in unseen. That there is always a miracle coming. What’s empty will be filled.
So, I put on the robe. And I try not to spill the coffee, as I sip, pretending to be a New Orleans debutante-French poet-colonizing Duchess of Edinburgh stuck in 1920’s India. Who as it turns out, loves setting tables.
Faith is really a series of little micro faiths. Like buying a robe.
When I put it on, I am reminded of this.
I am reminded, you gotta dress your own wounds.