Final illustrations for my book on breakups. Still accepting your worst and most ridiculous stories, folks! Also past relationship relics that you have been planning on setting on fire and tossing onto your ex’s doorstep.
It started with a series of lies.
Elaborate ones. Thomas wasn’t comfortable resting in vague excuses and dodged questions. Instead, he crafted a string of startlingly realistic fake Facebook messages, pre-recorded sound bytes of him practicing piano, and fabricated text messages. I had no reason to doubt that he was in Texas, but if I did, he had stores of evidence just waiting to be deployed.
So, when I was waiting for Rebekah to pick me up for dinner, I didn’t have the slightest clue that anyone other than her would be picking me up. I was leaning against a pavillion in the overflow parking lot, hoping that none of the drunkards and youths that frequented that area made eye contact with me, when a car slowed down right in front of me. I readied myself to mean mug the driver. My scowl transformed into wide-eyed surprise when the window rolled down, revealing Thomas. Thomas, who had been in Texas when I’d talk to him twenty minutes earlier on the phone. I blinked hard. He was dressed in a black suit and skinny tie, holding a bouquet. There was a long scratch on the side of his nose.
“Do you need a ride?” Thomas asked.
I paused for a moment, rendered immobile by surprise and disbelief.
“Yes,” I said and got in the car.
I climbed into the passenger’s seat and continued to stare at him, speechless. I put a cautious hand to his cheek, sure he would disappear the moment I touched him. He didn’t. He grinned at me. I asked what happened to his nose and he said, simply: “Bar fight.” I blinked a couple more times.
Finally, I took his face in my hands and said, “Look, Thomas, I’m so happy you’re here. But I’ve had this dream a lot, and I’m not entirely convinced that this is actually you.” I looked at him very seriously. “So, I need you to prove it. Tell me something that only Thomas would know.”
Without missing a beat, he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out an orange-and-blue blindfold. “You remember this old friend?” he asked.
I did. It was the same blindfold that he’d used on our third date, when he’d led me down a flight of stairs, into his car, down some roads, and into an chartered airplane that he had arranged to fly us to Gulf Shores for the day.
“Yes,” I said.
“And you remember what to do with it?” he asked.
“Oh, I remember,” I said, and he stopped the car to tie it over my eyes.
And we drove. He offered me a cup of coffee and shot the breeze, as cool and calm as could be. Meanwhile, I was still dizzy with disbelief and restless with curiosity. Eyes closed tight under the blindfold, I relished the feeling of his warm hand in mine after so many weeks of only seeing it through a computer screen. I sat back and listened to him talk, waiting for the rest of the adventure to unfold.
He stopped the car and helped me out. Being led in a blindfold, even by someone you claim to trust with your life, is one of life’s most humbling experiences. I compared it to a giant version of the game we play on dates where one person closes their eyes and has to hunt for their drink using only their face. I stopped abruptly every few steps, sure that he was planning on letting me topple over a curb so that I could get some scrapes to match his mysterious injury. I tried to shake off the suspicion but I still limited myself to 3-5 steps at a time, so the journey took a while. He coaxed me on until we reached two iron-wrought spiral staircases. We climbed the first one, reached a landing, then climbed a second one until we reached level ground. He lead me down a path and then gently put his hands on my shoulders to turn me around. He reached up and untied the blindfold.
I gasped. The first thing I saw were thousands of lights. We were on a rooftop in Opelika that was blanketed in beautiful, flickering white candles. The treetops that brushed against the roof were covered with twinkling lights. A small fire gave off warmth and a gentle red glow. The effect was breathtaking. The rooftop was overlooking town square, with its beautiful fountain and lanterns, and in the distance I could see the steeple of the church where Thomas and I first met. He took my hands and gave an incredible speech that I loved too much to try to recreate here.
Then, he got down on one knee and said, “Lane Scott Jones: will you marry me?”
They say in moments of high emotion and adrenaline, time moves more slowly. You notice a tremendous amount of sensory information in a matter of seconds. In the few moments between him asking and me giving an answer, I somehow took in the dreamy glow of the rooftop, the golden glimmer shining out from the little black box, the look on his face, and the overwhelming sensation of feeling like everything was exactly how it was always supposed to be - how my heart had always yearned for it to be. My first thought was, “Of course. Of course it’s Thomas; it’s always been Thomas.” My first word was, “Yes.” My second word was “Yes.” In my pure jubilation, I ignored the ring completely and met him on the ground with a kiss. He lifted me into an embrace and we stayed there for a long time.
Finally, he asked, “Do you want to see the ring?” I stepped back and squealed my answer. He slid it onto my ring finger and I marveled at it and what it meant. I looked up at the boy I was going to spend the rest of my life with.
“Would you care to join me for dinner?” he asked, grinning. Behind him was a table for two, draped in his mother’s white tablecloth, and a bottle of wine waiting to be opened. Thomas’s best friend and our waiter for the night appeared at the top of the spiral staircase carrying a basket of bread. We hugged him and celebrated. He spent the evening running from MaFia’s back kitchen and up onto the roof carrying our beautiful entrees, drinks, and desserts. Thomas and I enjoyed a lovely, romantic dinner out on the rooftop. We called our parents. We danced next to the fire to our favorite songs. We talked about the adventures we would have together. He finally revealed that the battle wound on his face had happened during the day’s set-up when he lost a wrestling match with a piece of lattice at Lowe’s. At one point, I had him show me exactly where we had been standing when he proposed because even during dinner, I still couldn’t quite believe it had all happened.
Sitting on a couch in the incredible apartment below, after dinner but before we met all our friends to celebrate, Thomas and I reveled in the glow of everything that had happened. Thomas looked at me. I looked at the ring. It was perfect: thin gold band and teardrop shaped diamond with a point so sharp it could double as a weapon (a requirement that I ask of all my jewelry).
At the same time, we both started to say something. He said, gazing at me with a tenderness I had never seen before, “Lane, I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life with you,” as the exact same moment that I announced, “I am going to kill a man with this ring one day.”
Thomas and I love to document. We have a natural compulsion toward capturing the magnificent and mundane moments of life: whether it’s through words, photography, music, or film. Here’s a highlight reel from the last weekend we spent together, including (but not limited to): a radioactive pond, a duck in peril, a whalebone knife, broken fourth walls, one very unladylike attempt to shove several tortilla chips in my mouth at once. And more!
This song: Southbound Train - Jon Foreman.
Sounds like: The hum of a language I don’t understand at the airport when I land. The sight of Thomas when he found me in the crowd; he was suntanned and grinning from a summer in Spain. How seeing him running toward me felt undeniably like coming home. Taking the slow train from Bilbao to San Sebastian, holding tight to one another in late afternoon light while the Spanish countryside rolled by. How the train took us three hours when a bus would have taken one, but gave us a reason to sit close together, quiet, listening to the rhythm of a southbound train.
11. The Pine Hill Cemetery Lantern Tour. I notice my precious town’s resemblance to Stars Hollow, with all of its full-scale production town square celebrations, on an almost daily basis. But no event quite nails the intersection of earnestness and kitsch like the Pine Hill Cemetery lantern tour. During this event, townspeople come out to play the ghosts of late Auburn legends who are buried there, my favorite of which is “Uncle Billy” who insisted on being buried above ground in his double bed with his slippers underneath. Volunteers dress in period costume and regale visitors with the story of their life and, quaintly, their death. The entire event is delightfully irreverent and innocently absurd, and that makes attendance an absolute necessity before leaving Auburn. And there’s good news! After a year-long slumber, the lantern tours are back for 2013. See you on October 10, ladies and ghouls.
The aforementioned Uncle Billy, portrayed by local townsperson
I love my city.
When I moved to Alabama from my home state of North Carolina for my freshman year, I had no idea I could love a town the way I love Auburn. I have found so much adventure in the streets, homes, hearts, rooftops and storm drains of this place. Now I’m a senior. Along with every major phase of my life comes some sort of elaborate list, and this one is no exception. I am taking inventory of all the things in Auburn that I need to knock out before graduation in May, along with photos of some precious memories from the past few years. It’s a working draft, but here are a handful of items to start:
Shooting film in abandoned warehouses with Boyfriend
1. Get car washed at Unique Image. I am not the kind of person who regularly details their car. Give me a pine tree-shaped air freshener and an Armorall wipe and I’m good to go. But I have been passing this shop several times a week for the past three years. The exterior is bright purple-and-yellow with racing checks down the side. The windows are mirrored. The cars outside gleam with a radiance that serves as a beacon of hope on the otherwise desolate Opelika road. And there’s a barber shop attached for your convenience. There isn’t a day I pass this place without thinking, ”Now there’s a group of people who are doing their job well — and with impeccable style” (refer back to the shop’s exterior). But, perhaps most compelling, is the inextinguishable belief that Unique Image would serve as the perfect setting for a Step Up 4-style dance battle.
2. Find out what Jason did. According to the bench, things have been going well for Bridget and Jason (not Dufner). But it wasn’t always this way. I don’t want to be the one to drudge up all that unpleasantness from the past, but I have been following this relationship since my freshman year, and that kind of emotional investment deserves answers. What could Jason have done that lead him to think, “What kind of sincere, intimate apology would help me win back the woman I love? I know! I’ll write it on a bus bench.”
Riding bikes in ghost towns with this dreamboat
3. Eat lunch at Whispering Oaks. This is a particularly high-priority item because I have published several reviews of this restaurant but never actually gotten around to eating there. Read the linked review to get an idea of the required dress code and then RSVP to me through text message or long-form letter delivered on horseback.
Home-cooked meals and house guests at Tom’s Cafe
4. Shop like a French woman at the Opelika Farmer’s Market. This summer, my dear friend Whitney directed me to a book called Entre Nous. It details the fascinating intricacies of French lifestyle and culture. This means, of course, that no less that two-thirds of the book was devoted to the preparing, cooking, and eating of sumptuous foods.
I have never had what you would call a “knack” for culinary pursuits, partly because I have lived with only a kitchenette for four years in the unmatched luxury of Auburn’s on-campus housing, and partly because I have developed a inexplicably strong aversion to grocery shopping. The shopping cart with the dead wheel that drags along the fluorescent-lit aisles emitting a deranged screeching sound that makes every trip feel like the beginning of a zombie apocalypse movie. The hours spent wandering around the general area that you know lightbulbs are located without ever being able to find the exact aisle. It all combines to make grocery shopping a pretty unpleasant ordeal.
This book, however, describes the shopping habits of a French woman: an open air market, carrying a hand-woven basket full of fresh-cut flowers, slowly selecting the freshest produce straight from nearby gardens, savoring the process. It’s a very different picture than the one of me ravaging the aisles of Wal-Mart for an undented can of mandarin orange slices. The farmer’s market is a step in the right direction.
@melbellzz at Butch Anthony’s Museum of Wonder
7. Rope swing in Loachapoka
8. Wooden bridge in Notasulga
The view from another wooden bridge in Notusulga
9. Learn how to pronounce ‘Loachapoka’ and ‘Notasulga.’
Inside a rock quarry that looks straight out of the Jurassic age
I came into my summer internship with high expectations of the incredible educational experience it would be. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about writing press releases, working with clients, meeting deadlines and deciphering copyeditors’ handwriting. What I didn’t expect, however, was a crash course in how to survive in an office environment. Under Red Square’s elegant veneer of mood lighting and exposed brick walls lurks complex labyrinth of unspoken rules and rituals. On my last day, with nothing left to lose (except, maybe, the collection of stolen office supplies in my purse), I’m ready to reveal them.
Rule #1. Every lamp for himself. Red Square is like no work environment I’ve ever been in. For one thing, it is a lot darker than most work environments. It’s actually darker than a lot of underground caverns and black light dance raves, come to think of it. My first couple days on the job I was relegated to a dark corner desk with a single, flickering light bulb. I spent the bulk of my first week trying to figure out when the waterboarding would begin. Like a nocturnal animal, I’ve developed a couple of tricks to adapt to the dark environment. Namely, writing press releases by the glow of my flashlight app.
Rule #2. Survival of the fittest. The people here at Red Square seem so docile until cupcakes are involved. They abandon whatever task is at hand in order to stampede to the break room every time an office memo goes out with mention of “banana muffins.” The effect recalls the buffalo scene in the Lion King, but with more casualties. In my first couple of days at the office, I would wait a respectful amount of time before daintily making my way to the kitchen. By that time, however, all that was left was a couple of crinkled wrappers and a tupperware container that showed signs of having been licked clean. I learned my lesson. These days, you can find me sprinting down the hall the moment I hear the email notification, deploying strategic elbow jabs at anyone who obstructs my path to banana split cupcakes.
Rule #3. Keep Red Square weird. A fun game they liked to play on me when I first arrived here was moving my desk overnight and then forgetting where they put it. I once spent over an hours trying to hunt down my belongings only to find them in an unmarked box in the dark corner of a back hallway (I realize that this is not especially specific because all of the hallways are dark. See Rule #1). Since then, I’ve been keeping a more minimalist approach, knowing that at any moment my belongings could be tossed curbside. This has resulted in a constant jealousy over my office mates’ desk decor. The rule here seems to be: the weirder the decoration, the better. This principle includes, but is not limited to: moustache corkboards, posters demanding that onlookers “TWEET THAT SH!T,” phallic Golden Girls coffee mugs, life sized print-outs of the company’s beloved founder wearing a sombrero, and origami self-portraits.
The inner workings of this office continue to confound me, but I think I’m finally getting the hang of it. At the end of my two months here, I can confidently say that I have learned more than I ever expected to. While my potential employers may marvel at the invaluable professional experience I gained from my summer at Red Square, my future colleagues will gawk at the practiced ease with which I clothesline passersby on my way to the catered lunch. And—for that—I can’t thank them enough.
"When you are with someone who doesn’t know yet that they won’t be able to love you back, your eyes go milky. You see life through a new filter. It will seem monumental and ripe with meaning. You will feed on the idea of a future with them. You think they will never go, that things could never return to the way they were before. But they will, and they do. You will sift through the charred remains of what you thought you knew and call them unsalvageable. Every time will feel like the last time. This is how it will go."
My story “Controlled Burn” was published by W.W. Norton after placing as a runner-up in their Writer’s Prize competition. What began as a furious journal entry after being unceremoniously dumped my freshman year of college turned into a full-fledged manifesto of ex-boyfriends past.
You can read it here!
“I grew up in church.” That’s the phrase that starts most of the testimonies I’ve heard. It starts mine, too. I grew up in church. Then comes the part where they breeze past their baptism but I won’t. I remember in exquisite detail the swish of the robe when its edges first hit the water because it’s an exotic feeling to be in a body of water fully clothed. I was surprised at how warm the water in the baptismal was, and how the whole ordeal was over before I even had time to plug my nose. That’s where my story really begins: as a six-year old girl hopping around on one foot on the slippery steps of the baptismal, trying to get the water out of her ear.
What happened next was no one’s fault. Or it was everyone’s. I don’t really know how to explain it except that I could never talk about the sermons we listened to. No one really asked me to until my first boyfriend did. He would ask me what I thought on the car ride to get burritos with our friends after church but what we’d heard never made an impression. I could follow our preacher’s cadence down to the last bullet point, so I would just settle into the gentle rumble of his voice and stop noticed what he was saying. We sang worship songs about a God that loved us and a son but nothing about the story moved me. There was something missing in the details. There was a logical leap that an analytical mind like mine just couldn’t make, and my confusion quickly hardened into skepticism.
I never refused the idea of God altogether. I just had enough questions that it felt okay to cut corners. It felt okay to let my Bible get lost under a stack of used paperback books. It felt okay to drink awful warm beer with boys on my friend’s back porch while her mom was on a business trip in Japan. It felt okay to let a boy (it didn’t really matter which one) lead me upstairs by the hand and onto a bed or couch or rug. It felt okay until I couldn’t feel anything at all.
The biggest part of the problem was that I didn’t see it. I thought I knew everything there was to know about faith. I’d sat through endless acronyms on Powerpoint slides and run a puppet show for the preschoolers. This was it, wasn’t it? What more was there to learn? It was a little bland but, I guessed, that was to be expected.
These were the things I thought then. But that was before I was introduced to the Jesus of the Bible. Back then, the only version I knew was the Jesus on the Powerpoint Slide. The god of Youth Group Lock-Ins.
I received a gold-embossed scholarship offer in the mail from Auburn University before I even knew where the school was. That fall, I packed up my tiny car and drove seven hours to a town where no one would know my name or my youth pastor or about all those late nights spilling warm beer on rugs. I joined a sorority and dropped out. I joined the SGA and stopped attending meetings. I did not join a church. I went to exactly two frat parties and ate late breakfasts in the dining hall on Sundays. And, mostly, I ached. The ache would overcome me walking the long hill back home after classes: a very tactile emptiness, as though my chest was as hollow like a drum. I ached for something that I couldn’t yet identify but knew I had not found.
Then, I met a boy and thought, “This is it.” This must be what I’m aching for. He lived one floor above me freshman year, with a laugh that could make me forget the kickdrum in my chest. I followed him to church. I would have followed him anywhere. I showed up that first morning dressed in black leather when all the other girls were wearing pearls. We were dating within a month and broken up within two.
The ache came back. It returned during the excruciating final weeks before the break-up with a pounding insistence that seemed to repeat, “You are lonely. You are lost. You are empty.” I’d tried to escape it in his truck and bed, tried to let the volume of our romance drown out that refrain. Whatever I am longing for, I thought then, Whatever it is that my soul aches for, I will find it here. He left and I found only more brokenness.
I had exhausted myself trying to hide the emptiness with all these things, and the effect was like festooning a gaping hole in my chest with feathers and beads: unsettling and ineffective. That’s when I found Jesus. It happened the way you fall in love, or asleep: slowly then all at once. I found him, finally, through the haze of what I thought I knew, what I’d learned in children’s books and college classrooms, what my preacher had taught me, what churchgoers and atheists and homeless men had told me about God, everything I’d seen on television and Sunday morning powerpoints; I peeled it all back and finally found the truth waiting there.
The revelation started, as most do, in coffee shops with close friends and thick conversation. The summer after my freshman year, I’d reached out to a friend at church with a simple, groundbreaking admission: “I don’t know what I’m doing.”
That one statement took me nine months of aching to finally utter out loud but when I did, miraculous things began to happen. It marks the point in my life when I laid down everything that I’d been using to fight the immense loneliness. Nametags, make-outs, friends, boyfriends, warm beer, beads and feathers, bible studies and Sunday morning services: none of them could heal me the way I wanted—and desperately needed—to be healed. Over a bowl of oatmeal, in the coffee shop with my friend, I finally saw that.
“I got saved.” That’s another phrase I’ve heard in testimonies before. So many, in fact, that it has lost the effect that it must have had on the people in the audience of the first guy to think it up. In my English classes, we call that a ‘word package,’ which means that a particular combination of words or phrases has been used so frequently that it no longer brings a vivid, concrete image to mind.
Another thing we talk about in my English classes is the weight that some words seem to have. On paper, they might all just be synonyms for ‘tired.’ But, as anyone who has ever been lured by pizza into helping a friend move understands, that there is a very big difference between ‘tired’ and ‘exhausted.’
If you want a word that extends past exhausted, past physical fatigue to an ache goes right down to your soul, you get the word ‘weary.’ The word ‘weary’ conjures up the image of a wind-burnt man, lost in the searing heat of a noon desert, squinting out over the endless miles of dunes ahead and then back into his empty water canister. In that moment over the oatmeal, I realized that I was weary, and that I had been weary for a very long time.
That was the first time I realized that God could be known—really known, not just from powerpoint slides or word packages but from an intimate, first-hand relationship with Him. And, on top of that, that he wanted to know and be known by me. I won’t describe that moment by saying that “I got saved.” I will just say that I was lost in the desert, good as dead, and he rescued me.
In a writing class last semester, my professor mentioned how it seemed impossible to type 1,000 words when staring straight into the unforgiving face of a blank blinking word document — but, somehow, when we’re composing an email, we can write five times that without even pausing to gaze forlornly out the window.
Yesterday, I watched a video where a writer who also draws proposed that people who do creative work need to stop viewing their art the same way they view their instagram account. Phone in hand, it would be easy to imagine that my friends live their lives in a gossamer dreamland where it is always golden hour and light leaks occur seemingly at random!
But I know that’s not true. I know this because I, too, have spent several minutes meticulously arranging my coffee, notebook, and laptop into a photo-ready configuration that makes it virtually impossible to get any work done. I know that’s not what life looks like, because my own life is messy and the light is bright and unflattering and there are styrofoam to-go cups everywhere.
Social media gives us the illusion of control. We get to choose the bits of ourselves we share and the unfiltered, unfinished parts that we don’t. The speaker suggested that we embrace those parts. That might mean opting to post the picture of your perfect blue-eyed toddler in the throes of a tantrum so fierce that you have to shoot the photo from behind the couch where you’ve taken shelter. For an artist, the idea of a “shadow gallery” means ignoring the impulse to only share the work you consider good, polished or complete. That’s because art is a process, not a product.
I am a compulsive intern.
It’s like a reflex: the moment I find myself with an ounce of spare time, I start sending out my resume. I genuinely enjoy getting to completely immerse myself in the culture of my favorite companies. I love the spark of creativity that comes from watching a group of people who are wholly devoted to single vision and get to carry it out on a daily basis. I love the wonderful bunch of weirdos I get to meet, spend copious amounts of time with and—eventually—call friends.
Starting a new job is inherently nerve-wracking because on your first day you are, by definition, the dumbest one there. I used to get debilitatingly nervous upon beginning a new internship. The moments before entering the office were filled with a level of anxiety usually reserved for first dates and crime sprees. Luckily, over the course of four internships and three part-time jobs, I have learned that a few things are always going to be true on your first day:
1. No one is going to know what you’re supposed to be doing.
And that’s okay! Spend your downtime wisely: carefully curate the misshapen office supplies that were left on your desk by its past owner! Kindle a fire using only your legal pad and a nail file! Create a signature cocktail at the office bar, complete with bottle-spinning acrobatics and pyrotechnics! Someone will notice you wandering around the office (or, in the case of the last suggestion, on the street watching firemen storm the building) and point you in the right direction.
2. You will spend most of your time standing around wondering if you are supposed to be somewhere else.
I spent the bulk of my afternoon in the corners of offices while their owners talked on the phone, typed emails, and talked loudly to themselves. I developed a system of small coughs and throat-clearing to ensure that they didn’t forget about me entirely and, consequently, I’m now known around the office as that new blonde girl with the severe case of walking pneumonia.
3.. You will inevitably be relegated to the one desk chair with the wobbly, uneven leg that has long-since been pushed from department to department, only to end up in the communal office space/storage closet reserved for the annual crop of interns.
I am writing to you right now from that very chair.
Knowing these things gives the entire process of sense of familiarity that is comforting in its predictability. I can sit in my dark corner, literally lit only by a single flickering bulb, and refresh my email two dozen times — and I can do it with a confidence that comes from knowing that this is a rite of passage and, also, from the office bar.
Album review: Gnu’s Room Christmas (feat. Adventure the Great, Low June, The Hedgerow Folk, Dave Potts, Ellington Way, Lydia Cash and David Mueller, and Teacup and the Monster)
In even my most gleaming reviews of Auburn as a freshman, I always added in the same breath: plus-Atlanta-is-right-there-whenever-we-want-to-see-some-good-music. Like a tic, I would explain away the pitiful showing of local artists in Auburn as the symptom of a self sustaining college town.
Flash forward two years and I’m listening to the Gnu’s Room Christmas album, a compilation of carols covered exclusively by local acts. All seven artists have a decidedly sweet, folk-fueled take on these familiar tunes. Listening to the sampler, I really feel like the community-centered aspect has shaped the music of local talent in a way that is completely unique to Auburn. So, while it’s easy for our reaction to be relief, I think it should be an emotion closer to awe, like the way you might feel after successfully stacking a card tower or constructing a gingerbread house out of mostly frosting.
The challenge for these bands was not to break into Auburn’s music culture but to create one. They had to make a way for themselves communally before they could make a way for themselves individually. This shared struggle not only created a tight community of both musicians and music-lovers, but it defined the way we value music here. Whether you’re listening to soaring harmonies under strings of Christmas lights or packed tight at a house show, there’s a sense of ownership. It’s the basics of supply and demand: this experience exists simultaneously because we sought out beauty and because our friends provided it.
By some standards of comparison, Auburn has a long way to go in matching the artistic proliferation of an Atlanta or an Athens. But my argument is this: Auburn has not make it possible to do anything half-heartedly. Encouraging local talent, patronizing local venues, and applauding local bands was a deliberate, not incidental, show of support. Ours is a proven loyalty. What you hear when you listen to the sampler is the heart that has made it possible.
Sounds like: bare wreaths made of rosemary, gifts wrapped with brown paper and twine, the Christmas celebration that you host in late November (before everyone has left for break) with an endless supply of hot tea and new traditions, a slightly misshapen but otherwise structurally sound scarf you tried to knit yourself.
Last week, Hurricane Sandy ushered in our first bout of cold weather. It hit hard. We were reduced to huddling in small groups in the corner of Haley just to stave off the frostbite. We transitioned from bare arms to wool sweaters overnight. Or, to translate that into terms that are a little more familiar, we transitioned from Nike shorts to Nike shorts with leggings underneath.
You might spend hours determining the perfect ensemble, but once the cold weather strikes, the only thing people will be able to judge you by will be your outerwear. So what does your winter coat say about you?
Colored pea coat
Cold weather often means clouds, lack of sunlight and stowing away your vibrant hues in favor of dark, muted colors. A brightly colored pea coat is a way to throw on a splash of color in a sea of grays. But bear in mind, not all colors are equal. If you’re wearing a pea coat in a stunning scarlet or deep red this winter, you’re likely to come off as mysterious, alluring and adventurous. If you’re wearing a pea coat in pink, you’re likely to get mistaken for a 14-year-old girl.
The leather jacket is a great option for turning your reputation around if you made the pink pea coat mistake earlier in the season. Throw on a leather jacket, and all of a sudden you’re kicking your feet up in class, popping your gum and rolling your eyes excessively. Wearing a leather jacket instantly communicates that you are a rebel without a cause who does reckless things like riding a motorcycle or tossing your plastic bottles into the bins marked ‘landfill’ without blinking an eye.
Oversized military jacket
When properly styled, this look can add an effortless ease to your style that lands you somewhere squarely between glamorous and girl-next-door. The look can most accurately be labeled ‘homeless chic.’ With its army-surplus appeal and vintage wash, the oversized military jacket runs the risk of making you look like you are ready to hunker down next to a trash can fire.
The trench coat borders on costume, not because it is particularly garish, but because it transcends its use as a jacket and embodies a persona. A girl in a trench coat is not simply looking for a way to withstand the wind. You are channeling your inner British superstar (we all have one, from Kate Middleton to Emma Watson) and probably narrating the entire event in your head using a English accent. The trench carries connotations of intrigue as much as it does elegance. With the collar pulled high and your hat tipped low, you look like a girl that’s either ready to solve a crime or commit one.
Long sleeved T-shirt and vest
This combination throws onlookers for a loop, namely because they simply don’t know what to make of it. Here’s a girl who took a look at the weather report and thought, ‘I’m going to need to find a way to stay warm. I should probably concentrate all efforts exclusively on my torso.” This outerwear choice communicates an element of danger. This is a girl who is undaunted by the brisk temperature, passersby will think. This is a girl who is not afraid to lose both arms to frostbite.
The shape of this jacket recalls the regal austerity of a cape and the fit of a plastic garbage bag. A girl in a swing coat wears it with her head held high, trying to avoid eye contact with the laboring class, and she probably still owns the tiara she wore to her high school prom. Because your body will be largely indistinguishable underneath the swish of fabric, wearing a swing coat tells people that you are devoted to the sartorial cause and you’re probably too busy for a boyfriend right now anyway.
Look, buddy. It’s been a rough couple of games for all of us. Particularly for you, after the dizzying flighting path you took on your way down to the field at last week’s game against Texas A&M. Instead of soaring around the stadium and touching down triumphantly on the 50-yard line, you took a seemingly random stroll about the stands. Just scoping things out, guys! Don’t mind me up here!
At one point, you left the stadium altogether (not that we can blame you—we didn’t want to watch what happened on that field either). We were breathless as we waited for you to make the dive onto the field—partially from fear, but mostly from having to sustain our “War Eagle” for so long.
Spirit, I’m not going to try and hide it from you: there’s been speculation. It’s not pretty. People are wondering what’s gotten into you. Is it all the late nights you spend out partying with chicks? Stage fright? Is it a self confidence issue?
Among our three beloved eagles, you are the only one that’s bald, but that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Even your close friends and family are concerned that something might be wrong. It was a little more than a year ago that you smacked straight into the glass window of a luxury box during the MSU game while we watched from below, terrified. It’s been said that you got distracted by your own reflection and, trust me, as a girl who’s been know to spend hours in front of the mirror, I get that.
But after last week’s game, we’re starting to worry that it’s not just a one-time thing. I mean, two guys leapt out of a moving airplane at more than 2,000 feet and still made a smoother landing than you did.
We’re worried about you, Spirit. We don’t like to see you like this.
Our homecoming game is this week. We’re up against New Mexico State for what might be the brightest moment in a dark season. Thousands of Auburn alumni flock to Jordan-Hare stadium to relive old memories and make new ones. This is your time to shine. You can finally prove all your critics wrong.
All we’re asking is for one loop around the stands, and then you can head straight to that hunk of meat waiting for you on the ground. We believe in you. We know you can do it. And, realistically, we don’t have a whole lot to look forward to for the rest of this season. At least give us this.
I’ve been known to go to extreme lengths to avoid cold weather: using breakfast burritos as hand warmers on the walk to class, covering myself with sheets of loose-leaf paper in Haley Center and taking shots from a flask of Theraflu warming liquid. I came to Auburn in large part because I was promised a short and very mild winter.
When September rolled around I reflexively started to indulge in my favorite rites of fall until, trying to sip hot cider on a 90-degree day, it dawned on me: a mild winter meant a nearly nonexistent autumn.
A more sensible woman might have chosen to give up, return to tank tops and be content to sunbathe all the way into November. But not me. My strategy is to adopt the attire and activities of the season in hopes that the weather will follow.
The mornings have been deceptively crisp this past week. Take this as license to break out your thickest scarves, cardigans, coats and boots. When you step out the door at 9 a.m., you will feel well-prepared for the early morning chill. By 11 a.m., you’re scrambling down the concourse, tearing off layers in a heat-induced frenzy. The beauty of fall is you can conceal yourself in so many layers of knits, wool, cotton, leather and fur that the shape of your body becomes largely indistinguishable.
Even while I’m huffing it past peers who are dressed in more seasonally appropriate outfits, I refuse to acknowledge that my pea coat has no place in 86-degree weather. Everyone looks more adorable in outerwear. If that means suffering a heatstroke for the sake of ushering in autumnal style, so be it.
Along with the fall comes an entire palette of new novelty items that scientists have figured out how to make taste like a pumpkin. To get into the spirit of the season, you should make a point to indulge in something pumpkin- flavored at least twice a day. Coffee shops have rolled out a spectrum of flavors that range from pumpkin spice latte to pumpkin spice chai to pumpkin spice white chocolate mocha.
Pair that with a pumpkin doughnut and a piping hot bowl of pumpkin soup, and try to ignore the beads of sweat that start to trickle down your forehead.
With enough preparation and the air conditioning set on a crisp 66 degrees, you can almost forget that your friends keep inviting you over to swim.
Read more:The Auburn Plainsman - Strategizing for a faux fall