“In a minute there is time for decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.” T. S. Eliot
I stand here befuddled by indecision. I love my jeans jacket, but it’s too laid-back for the Little Black Dress I need for the theatre, so … maybe I should go with the trendy green coat?
I could take both, but that won’t leave room for the navy cable knit sweater I must wear under either to keep from freezing at night in London. Besides, I can’t layer a chunky sweater over a cocktail dress.
And where on earth am I going to find room for the sundresses and tank tops I’ll need for Greece? LOL stuff them in my laptop case?
Down parka with sandals, anyone?
Welcome to my nightmare. I love to travel but I dread packing.
In my life, I have moved cross country in a VW Bug, raised two kids, taught first-grade children to read and write, dug by hand and terraced a quarter-acre lot, and penned a half dozen novels. So, why am I traumatized by the very thought of luggage?
My goal here is to somehow assemble a suitcase-size wardrobe (leaving room for books! And maybe a little souvenir I Love Athens shot glass) that will take me through the next five weeks, from chilly London to sweltering Greece and back to a (somewhat) still chilly London.
I dump half the contents of my closet across the bed, searching for the magic outfit that can go from the Waterlily House in Kew Gardens to an evening of Puccini at the London Coliseum, from the mountain trails of Crete to the beaches of Santorini. Something like a NASA temperature-controlled flightsuit. But with more panache.
It doesn’t help that my husband, Ed, has assembled a neat stack—two pairs of pants, four shirts, one sweater, a jacket, the shoes he stands up in—and announced he’s ready to go.
Packing should be considered an Olympic sport, with gold medals for bags that don’t exceed the limit at check-in, and event categories like “Weekend Getaway: Three items + a toothbrush.” Or “Two weeks with only one pair of shoes.”
Last year, I packed a suitcase full of slinky little summer dresses and jaunty capris for a May/June trip to Paris, only to wind up wearing the same jeans/sweater/wool jacket combo every day because the thermometer never topped 55. The Parisians could spot this “femme Américaine” a kilometer away.
At least, I was able to swap out the accessories.
Accessories and Other Junk
And that’s another area where men and women are on completely different planets. My husband wears his wedding ring. End of accessorizing for him. But I’m staring at 27 potential outfits and trying to figure out what is the fewest number of earrings, bracelets, and necklaces I can make it out of the country with. I want to believe that this year I will be strong and take only the silver hoop earrings. But I know I will probably cave at the last minute, and throw a bunch of unrelated earrings, bangles, and necklaces into my little travel jewelry thingie where they will fuse during the flight into a tangled ball of tarnished junk.
Several years ago, Ed purchased two sets of compression packing cubes to maximize and organize the space in our luggage (why he needs them, I have no idea). You really can pack A LOT in these cubes. Like bombs, they weigh a ton and explode on opening. But their true perk is they allow—almost—adequate space for THE BATH BAG, my name for the heavy-duty plastic drawstring bag (stamped with the name of a local clothing emporium) that houses the contents of what would be my bathroom cabinets. If I were so fortunate as to have actual bathroom cabinets.
NOTE: It is beyond the scope of current human capability to reduce THE BATH BAG to anything less than half the suitcase. And weirdly, the size of the suitcase doesn’t matter. THE BATH BAG, like some immutable law of physics, always takes ½ the available space.
Once again, where are the men on this issue? Ed dumps soap, razor, deodorant, toothbrush, and a mini-shampoo into his wee dopp kit, zips it up, and voila! off he goes to watch a Red Sox game on TV.
Leaving me to transfer economy size bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and make-up remover into tiny plastic vials, like Viktor Frankenstein at the cosmetics bar in Bloomingdale’s. Now I can squeeze in the jumbo canister of curling mousse needed to prevent massive frizz-outs, as well as a stash of hair ties (for days when the mousse fails), perfume, make-up (without mascara and brow pencil, you wouldn’t even notice a redhead has eyes), my Invisalign retainer (w/its own accessories and cleaners). And Q-tips. I don’t know how men travel without these, they are such a staple of life.
So, the eleventh hour’s upon me and I still haven’t winnowed down the mess on the bed. What’s a woman to do? Limit her travel wardrobe to black? Vacation in a nudist colony? Or maybe just pick up a massive armful of the cotton, denim, silk, and knitwear strewn before me and dump it into my bag. Sort it out at the other end. Who knows? I might go to the opera in cropped jeans and sneakers. Or walk the beach in my little black cocktail dress (how Breakfast at Tiffanys!).
I only know there will never be true equality between the sexes until men have to tone in their eyeshadow with their outfit.