Doing the Limbo Rock.

by Regan McMahon


There I stood, frozen in indecision facing a sale rack at Macy’s, as 20-percent-off coupons burned a hole in my pocket and my generous sister urged me to pick out something nice for my birthday. Since taking the buyout, I hadn’t bought any clothes because I didn’t know what I might need in my next job. And maybe I didn’t need any if I’m just freelancing from home in my jammies. How do you dress for success when you have no idea what the future holds?


I’ve never held a corporate job, so I didn’t have that uniform to fall back on. When I thought I was getting a Web site job, I figured I’d soon be putting together a new hip-casual wardrobe (the young women in the office padded around in skinny jeans and Uggs). When I interviewed for a civil service job, I took note of the non-nonsense pant suits all around.


At my old job at the newspaper, there was no dress code. I could be as tailored or sloppy, fashionable or style-less as I wanted to be. Lately I’d been favoring cute short jackets and flouncy skirts at work. I saw plenty of each radically discounted during the holiday season and could picture myself wearing them at my old desk. But where would my new desk be? I had applied at venerable universities and edgy startups. Not knowing where I’d land, I felt I should hold off on any purchases. My sister finally gave up and steered me to the kitchen store Sur La Table, where it was much easier to find something I knew I’d use, and one size fits all.


The Christmas season brought up lots of hot-button unemployment issues when I least expected them. Even buying a calendar posed a conundrum. That time of year I always bought myself a wall calendar for work. But would I even have a wall in my alleged new job?


Everything was in limbo. Would we have a family vacation this year for me to mark on the calendar? A new job would probably not come with one. And without a new job, we couldn’t afford one.


One thing I could do was get in shape to feel better and look better on job interviews. So I reactivated my membership at the YMCA and started working out and taking classes. I signed up for Tai Chi, which I’d always wanted to take, and was amused at my first session to find a gym full of silver-haired retirees … and me. Who else can take a class at 10:30 a.m.?