I went to Washington, D.C., with dreams, as so many do.
Some dream of power; others dream of wealth.
I dreamed of looking elegant in the nation's capital. I dreamed of being taken for a diplomat, or at least for a citizen who can swipe a Metro card without swearing or holding up the line at the turnstiles.
My dreams turned to ashes, as so many do. I've reviewed my failures and offer this analysis:
It was hot, for starters. Boiling hot; unseasonably hot.
Furthermore, I am what I call a "huge sweater."
Not a light, cropped cardigan carried on the fingertips while poolside at the club. I am a fuzzy wool pullover worn by someone touring ice caves.
In other words, my pores are in constant overdrive.
I run 7 or 8 miles a day, and when I'm done, I look like I just climbed out of the lap pool. You could wring me out. I'm not bragging, though people have told me being a sweater is a good thing.
It's healthy, I guess. Clogged pores sound alarming, like clogged drains or clogged arteries. But in public, pores that flow like Niagara Falls are about as attractive as hairless cats.
My husband and I were in Washington with our daughter, who was attending a conference.
I was on duty as my grandson's nanny, and each morning we set out for playgrounds and parks with stroller, water, snacks, wipes, diapers, extra clothes and baby, only to hit a wall of hot, thick air on the sidewalk in front of our apartment.
Instantly, the polished look I'd fashioned in front of the tiny bedroom mirror would wilt like a cartoon flower.
"Holy moly," I would murmur. This would be my last publishable comment. I can only hope my grandson is too young to remember and possibly repeat my remarks regarding the heat, the humidity and the effect they had on my person.
Add to this a minor calamity: I'd cleverly decided to pack a nearly finished stick deodorant, use it up in Washington, and then toss it, leaving my bag a full 2.5 ounces lighter on the homebound leg. Talk about a travel hack!
Unfortunately, the product was nearer gone than I had realized. After my first shower, the remnants of what the deodorant people like to call an "invisible solid" broke away from the applicator, crumbling onto the floor of the bathroom.
I was tempted to pick up the shards and use them, but as a person who cringes at walking barefoot on a hotel carpet, I rejected the idea as demented.
I went to my husband.
I wasn't eager to use his deodorant, given my plan to be elegant, but better to smell of Old Spice than of Old Woman Who Has Completely Neglected Her Personal Hygiene.
The next day, to add to the horror, I forgot the Old Spice. I know, I know.
How can I aspire to elegance when I have the memory of a feral goldfish? I can only say a toddler has a way of claiming a grandma's undivided attention until she's halfway to the zoo on a warm Monday, unprotected and likely to, as 1960s commercials put it, "offend."
And then, of course, it's too late.
By the time we'd visited sea lions, pandas and the lesser kudu, I was as chic as a wet hamster.
"You're fine," my husband kept murmuring, but I knew better. "Just look at this shirt!" I said. "Those are shadows," he said.
When we finally came across a pharmacy, I wouldn't go in.
It would be like a man with a knee-length beard buying a razor. It would be like Ohio Sen. Bill Beagle taking action against owners of vicious dogs. It would be like a pregnant woman buying birth control. The circumstances would demand jokes.
So my saintly husband went off to purchase a product that would calm my anxieties, though it would move me no closer to elegance, and I sat on a curb talking to my grandson.
"Wouldn't you think a person of my age could at least fake sophistication?" I asked him.
He had no comment. I suppose I should be grateful.
Write to Margo Bartlett at firstname.lastname@example.org.