This is not about the ridiculous downsizing of women’s clothing over the years or about how I aspire to be a size 0 (I don’t). This is about my mailbox. Not my email inbox, my actual mailbox, a container that holds catalogs and magazines before they go into recycling.
Nobody pays cover price for magazines anymore, do they? We’re getting Vogue for about $12 a year.
As a city girl, I am used to communal living, to sorting out my mail from that of my neighbors on a rickety and forlorn piece of furniture on the downward slide from personal to downstairs foyer to sidewalk up-for-grabs. Now I have a mailbox. I mastered the whole business of putting up the flag and everything seemed to be going along nicely when I noticed that we were missing a zero from the house numbers that are nailed up either side of the mailbox post.
Some mailboxes are green plastic, like Little Tykes climbing frames. Others are built into brick fortresses. Ours is a black metal one. I like it, I guess.
I contemplate the missing number. Is it a federal violation to have an incomplete house number? The numbers on the other side are intact and the number is stenciled against the curb. I look on the ground for the number. It’s not there. The other numbers are loose. Where would a zero go?
One of my closest friends from London has just moved to DC after many years abroad. And it was Japan before London. I imagine that his state of culture shock is like a dog that has been riding in a convertible with its ears blown back. He did a remodel of an ex-council flat in London with underfloor heating and ironic decorative flourishes. He subscribed to World of Interiors. How is he adjusting to the overall hideousness of the options one has in Bed, Bath & Beyond when one is having to buy shower hooks or lamps.
Brushed antiqued bronze finish or shiny fake chrome? Aqua, black or a sort-of dingy hot pink. Ew! I remember being simultaneously overwhelmed by the abundance and ease of shopping but also disheartened by the low standard of aesthetics and the poor quality of choice. He is feeling this, too, though right now he is still adjusting to the tremendous amount of driving one must do. His other car is a bus.
Where’s the nice stuff? There are no moments of discovering this really cool shop that sells the vintage this and the particular that. There is whatever they’ve got at Target, sometimes you’re there when there’s some nice John Derian serving tray, mostly not.
And here’s the thing: you are constantly seeing desirable, carefully selected items in the magazines that you have subscribed to at the new freebie subscription rate. I have let House Beautiful lapse, but I know that one could find perfect curtain rods and hand crafted brass and that.
My friend concurs. “I have about 30 windows open on the computer right now,” he says.
I don’t want just any zero. I want a zero that affirms my aesthetic self and the 70s vibe of my house.
I go to the downtown family-owned hardware store off the courthouse square. Surely this is something they will have.
I am the only car in the lot. Everyone else has brought their truck. But here’s the thing, I totally strike out! There two people who help me are helpful but the only numbers they have are gold and shiny or metal tags. They think the size has to be a minimum of 3 or 4 inches and they actually suggest I try Home Depot. I even try to buy a rubber ring for a kilner jar but they only have small ones. I want to support this store, but gosh, it’s impossible.
Now, I could go home and browse, obsessively, for metal numbers in cool fonts. It would be very satisfying to find this. And my standards are high because House Beautiful has shown me what is possible, but, also, I want to do other stuff today. I go to Home Depot and find a zero that will do the job.
My husband asks why I didn’t get the whole number in the new style and I have to explain that I like the dark beveled ones we have better, and this one is close enough in font, and it will do. (He had not noticed the missing number and he is not sensitive to fonts, so I think he will be okay.) The zero costs $1.29, so should my numbers be out there, I will not have invested so much in the project that I can’t start over.
Of course in looking for an image for this post, I end up finding a good zero. See above. It’s available from Amazon but it’s 6″ high, so the kind you put on your actual door, and $30 a number, versus $1.29, but it gives me hope that retro numbers are out there. I could fall down the rabbit hole of searching for perfection but I am going to move on to finding vintage fabric for a bedroom curtain.