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Thoughts at a laundromat

Revisiting Old Journals6/8/97

I hate the laundromat. It always succeeds in reminding me of my own insecurities and inadequacies. I am not generally inadequate, but I feel that way most of the time. I feel, almost always, as though I’m not good enough.

This is incredibly hard to reconcile with my knowledge and real belief that I am somebody, and more than that – somebody good and worthwhile. How do you work that out in your mind? For me, I guess, it’s that I think I’m quite alright, but I’m somehow truly mystified to find anyone else who agrees with me. But, I’m off my subject. This has nothing really to do with laundromats.

It’s just that I feel so utterly conspicuous here. A laundromat is just one of those places where people have little choice but to look at other people. And be looked at in our turn. Here I feel fatter than I am, uglier than I am, stupider than I am.

Why am I so deeply concerned with other people? People I’ll never see again. People who will never think about me again?

I hate the laundromat.


The older I get, the less conspicuous I feel. And the less I care what people may or may not be thinking about me at any given time. Mostly I’ve just realized that strangers think about me, or even notice me, far less than I imagine. But I wonder, was that insecurity that made me (and sometimes still makes me) feel observed and scrutinized? Or was it just another form of ego and self-absorption?


8 Comments Post a comment
  1. It is wonderful to re-read our own thoughts – especially when we are far removed from them in time! Great post!

    January 17, 2014
    • Thanks! And I agree completely. That’s one of the reasons I started doing this little segment on here, there is just so much interesting stuff in my old journals. It’s amazing to go back and see how much of myself has changed, and how much more has not changed.

      January 29, 2014
  2. I have tried to avoid laundromats as much as I could, mainly because I find it so boring to sit in a strange place and wait on your laundry to be done. There are always too many distractions to read, and i always feel strangely out of place. Airports give me the same type of feeling. It IS odd to sit among strangers and do nothing but look at each other. I imagine this is more of a first world problem. Most places in the world are much more communal.

    January 17, 2014
    • Me too! I am better now, but I still have that feeling. I have a comforter I need to take because it’s too big for my washer, and I’m just putting it off and putting it off. It is now Louis’ comforter and will probably get super doggie and end up in the trash before I take it to the laundromat. I am better in public places now that I’ve got a smartphone though, as far as distraction is concerned. Oddly enough, I don’t have that issue at the airport, but I think I’m in people watcher mode there. I think for me it’s more about smaller spaces too. That’s interesting about the non-communal aspect of the culture. And we are raised, by media and advertising if not necessarily at home, to be super conscious of how we look and how others perceive us. That probably has something to do with it too, with the uncomfortable or feeling scrutinized aspect.

      January 29, 2014
  3. Hey Michelle,
    Reading this, I’m reminded I’ve been meaning to dig through some of your old archived stuff, but I can’t see how to easily on your sleek home page. Getting older means you care less about what people think, but inclusion still has this weight . . . it’s a dance.

    The best laundromat I have ever been to was in Northern Quebec, several machines in an alcove off a bar, shoot some pool, drink some beers – laundry was a nice outing!

    January 17, 2014
    • I’ve got an Archive (select month) and a Category drop down menus on the side bar, but they have gotten lost in all the other stuff. I will move them closer to the top.

      That sounds like a decent laundromat!

      January 29, 2014
  4. I think laundromats are incredibly depressing. But they’re also (and maybe this had something to do with your feelings of being “exposed”?) a forced intimacy in a stranger’s environment. You’re in there watching your undies tumble. And so is everybody else. That’s a weird thing.

    January 18, 2014
    • Too true! I think that was one of the last times I was in a laundromat, but that sounds like a good assessment of the situation. Also about the stranger’s environment. Working in retail so long, I’m pretty comfortable in any kind of retail setting (except maybe grocery store). But totally uncomfortable even in friends houses if I don’t go there very much. Some places we own and in some we get owned, haha.

      January 29, 2014

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