All My Bags Are Packed for SXSW

Standing in front of my closet, I’m attempting to convince myself that clothes don’t really matter. I go through this every time I travel. What is it? The anticipated change in climate, or the knowledge that I’ll be judged. Many women struggle with this. But this trip is a first for me. I’m packing my bags for SXSW Interactive in Austin, TX for the flocking of the techno-chic. I am covering the event for Ad Age and HuffPo Chicago.

It’s still cold here in Chicago. Daylight streams through my bedroom window, and I’m grateful for its warmth. I think to myself that this “what to pack” problem is superficial of me as I touch the hems of dresses and consider blouses in my closet. Today, in this moment I am safe, warm, and feeling fortunate. The rest of the world is chaos. Yesterday, Bernie Madoff plead guilty. Jon Stewart emotionally dismantled Jim Kramer on national television. Kramer, the stock picker clown who will forever embody our American illusions about wealth, looked anything but contrite. Instead, he loaded up another cart of manure about being lied to and wanting to unmask the true villains behind the collapse.

Within my inner circle, the fall out has begun to take an emotional toll. People I’ve helped along the way, referred business to, sub-contracted work to, are all calling looking for work. When I tell them that I’m researching my next book and getting more offers to speak and join think tanks, I can tell this is not what they want to hear. One, dear young woman whom I believed in and opened many doors for, was downright angry with me and said so, bluntly. I hung up the phone and went out for a run, sobbing more than sweating. Some people are coming unglued in this economic transition. I plan to stay intact.

Truthfully, I’m in the same boat as everyone else. I just refuse to panic. My mutual funds have plummeted. The business outlook is checkered. So why am I so content in this moment? Maybe it’s because after two years of researching what it takes for a civilization to move into a period of rebirth, I am heartened by the signs that we can pull it off.

We are shedding what we no longer need. Good. Brash consumerism and competitive status are losing relevance. Fine. People want a sense of human connection. Better still. I spoke with a woman in town who runs a clothing boutique. She has begun selling more lingerie and she’s thinking of creating a section in the back where it’s a little more private. What did I think of that, she asked me.

We mused about what might be driving women to buy more lingerie and concluded the following: it’s a secret indulgence, a modest indulgence, (meaning the price point is right) and women must be needing or wanting to be sexy. And for good reason, sex is a profound form of human connection and it doesn’t cost anything.

So, clothes matter to the roles we need to play and what we hope to attract. In a small way, maybe. I toss in jeans, boots, blouses, fancy skirt, belts, scarf, blazer and pajamas No lingerie, just underwear. This is a business trip. There, I’m packed. And as an act of optimism, I pack a pair of sandals. God, I hope Austin is hot. I’ll keep you posted.