I love turtlenecks. Who doesn’t? They’re warm, they’re (freaking) stylish, and they make my chest look about four feet below my chin, which creates the illusion of Sagging (Sagging being a vast improvement over Nothing.) Some people love autumn because of the brilliant colors and falling leaves but to me, autumn means only one thing: it’s Turtleneck Time. Fads come and fads go, but through the years turtlenecks have stood immoveable as the classic fashion statement for women over forty. I just love me a good a turtleneck. And though I wear them less than I used to (Target carries few of them–go figure) my real passion for the TNs began back in my college days, when long walks to campus through the winter snow necessitated a fashionable top that doubled as ski wear. It was during those tender years that I first developed a big thing for turtlenecks. Big.
My husband always hated my turtlenecks. We began dating in January when I wore them all the time, and he never said a word. When we went out together and I was all turtlenecked-up, I just assumed that he found me as stunning as usual. It wasn’t until after we were married that this narrative unwound. One cold winter I day I was pulling on my favorite turtleneck: bright red with a mock neck, meaning (for the turtleneck illiterate) that the neck came to my chin and stopped, rather than folding back over on itself in the standard manner of turtlenecks. (And as an aside: mock turtlenecks are a stroke of genius. You get the sexy look of a turtleneck without the extra throat insulation, thus allowing you to sport the psuedo-sweater nearly every month of the year. I’ve been known to don mock turtlenecks as late as May; you’d be surpised how well they go with denim capris.)
At any rate. On this bright winter morning, I was just stretching the red mockey over my flyaway hair when my husband walked into our bedroom and announced, in a most ungentlemanly manner, that he hated my turtlenecks. Always had.
“What? What do you mean? Why would you hate turtlenecks?”
“Because, Jen…they’re dorky.”
“They are not dorky!”
“Yes, they are.”
“They’re cozy and cute–everybody wears them!”
“Nobody wears them.”
“Um, excuse me, look around…every girl I know has a turtleneck.”
“Oh really? Name one.” I flipped frantically through my mind for the name of a female friend–or acquaintance, even–to support my theory. I couldn’t think of one. Wow–was I the only girl on campus wearing turtlenecks? I sighed. Once again: so ahead of my time.
“Look, Jen. They’re totally seventies.”
“Nu-uh! Turtlenecks are a classic, like polos or blazers. Rich people in New York wear them with tall leather boots! You are just so insecure and trendy, you have no sense of timeless fashion.”
“Rich people in New York may wear them, but you’re a poor person in Provo. You can’t pull it off. I love you honey, but please lose the turtlenecks. For me?”
He said this last bit with such hopeful sincerity, I had no choice but to go purchase two more turtlenecks the very next day: violet and salmon colored. (I was already well-stocked with white, black, and a variety of earth tones.) I’d show him.
See, what my tragically narrow-minded husband doesn’t understand is that there are many reasons–besides sheer style–for my wearing of The Turtleneck:
1. They’re warm, and I’m always cold. Wearing a turtleneck is like having a built-in scarf wrapped tightly around your neck at all times–even when you’ve stepped inside where it’s eighty degrees with the heat on. You can sit by the fire through the evening, sweating profusely and enjoying the sensation of two strong hands squeezing the life out of your esophagus. I think this is why turtlenecks have withstood generations of changing fashion; you can’t box that kind of comfort into a single decade.
2. When I’m swathed in a turtleneck, the waddle disappears. You remember the waddle from our Alli Macbeal days? It’s the the saggy portion of the neck between throat and chin. Think of a turtleneck as a girdle for your waddle. Enough said.
3. Okay, truthsies: Whenever I get nervous or excited, big red splotches break out all over my neck and collarbone. It’s kinduvreally embarrassing. Imagine how I feel when waxing poetic about Gerard Butler. I’ll have warmed myself up by pointing out his delightfully crooked teeth and yummy Irish accent. Then I’ll just be getting to the part about how he can play a badboy and a tortured opera composer, only to have my formerly captivated listener interrupt me mid-sentence, staring at my neck and asking, “Um, are you okay?” I’ll then glance down at the garish welts on my skin and have no choice but to deliver my wildly clever rebuttal: “Oh. I’m hot.” (Works every time. No awkwardness ever.) After scores of humiliating first dates and job interviews wherein my feigned aloofness was betrayed by my crimson neck, the perfect solution finally presented itself to me: wear a turtleneck! To everything, everywhere. Because you never know when you’ll need coverage.
4. Two words: Diane Keaton. Ever heard of her? She stars in super annoying movies and is notorious for her horrible fashion sense. But she’s also rich and famous and I think she maybe lives in New York and wears tall leather boots and here’s the deal: if a perpetual turtleneck is good enough for her, it’s good enough for me.
5. Life is short. And the span of your smooth and youthful neck, even shorter. So to all you thirtysomethings rounding the bend into middle age, I say what the heck–wear a turtleneck! (I foresee a bumper sticker here. Maybe a special kind that only adheres to the tailgate of a minivan.)