I'lani Roberts

February 8, 2024

written by:

Disclaimer: I have been listening to a lot of Shakey Graves

I’d like to start this post off by saying that I think turtlenecks are both mysterious and sexy. I think my south Louisiana upbringing is the root of my love for the garment. We get very few days of the year where wearing a turtleneck is acceptable.

When I think of turtlenecks, I think of old Hollywood. My favorite Golden Age era actresses on the silver screen. A time where women were sexy, intimidating, and bold. I think of complexity. I also think of soup (that’s for another post).

When I moved back to New Orleans this fall, I knew immediately that I would immerse myself back into my community. My very intentional, carefully crafted community. The people whose homes I could bike over to at any given moment. “Who’s bringing the wine?” Is the start of most girl hangs. But my relationship with the city and my community has changed. For the better or worse is subjective. But since I just so happen to be the subject, I’d say for the better. It’s changed in a way that is rooted in confidence. A slow, intentional confidence. The kind that takes years and experience and years of experience to build.

I knew that Paris would change me. Though I never really considered how. No light bulb went off or anything like that. But I was able to live out the experiences that existed in my head for so long. Just day to day life. Life in another country. A lover here and there. Harmless flirting with the cute deli guy. And while I was there, I was constantly reminded that this was an experience. It had a start and end date.

That’s what I brought back with me to New Orleans. Everything starts and ends. Some things with a longer timeframe than others. The moments of joy & pain & trauma & lust are all temporary experiences. Like turtleneck weather in south Louisiana, they are fleeting. But the feelings last. The warmth on your neck, like an unexpected kiss, lingers.

When I was a kid I had this very colorful turtleneck sweater. I’d stick my head deep inside and watch the world through the bright pink and yellow knitting. Now my turtlenecks are made of cashmere. They’re neutral in color and when I bury my face in the neck, I can hardly see out of it at all. That’s what happens as we get older. The curiosity and play and color become careers and relationships and bills. Our life becomes defined by our status – both in life and in play.

But what if we allowed ourselves to go back to color? To live in one country for a few months just because you can? To leave a job only to find yourself going back to it bc you’ve changed, and it feels right. To date the guy (and his wife) who love-bombed you for 6 months. To plant a garden & let everything die then watch it grow again? I’ll admit these are all very specific but that’s because it’s my lived experience. The point is, we get to do it all and be it all and see it all, while knowing that it all ends someday.

I was gifted a cashmere turtleneck the other day. The color blends in with my skin. It’s lived in, with pulls and rips that I probably won’t bother fixing. It’s had a previous life. It’s probably witnessed many kisses & tears & stains from the kitchen. I hope to give it a second life. One with more kisses & tears & stains from the kitchen – all that are mine this time.

Originally from Lafayette, LA, I’Lani Roberts relocated to New Orleans for work in 2018. By day, she assists with managing logistics and sales for an Interior Design Studio. When not putting together quotes and estimates for designers, she hosts communal-style gatherings that take shape in the form of dinner parties. Graduating with a BA in Creative Writing, I’Lani often combines her love of food with her writing. Weaving together the trials and tribulations of adulthood, the intimacy of food, and the importance of community is the bases of her writings. You can follow along with her musings over at I’lani’s Substack.

I'lani Roberts


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