Several years back, one of my friends called me about throwing a party at his house.
“What should I wear?” I asked, nervously.
“Clothes?” he suggested.
“Are we talking prom dress?” I asked. “Or grubbies?”
He laughed. “Feel free to look presentable.”
It all worked out, and for some reason that phrase has always stuck in my head. I remember it whenever I’m unsure what to wear for a function.
When I got ready to move to the South, my co-worker who looked out for me cautioned me that life there would be different. She discussed several ways in which people there were not like people where we were from.
“They’re nicer,” she said (and they are). “All the women still dress up and put on a lot of make up and do their hair.”
In Oregon, we don’t do our hair. Well, most of us don’t. It just rains a lot! We don’t do umbrellas, you can only get away with scarves if you’re exotic, a hipster, crazy, or over a certain age. Or combinations of those.
Not only did I find my co-worker’s tale to be true, but I went to work for a company where we all wore uniforms. A lot of us don’t wear make up to work, or not on a regular basis. However, after work and occasionally, my co-workers really hit the gas in the make up/clothing/hair department.
Our clients get all dolled up too. One of my co-workers once stated that you shouldn’t change anything you do when you get married (she’s single). I found this advice to be silly.
It’s like what Carrie says to Miranda in an episode of Sex in the City when Aidan wants to move in with her. She has her routine that is NOT sexy. Miranda smiles and says, “I like to put on my hand cream and wear my gloves.” That was not a precise quotation since it’s been years.
I LOVE face masks. My mom has a picture of me from college when I had a migraine and I’m wearing this eye mask and pretending to swim. I look INSANE! But the picture really captures my eccentric essence.
This is the unsure territory I have when it comes to what other women do. Unless we’re going out somewhere, I don’t dress up. I don’t buy clothes in outfits, I buy them individually. This is a massive problem.
I was taught to dress for comfort. I abandoned heels after I stopped going to high school dances. I tried wearing them for weddings, but always ended up barefoot on the dance floor or trading them out back at the car for my flip flops. I wear dresses, but dancing is serious business. I go to weddings to celebrate love and to dance, but not always in that order.
Tonight, I wore my purple and lavender flannel shirt, my twilight/lavendar tank top, and my sleek black yoga pants. It was just me and the pets. I almost dyed my hair, but then I thought, “No…I’d have to change, and I really like this outfit.”
When Thom Yorke from Radiohead whisper sings, “I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo…what the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here,” I concur. I mean, I’m not a CREEP, but the rest seems to fit. Several of my co-workers have tried to do my hair or suggest I wear hair spray. But I’m from Oregon. You never know when it’s going to rain!
The first job I got out of college was very exciting. I asked what I should wear to work, and my boss told me “business casual.” I didn’t know what that meant, but my mom assured me it just meant I didn’t have to wear a suit. GOOD.
One day, we went out to meet with a prospective designer. I was wearing a long flowing skirt, a little make up, and a cute patterned shirt. My boss laughed. “You’re more dressed up than I am!” That’s when I knew I’d found my people. I lived for the days when my boss said, “Tomorrow: come in in your grubbiest jeans and an old sweatshirt. We are going to work!”
In Portland, I’m not the oddest person. I’m not saying I don’t stand out in my own, creative way, but I am not isolated in my tastes and comfort levels. When my best friend brought his girlfriend home from college, we were watching tv, and she said, “I HATE fake nails. You can’t do anything with them. They always come off. What’s the point?”
That’s the moment I knew she and I were going to be friends.
I have an acquaintance who wears almost exclusively suits. He can’t stand it when people go places in sweats. While I feel like people shouldn’t leave the house like they just ran away from a tornado after they woke up late in a cow pie, I don’t feel like that level of dress is necessary for most situations.
My level of dressiness sets off a bell in my brain that makes me want to be as crazy as possible. During preparation for a choir concert, we were all stuffed in a muggy room in June with no AC and told NOT to eat dairy.
“I’m going to take off my pants,” I announced, mainly to my friend Ginny next to me.
She laughed. “Why?”
“It’s hot. It’s either my pants or my shoes, and I need shoes to walk out on stage. I can’t just strip the whole thing off, but I think I can take my pants off underneath my choir robe and get away with it without anyone seeing anything they shouldn’t.”
And I did. Then I proceeded to eat a chocolate bar in front of one of my most anal-retentive friends, Clover. After reprimanding me several times, Clover groaned. “Oh, I don’t care anymore!”
We were supposed to be silent while waiting in the wings. Upon entering the backstage area, I saw my friend who was helping with lights and set. “Hey, Jon,” I whispered in my smallest voice, “You’re a sexy, sexy man!”
You could hear Ginny’s laughter all over the auditorium.
Please note, I do not own rights to these pictures, I’m just borrowing them to illustrate a point. Thanks.