As a Stay-at-Home-Mom, I don’t have very many opportunities to get dressed up to meet the outside world. My daily “work clothes” consist of a clean pair of jeans and a nice long-sleeved t-shirt that (hopefully) doesn’t happen to have peanut butter or dog slobber smeared all over it. And if I can actually shower before noon, well that’s a bonus!
I’m in the process of changing that. This Fall I took two volunteer positions in the community, one of which is on the board of directors for my local Friends of the Library. Oh how fun it was to go out and buy – and presumably need – something different than just jeans! I went shopping with gusto, buying a couple of pairs of dress pants (Spanx included, of course!) and about a dozen or more different mix-and-match blouses that would allow me to dress for two weeks without repeating an entire outfit. I felt set! I was excited to show off my new wardrobe to the world! When I stepped out my front door, I would no longer be Amber’s or Braden’s Mom, I’d be my own person again: An intelligent young (okay…not so young but not old, either) woman ready to face the professional world again! I had my clothes, new shoes to match with every conceivable outfit, and the jewelry to accessorize. I was a new woman!
And then I was stupid enough to ask my children, “How do I look?”
The first time I asked this question, I was headed out to “date night” with my husband. My teenage daughter gave me the “once over” much like Martin Short’s character in Father of the Bride, shook her head a few times, then “took me under her wing” and redressed me. “You’ve got the right idea,” she said “but how about if we change this necklace out for another one. And do you have a different shirt? The one you’re wearing isn’t quite…you.”
Huh? How could it not be me? I picked it out because I liked it. It wasn’t pushed on me by some sales associate; I saw it on the rack and thought to myself, “Wow! I love this!” How can it not be me? But okay. She’s almost 16 so I let her “fiddle” and then I walked out of the house in an ensemble that had never occurred to me. It wasn’t bad; it just wasn’t anything that had previously occurred to me. Does that mean that I can’t or shouldn’t ever wear the ensemble as I had originally assembled it? The jury is still out on that one.
Shortly thereafter, I was preparing for a morning meeting for my board of directors. I had thought long and hard about what I would wear. It was my first meeting and I wanted to make an impression, but I didn’t want to look like I was overdoing it. I ended up with a pair of chocolate-brown dress pants with matching trouser socks and shoes, with a multi-colored blouse in shades of brown, black and teal, with a matching teal cami underneath. I topped it off with a matching necklace and earrings and was fairly satisfied with the overall look. I felt grown up and ready to conquer the world.
Just before walking out the door, I turned to my 7-year old son and asked, “How do I look?”
With complete seriousness appropriate to the question, Braden looked me up and down very slowly, taking in the entire outfit from my earrings down to my feet. Tapping his chin as he thought through what he was going to say, he responded “I think…you look like a forest.”
“A forest?!” I exclaimed! “What do you mean I look like a forest?!”
“Well,” he responded, “You have those greens and browns mixed in there in your shirt kinda like…what’s that word? When you’re trying to hide in a forest…?”
“Camouflage?” I asked.
“Yeah! Camouflage! It looks like you’re wearing camouflage like you’re wanting to hide in the jungle.”
UGGHHH! That was not the effect I was going for!
I glanced over at the clock and realized I had exactly three minutes to walk out the door. I didn’t have time to change and, even if I did, what would I wear? I’d thought so long and hard about what to wear this particular morning that even if I did have the time to change, I’d need an extra half hour just to figure out what to wear! With no time to change, I ran to the bathroom to see if I could alter the ensemble to be less “foresty,” but there was no way. I’d just have to go with it and hope that people could see me next to any foliage that might be used for decoration.
I went to my meeting and did my best not to stand or sit near the ficus tree in the corner, all the while self-conscious of the implication that I looked like I’d dressed for a hunting expedition in the Amazon.
As I was leaving the library following the meeting, I ran into an old friend. As we exchanged greetings, she commented on the fact that I was “dressed up” and inquired about what occasion would cause me to exchange my tried-and-true jeans and t-shirt for such a spiffy outfit.
“Oh ya know,” I said, “I just came from my first directors meeting and felt I should probably try to look half-way presentable.”
“Well you look great,” she said. “This is a good look for you.”
“Yeah,” I responded in a self-deprecating tone. “I hear the forestry look is really chic right now.”
“Huh?” she asked in confusion.
“Oh nothing. It’s just something Braden said to me as I was walking out the door. When I asked him how I looked, he said I looked like the forest, and it’s had me self-conscious about my appearance all morning.” I responded. My friend laughed….and then laughed some more. Within seconds, she was giggling uncontrollably.
“I don’t know what’s funnier,” she said. “The fact that he said you looked like a forest – which really isn’t true! – or the fact that you’re taking fashion advice from a 7-year old boy! Isn’t this the same kid who came in wearing his shorts on his head and his shirt on his bottom and told you something was ‘wrong’ and couldn’t figure out why his clothes didn’t fit properly?”
Ahhh…and so it was.
And then I got to thinking. My friend is right! I’m taking fashion advice from a 7-year old? The same 7-year old that – just this morning – wore one red sock and one green sock because he couldn’t decide which pair he liked better? The same 7-year old that would wear the same set of underwear every day until it finally fell apart if I wasn’t sure to give him a fresh pair every day? The same 7-year old that, only a couple of years ago, insisted upon wearing his snow boots and winter hat to bed every single night? The same 7-year old that not long ago color-coordinated his dresser drawers in such a way that he could choose a monochromatic wardrobe every day? This last might’ve been a good idea if the shades of each color at least coordinated well. But to see him go to school with a lime green shirt and forest green sweatpants with teal-green socks was a little frightening.
Wow! Was I seriously taking fashion advice from this child? What was I thinking? Clearly I’ve been without regular adult interaction too long.
I have a feeling that the adult interactions of these out-of-the-house volunteer positions are going to be a good thing for me, don’t you?