We're going to have to meander a bit in this post...and I hope you don't mind winding on a path a bit...
The Hump Day is around the corner and I've got fabulous topics from fabulous bloggers. You'll want to either rearrange your schedule or make one for these.
First, Emily R at Wheels on the Bus (creator of the very popular music hump day) hits a home run again with this suggestion for Wednesday, December 5: Making new friends and keeping the old...or, something we need to learn again and again.
Second, next week December 12 is from Maddy at Whitterer on Autism: personal pet peeves, we all have them, but I like the unique ones. Ones that other people don't share and most importantly, the why?
Sometimes, things slam into my mind with a startling burst of accuracy, other times they glide gracefully across my consciousness, slowly seeping through barriers, and gently whispering to me at appropriate moments. Sometimes, they are both.
Andrea's (garden of nna mmoy) post See and Be Seen, was both. It was a post that can reach across every type of person and dig deep into your interior, whether it is clean and well-lighted or dark and twisty, and shine a beacon of insight into who we are and why we do what we do with our exterior, especially our clothes.
No one is ever going to give you permission to dress the way you want (except me). No matter how young or thin or pretty you are. It has to be a right that you claim for yourself, not because you think you are pretty enough to earn the right to be looked at, but because you are smart and strong and good and interesting enough to earn the right to be yourself in every way.
But you should really go read the whole post. Because it's perfect.
That's why I awarded it the Perfect Post for November. (Click on Perfect or Post to go see the rest of the awardees.)
Congratulations, Andrea, and thanks for opening wide a door. I cleared out my closet. Really I did. I got rid of my "fat" and "I feel like crap" and "this is sensible and will last years" clothes. Things that don't flatter me much, fit any more or make me feel great. I sold some and donated the rest.
And I've been going to nice stores, good ones, boutiques. I've looked for good bargains on things I really like and that work for me. I bought stripy pants in fall shades, instead of practical tan chinos (which I will still always love, anyway). I bought trousers in dark olive green with an ivory pin stripe in a Kate Hepburn style. I added a fitted crepy ivory blouse that shines with hidden gold thread in certain light.
It's corny but I've decided I'm worth it...again.
That's a concept that expands beyond clothes, and it started a bit before the clothes, but it all works together. It's funny how I let the concept, the idea, into my interior before allowing it outward, too, on my exterior. Funny odd, not funny humorous.
I used to always dress for show. I felt a high sense of urgency to always look good, which was a struggle against my inner clothing slob and lack of fashionista tendencies. And yet, I worked at it, and somehow developed a style.
At my older stepbrother's wedding, his mother came up and gave me a hug and said, "Oh you look lovely, so unique and stylish, you always look so unique and stylish!" I was wearing a short A-line purple velvet dress with a filmy scarf pinned in front and tossed back over my shoulders. I had strappy high-heeled sandals. It was an outfit I threw together under less than ideal circumstances: my luggage got lost and the only store close enough, considering the limited time before the wedding, had slim pickings. I was self-conscious because it was such a bold, eye-catching outfit, and I knew I was already bold and eye-catching enough. That's why I usually went for understated and sedate, clean and simple, classic clothes.
Underneath my self-consciousness, a part of me liked the outfit and felt pride at pulling it together. But it took an outside opinion to let that loose.
Did that make my new fondness for the dress real? Or simply a reflection of another's approval?
How much of anything I do is due to me knowing what I want, versus aiming for the right reaction from others?
I let outside opinion matter too much, and therefore I often force it to matter too little. It's a precarious out of line imbalance.
Some people were surprised (and perhaps a little dismayed?) in some comments by my honesty to my husband's boss. He was not surprised or dismayed (except, perhaps, to confirm how important my husband is to me on Saturday). Although I presented the dialogue humorously, thus possibly making myself sound way too sassy, it was a good chat. He's a good person, and he opened the topic with me out of consideration. I responded to his honesty with my own, and we did it all in a jokey way so we could fall back on humor as a cushion for what might have been a difficult conversation...but wasn't. I could tell he cared what I thought, and he could tell I cared what he thought, but in the end, this wasn't something I could compromise on, and because I do compromise a lot, and my husband compromises a lot, we were working from a very reasonable position.
But I think this hardly matters to some people...some people who probably thought I was way out of line. Therefore, despite any admiration or envy for what I did, at the end of the day, they simply would not, could not. The reasons why bespeak a slight head shake at my reasons why I did. I crossed a boundary, stepped over a line...overstepped myself.
I do care about what people think, but sometimes not more than what I need. It is the sole characteristic that has saved me from being an utter suck-up and people pleaser.
So maybe sometimes I overstep a little from other points of view. I do my best to ensure that it's simply a traditional boundary I step over, and not a foot I step on.
Nevertheless, generally when you put the word "over" in front of any personal adjective or adverb it means you have stopped thinking more about others and begun thinking more of yourself. It means you are endeavoring to fulfill a personal need or agenda more than provide what someone else needs.
For some reason, this concept sounds nefarious---especially coming from a woman, since it's reinforced with us that we are here to "do" for others---and yet, it doesn't need to be. It might simply mean saying, "I'm sorry, really I am, but this event is too important to skip." It might just mean drawing a reasonable boundary, actually.
But it might be selfish. It's an easy line to cross.
Believe it or not, this concept can apply to clothes, too.
Overdressed. It might say I need you to see me, be impressed by me, know my worth and value...which in all likelihood we can both agree is greater than your own.
"Under" can do the opposite. Underdressed. It might say I am not worthy of your attention, of nice clothes, pretty things that flatter me.
At some point, I began underdressing too much, too often. I began thinking I was not worthy of nice clothes, or of looking attractive.
In part, I think it is because I thought I was not worthy of spending money on myself...since I was not earning money. Instead of pulling my fair weight income-wise (as I had always done, as I was taught I must do), I was staying home, raising kids, indulging my volunteer and writing passions. In fact, staying home is a privilege, although not a purely self-indulgent one. Not by a long-shot. It's largely selecting a life of service to others, a life of self-sacrifice, in which you often have little say or do for yourself.
Due, a little, to this, my sense of self-worth plummeted, falling farther and faster with my decreasing health and increasing weight, until I wore shapeless and colorless clothing.
It's not good to be a not-quite-youthful overweight woman in this society. People assume they know your character based on your looks, and older and overweight often mean a person not worthy in this society. Add colorless and shapeless clothing to this and my billboard message was clear: I don't think I'm worthy and neither should you.
And then I felt angry that I couldn't be seen, was overlooked, ignored.
Was a job the only path to self-worth? No. It's the most obvious but not the only. I found other paths, other interests and then I was doing me sorts of things, such as testifying at an EPA hearing.
A reporter there caught me after my testimony and asked what motivated me to speak up. Under the question was the same thread most women have when one stands up in the line of fire---at risk of an onslaught of attention: what possessed you to think you could and should do something this bold?
I replied that I believed this was a serious issue, one worth speaking up about, and that I thought I could do it and therefore should do it...so I did. I put actions to words. (It didn't matter that I didn't have a Master's from Harvard School of Public Health or a law degree from Yale with an EPA pedigree, as gentlemen on either side of me did. I was an expert at being a citizen who lived in these polluted conditions.)
She nodded as if she knew what I meant, and you know? She might. Or she might think I'm an arrogant ass who gets above myself. I get that too.
In truth, I think on some level I do believe in me, at least for the most part. It is how I have lived the life that I have. I will believe strongly, fiercely, loyally in you, too.
At some point, though, I lost the faith.
Recently, I decided to believe in myself again, and do these sorts of things. As I did so, I also found the courage to begin dressing with confidence.
It's okay if you look at me. I will be wearing the clothes, they will not be wearing me. You will see a woman who---most of the time---believes she is, "smart and strong and good and interesting enough to earn the right to be [her]self in every way."
What about you?
Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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