At the beginning of this school year I decided that I was going to make more of an effort to dress “up” for work. The school in which I teach is generally pretty casual. There are a few male teachers who wear jackets and ties every day, but they are a noticeable minority. I can only think of one female teacher who wears the equivalent of business attire regularly – usually high heels, a skirt, and lots o’ accessories. Every teacher in the building wears jeans on Friday.
There are some limitations on what I can wear to work; I cannot, obviously, wear anything too tight or too revealing because that’s weird, and I don’t really wear tight and revealing clothes in any situation, certainly not in a high school. I don’t like to wear pointy shoes or shoes with thin heels because I’m on my feet a great deal and they’re uncomfortable. The temperature in the building is variable, so layers are always a good idea, but the most critical factor in determining what to wear to work is time. I have to be up in front of a room full of adolescents at 7:35 ready to go. The bell rings, and I’m on. I am not a morning person, so my morning routine is limited to: smack the snooze button until TWGH growls (he doesn’t even hear it the first
seven few times), roll out of bed and into the shower, get dressed, start coffee and breakfast, pack lunch, dry hair as best I can in the time I have remaining, write a note to still sleeping babies, bolt out the door. I put makeup on in the car. And honestly, I live 3/4 of a mile from work, which doesn’t allow for a whole lot of primping in the rearview mirror. I’m a makeup minimalist. The point being that I don’t have a lot of time to muck about getting dressed in the morning.
I don’t like to wear skirts because tights/stockings create static cling in the winter and I don’t like having naked legs in the Spring at work. It feels weird. I can’t explain it. Without black pants, I would be lost. Well, not lost, but certainly pantsless most days of the week. If I’ve got the three pairs of black pants in rotation, I add the jeans for Friday, and I’ve got one day to fill…two if I’m behind in the laundry, which is, let’s face it, all the time. So I’ve got two days to account for. The black pants days are easy – anything on top, comfortable Danskos or comfortable Mary Jane stacked heels, and I look like a grownup. Two days out of the work week, however, I fail. I haven’t given this much thought since my initial, “try to dress like an adult” proclamation of September, but this morning as I walked into the building, someone (who I wouldn’t think would notice what anybody had on any day of the week…I’m thinking it was the clicky heels on the pavement that caught his attention) asked, “What are you all duded up for?” Say wha? I didn’t feel particularly duded up. Black pants, printed cardigan thingy…I had a coat on so that wasn’t even visible, standard jewelry – which is to say almost none – so what gives? I’d spent an extra thirty seconds in the closet deliberating shoes. The pants I’m wearing are a little loose (praise YOURGODOFCHOICE here), and they are sitting lower on my hips. As a consequence, they are a little long these days. I had to wear heels so that the hem of the pants wasn’t dragging on the ground.
Then, two students noted that they a) liked my shirt and b) thought I looked nice today.
Time for reflection: do I look so utterly craptastic every other day of the week that the thirty seconds I spent picking shoes this morning warrants such attention from the general public? What am I wearing most of the time that is so unremarkable that such an unremarkable, to me anyway, outfit is cause for comment? Answer: khakis and a sweater or a long sleeved t shirt.
On my two non-black-pants days, instead of planning an outfit, gathering up some other pair of dressy pants, sucking it up and wearing a skirt, or choosing a dress, I generally yank a pair of extremely comfortable khakis out of the drawer, throw on a long sleeved t shirt or a sweater, jam my feet into whatever shoes match the shirt or sweater (that is to say, black shoes or brown shoes) and blow out the door into my car and down the road.
One of the wonderful surprises about turning forty
and no I’m not talking about chin hair, the metabolic shift to that of a Sperm Whale, or receding gums, is the happy fact that I care less about what people think of me than I ever thought possible. Before I’d turned 40 I would have said, with conviction, that every human being is hardwired to be constantly aware of how he/she is perceived and is, therefore, driven to make the best impression. Now, I’m pretty OK with who I am and actually believe the oft-quoted maxim that people who judge me because of something superficial aren’t really my friends and who needs them anyway instead of dismissing it as something people without friends say to make themselves feel better.
I’m going to have to try harder on the non-black-pants days. And not…I can hear your comments already…because I need to change for anyone else, but because I want to NOT have those reflective moments where I have to scratch my head and say, “Am I trying here?? Am I forgetting about myself?” Because that’s it, really, in my rush to do it all and be it all and get it all done, I am forgetting one important piece: me. I can’t promise that I’ll be camera ready all five days of the work week, but I will try not to forget the person in the mirror in the morning as I hustle out the door. Of course, this would require that I actually take the time to LOOK in the mirror in the morning. But still. You get the idea.