I think everyone’s had one of those moments where, in the middle of a certain act that they’ve done several times before, suddenly stops, and wonders ‘what on earth am I doing?’
I had that moment this morning, when trying to figure out what to wear.
Normally? Not a problem. Saturday means jeans and a comfy t-shirt and maybe a plaid shirt if I’m cold, a hoodie if I’m feeling really cold. But not today. An old university friend was up from London visiting family, and she’d managed to get some spare time this afternoon to see me and catch up. Suddenly wearing my usual gear seemed horrifyingly wrong.
So out went the plaid and I started tossing the ‘good’ stuff on the bed, trying to find something that said ‘me’ with complete and utter certainty. It was on the third outfit while I was picking up 2 tops I normally reserve for work when the stupidity of what I was doing actually hit me. I was looking for an outfit that said ‘me’, and then discarding everything ‘me’ normally wears. Despite the fact that my friend has no expectations – as a friend from university I assure you she’s seen me in far worse – and I have no obligation to dress up, the concept of showing up in my usual dregs was completely incomprehensible.
It’s not just friends who seem to garner this reaction. When my mother came home for a visit for several days my room began a whirlwind of clothes, while I tried to put together a 3 night bag of clothes that she wouldn’t be offended by but were still things I liked. Only one of my usual outfits made the cut – the idea of wearing jeans and plaid for 3 full days while in my mother’s presence didn’t even cross my mind. Dad gets a very similar reaction – ironic considering how often I manipulated events as a child to wear my comfy clothes when I visited him.
What is it about being face to face with people you don’t see every day that makes me want to pull out all the stops? I go to the bank in ripped jeans; work meetings get the same old shirt and dress trousers. Even when I did have friends to meet in town I met up with them in the same vest top and trousers I’d been wearing all day. But there’s something about reuniting with someone that makes normal wardrobe unacceptable.
I think in some way, it’s trying to make me more confident. A person who hasn’t seen me physically in some time has only a basic idea of what to expect. Showing up in a typical outfit is fine, but that’s all they’ll take from the meeting – a casual and slightly lazy female who doesn’t feel the need to put the effort in. But, if the first time they see me in several months-stroke-years is an outfit that has quirky, comfortable and unique written all over it, it allows me to express a confidence and ego that I may not have – but would really like people to think I do. Probably the same as Mary Kay sellers all driving cars they can’t afford in an effort to look more successful than they actually are – just on a much lower level of obsessiveness.
Or perhaps its more to do with being accepted by people. On a general day I go about my day and meet no one of importance. I’m a face in the crowd that some might recognise as a familiar face. But on days where I’m actively meeting someone who is in turn actively seeking me? Someone whose opinion actually matters to me? Suddenly being self conscious about one’s wardrobe doesn’t seem so strange.
Neither parent likes my fashion choices, and I’ve long since stopped expecting their approval – but when I do visit them (or vice versa), that same craving for acceptance resorts me to critiquing my choices. I may never have their approval for my outfits, but I’ll settle for a lack of disapproval instead. My friends certainly don’t have that history, and I’m sure this specific friend honestly wouldn’t care, but I clearly wanted to make an impression on her that went beyond our conversation. The situation was probably encouraged subconsciously by the fact that at university, she had the greatest fashion style of anyone I’d ever met – pedigree I somewhat aspired to.
Course, once I’d had this epiphany, and realised that my friend was just going to be happy to see me even if I showed up in a bin bag? Still continued my search for an outfit. Ended up changing twice after testing it on the outside weather too. The final result had me in a pair of new jeans, long sleeved work top plus a long hoodie jacket-thing I made myself for a cosplay, along with the boots I bought for said cosplay. Even picked out a jacket I don’t normally wear in fear of rain (love my leather jackets, and look awesome in them, but I HATE wet leather). Apparently just because you realise something doesn’t mean you’re going to stop doing it. That’s a step several stops down on the program to becoming a sane human being.
The result? Friend complimented my boots and my necklace but honestly don’t think she had any idea I had spent an hour ripping my room apart for what was a ‘casual-but-quirky’ ensemble. She of course looked awesome – but she’d been doing interviews so that was less to do with me and more to do with her future.
Least tomorrow the craziness of get together’s will no longer be upon me and I can wear my Qwertee tops again without inner humiliation!