One good thing has come out of the pandemic-
Sweat pants are the new jeans.
I have often felt sorry for my children as they have had to see me with bed head for 16 days straight, no makeup, my glasses that I just realize that I have to wear because I am old and can no longer read without them, no bra, pajamas, and/or sweat pants. I used to get ready for the day. I used to care. I used to be cute. Covid took the care of outward appearances right out of me.
But if I’m really being honest, fashion and beauty was never my thing. I went to a catholic school and had a uniform until I was 18 years old. Then I worked at restaurants during and after college that required a uniform. When I was acting in both plays and on television (the very few times I actually performed on television) I was grateful to have people telling me what to wear with the added attraction of doing my hair and make-up for me. When I found out I could wear scrubs to my current job, I felt so much relief. The bandwidth that it takes for one to make clothing decisions in the morning has never been there. The truth of it all is that fashion gives me high anxiety.
Starting with Seventeen magazine. I think I got my first subscription to it when I was in 8th grade. Jesus, what an awful thing to do to an insecure, newly menstruating young woman. I looked at every page and had the dialogue that the magazine was created to inspire between my ears, “if I buy this, I might look like her. If I use that face wash, I will have flawless skin, like her. If I wear those shoes, I will have a boy that looks like that look at me like he looks at her.” I fell for each shiny ad, every “you can, too” article. Page by page, it would prey on my every insecurity. Whether in looks or fashion, I was definitely coming up short by the magazines standards. The latest addition would always inspire treks to the mall. I had a hate/love relationship with shopping. I would go there with my big-banged girlfriends and we would peruse the sale racks at Macys as I only had my babysitting money to spend. I couldn’t think of the newest, most fashionable thing that I saw in the magazine so I would end up buying something that was pretty plain and ultimately safe. Boring. Catholic.
I also had boobs.
When you have boobs at 14, some girls want to bring attention to them. I did not. I wore things that bagged over them and made me look more like a balloon than a high school freshman. I wanted to hide, in so many senses of the word. In college, there was a guy I liked who called me “low maintenance” as a high compliment. (Low maintenance translates into “you aren’t difficult” which ultimately means “If you don’t care about you, then I don’t have to, either.” This bleeds into my dating life and self esteem. We’ll get into that later.) I took it as permission to throw my hair in a pony tail and wear jeans and t-shirt. To not wear make-up. To not have to search for things in a store to make me feel beautiful. To keep me from caring about my outside appearance. I felt like I was cool to “not care.” But, of course, I did care. I wanted so badly to be the gorgeous girl in the room. To turn heads. To be a girl that boys wanted to date and girls wanted to hang with. What I ended up doing with this “low maintenance” monicker was making sure I played small. I didn’t turn the heads of either sex, remaining both friend and dateless. Often more times than not, I would go out after work in my work uniform, just so that I didn’t have to feel the pressure of a sassy outfit and a perfect lip color. I could go out and if you spoke to me in my Cheesecake Factory white button down, white jeans, and white tennis shoes, well, then my “low maintenance” thing was really working. And if you didn’t, I didn’t have to feel bad for spending the time to make myself gorgeous for an evening of one or seven single malt scotch(es) after work. And when you cut to 5 years later and I am shopping in LA to find the perfect outfit for an audition and feel horribly uncomfortable in absolutely everything because it shows too much or too little, makes me look too old or too young, or is too bright or too dull for the camera, I would always resort to the “safest” choice. The most vanilla, the most “low maintenance.”
Shopping was hive producing for me. The anxiety of finding an outfit was lessened when I would go with my mom simply because she was buying. I used her purchasing power as an excuse to not have to decide or use my own voice. I would surrender over to the almighty American Express carrying member of the group. If she liked it, she bought it, and I’d wear it. Events that should have been fun and exhilarating to shop for like proms and graduation, were mentally, spiritually, and emotionally exhausting. So, I would hand over the choice to my mom. I even did this with my wedding dress. Granted, I was going to be 6 months pregnant on the day so it limited my choices pretty quickly, but she chose the dress. She bought the dress. She. Chose. My. Wedding. Dress.
I have lived in 2 of the biggest fashion epicenters of the world, LA and NYC. For the life of me I could not find my style stride. I sort of had a thing for retro jackets and tops with boot cut jeans and heels for a hot minute, but nothing really that I could call “my look.” When walking the streets of these fashion hubs, I kept my head down. As I write this, it makes me a little sad that my hottest body was hidden. My young, cute figure was toned down by my insecurities. I was so afraid of attention, yet was in a profession that demanded that I be the one to stand out of a crowd. It was paralyzing. We alcoholics often say that we suffer from the disease of “look at me! Look at me! Don’t look at me!” I am definitely a walking, talking example of that reality. And now Covid (and age) has me in the “wow. I just really don’t give a fuck what I look like” place.
I have friends that are my age and they are still knockouts. Some of them get treatments to help with the aging process, but most of them just have a sense of style that really works for them. They also might have the budget that allows for such things, but I admire that they take time to look gorgeous. They know how to pair boots with a bag. They know to buy jeans that make their ass look great and flaunt their curves. I just don’t have whatever is in the brain that clicks into gear with these kinds of decisions. Give me my scrubs and a scrunchy and I’m good. (Just kidding. Don’t have a scrunchy, but wow, do I love my scrubs.)
Now that I am recovering from Covid and quarantining with my kids, I am lucky if I shower. I rotate sweat, pajama, and yoga pants. I have reveled in the idea that makeup has not touched my skin, but neither has moisturizer and my fine lines are now fault lines. I can breathe, though. I can breathe.
Looking back, I have had some pretty fine fashionistas in my life that tried their best to guide me in some direction, including my mom (you should see how cute and fashionable she is!) to help enhance my appearance. I have one friend that I always think of when I am panic buying. She’s the one that could wear a hat perfectly or a pair of heels that turned heads. She could add a pair of earrings or a gold ring to my look and you would have thought I changed my entire outfit. As I would wonder, endlessly in stores (when we used to do that) I would think, “What would K buy?”
K is this drop dead gorgeous LA woman from KC. She is always in the latest and knows the coolest trends. She’s also generous and kind. One of her most beautiful qualities is her lack of pretension. If she doesn’t understand something, she asks questions. If she has never heard a particular word, she asks what it means. She doesn’t hide or pretend and stays curious. And I don’t think it was a particular conversation that changed me as much as being around her daily did. (We lived together at one point.) When I remember her, I blend a bunch of memories together. But she just had a way of changing or adding one thing to an outfit, a room, or a meal that made a huge difference. I had a performance for an acting class where I needed to be somewhat 60’s or retro in appearance. She added eyeliner and ratted my hair and I was transformed. We went to a movie in the rain and she wore a hat. It was completely practical and totally adorable. I was in a t-shirt and she told me to wear lipstick. I loved having coffee with her because she sipped it like she did her wine, lots of teeny tiny sips. And with big smile and dimples, she never let an opportunity for good laugh pass her by.
What I learned from her was simple. Adding just one thing can make a difference and curiosity is beautiful. And not in just how I look, but in what I think and how I feel. Soon, very soon, I will actually go (shriek!) shopping and buy an outfit or two and remember that I am worthy of taking the time to appreciate my appearance. Even if I walk out of there with only a lip gloss.
The Thing Is…
As the country begins to open up, whether you continue to wear the comfy sweats post quarantine or formals to the grocery store, you are worth both comfort and beauty. Fashion doesn’t have to be your thing, but wear whatever you choose with pride knowing that you are a divine being expressing yourself in the world. Be YOU, add one little thing, and stay curious.