Since becoming a parent, getting dressed is an exercise in choosing a pair of pants and a shirt or sweater that "go together." I can't quite define what I mean by "go together," but it has something to do with the colors not clashing and the general look being somewhat similar. Sometimes I mix it up by wearing a skirt instead of pants. As for shoes, it's usually Dansko clogs. I have red ones. And black ones. And Mary Jane style ones, also black. I even have Dansko boots! Yes, black.
I've never been what one might call fashion-forward, but something about the all-consuming nature of parenthood has taken me off the fashion grid completely. I've talked to other parents who feel the same way. Caught up in the daily grind of work and family, shopping for myself seems both indulgent and, for the most part, uninteresting. I have amassed a utilitarian wardrobe that is nice enough for work and can get me through the weekend in comfort and without looking like a total slob.
Most of the time, I'm fine with this state of affairs. But there are times when I'll see someone wearing an outfit that is so perfectly suited to him or her, something that catches the eye but not in a flashy way, in a comfortable and confident way, and I can remember that it was once fun to find clothing that I liked and that suited me. I get the urge to go out and do a little shopping, to try a few things on, to allow myself a bit of indulgence.
I'm not so much of a martyr that I don't think I deserve such a luxury. But the thing is that I don't even know where to begin. I have no idea what the almost-forty set wears, what's "in" right now. Frankly, I don't actually care what's in, or what other people my age are wearing. It's mostly that I don't know what I like anymore, and if I did know, I wouldn't know where to get it. But I did get a Nordstrom gift card for Christmas, so maybe that's where I should start.
About four months after the twins were born, I looked in the mirror one morning and thought to myself: You look old, and tired. My body did not feel like my own, my clothes didn't fit, and I felt frumpy and unattractive.
My sister-in-law came to my rescue. She is beautiful, and knows how to make the most of her natural good looks. Her style can vary from subtle to dramatic, but it's certainly never trashy or overdone. I asked her to go with me to the mall to pick out some makeup that would be easy to apply and just keep me from looking uneven and exhausted and aging. I think I even blogged about this event at the time, although I am too lazy to go back and look. In any case, she came up with a great regimen for me, something that only took five minutes to put together but made me feel a million times better.
Three years later, guess what? I'm all out of that makeup! Have been for a while! Have I replaced it? No. Have I missed it? As the twins have gotten older and I've reclaimed my body and gotten more sleep, I've generally felt less like I need or want that kind of enhancement. I still have some decent lipstick and mascara, so when the situation warrants it, I can come up with a little something more than nothing. But not much more than nothing.
I bought myself some new running shoes yesterday. For the first time ever, I went to a real running shoe store, where they have you jog on a treadmill and analyze your gait and give you recommendations on shoes and then $100 later you are ready to burn up the road.
The guy who helped me was knowledgeable and friendly. He brought out a bunch of shoes for me and asked if I ever ran any races. I asked if he could recommend some good ones for springtime. We talked about the east coast (he was an upstate New York transplant) and the Red Sox. I chose my shoes and paid.
On the way out to the car, my coworker, who had been with me for the whole transaction, said, "Was he flirting with you?"
"I don't know! Was he? I would have no idea."
"I think he was."
"How do you know? How should I know? I always think people are just making conversation."
"I think he was flirting."
Then we went to a frozen yogurt shop were the slimy guy at the counter definitely flirted with me, in a way that was obvious even to me and was not pleasant. When we left the store, I said to my coworker, "Now that guy was flirting with me, but that's yucky." She agreed.
I don't know how to dress myself. I need new makeup. I have no idea what artful, grown-up flirting looks like.
But what I find is that lately, after months of wanting to do nothing but get myself home, enjoy some time with the kids, and watch TV in my fleece pajamas, I feel subtly and not-so-subtly pulled outward. I'm more interested in what I wear and how I look, more interested in the interactions I have with people. I'm intrigued by figuring out what I might like to wear beyond the pants on the top of the stack and the shirt hanging in the front of the closet. I am interested in working on the art of conversation.
It's still decidedly winter, but it feels like spring.