Friday, December 12, 2008


Writing Clothes

My father, the farmer, never outgrew his farming uniform, which consisted of various long-sleeved plaid shirts, and black cotton "Big Boy" pants from Mervyn's. He had a jacket, which he replaced every decade or so, and shoes he would replace only when the heels were so worn down it became difficult to walk.

After we were kicked out of the school car pool for failing to drive a Mercedes, I became convinced that the right clothing was part of the solution to never facing social ostracism again, or at least diminishing it to some degree. I wouldn't ever dress like my father. If he'd only just worn some Chino's and sandals on the weekend, perhaps we would be invited to dinner at the neighbor's more often and they would have over-looked the 14 year old Ford LTD. "I'll never dress like you," I said to him, before realizing, in horror, that I was in a pair of black sweats and one of this old plaid flannel shirts. My writing uniform.

Over the years, I've periodically gone through my closet to try to rid myself of anything that the old carpool drivers--mostly mothers who lunched and got their hair regularly colored--might disapprove of, and yet, like a bad penny, the writing clothes keep coming back. Currently, I have about 2 pairs of black pull-on sweats that I love, and a few tunics I picked up from Uniqlo. I discipline myself to wear sunscreen, but often don't get around to doing much with my hair. I try to wear my own shoes when I go to the basement to do laundry or meet the mailman, but often I end up stomping around in my husband's shoes because they are easy to slide on. No matter how hard I try, I still dress like my father the farmer. When I am out of town, my husband says that the laundry pile essentially remains the same. "You don't have a lot of clothes," he says, in contrast to himself (he wears a new shirt and pants every day).

In the past few weeks, I haven't been writing at all, but have been catching up with friends and engaged with holiday projects. The cats have noticed. Where I once sat here patiently writing and editing so a cat could sit in the chair beside me, I am running around. I have places to go. The cats don't like this. They try to sit on my lap or on the computer to get my attention. Going out every day also means that I am also remembering what I have hoarded in my closet. I'm not accustomed to the daily pressure of needing to come up with something new to wear--that habit died a while back when I stopped working regular jobs.

Next month, though, I have to get back to work and the writing clothes will go back into circulation. I'm sort of looking forward to it. I'll save the dress up clothes for weekends and outings, but it will be nice to just have about 6 things to wear, a number which would have been a luxury once upon a time when people didn't have washing machines, and when so many girls certainly weren't writing books.

This is a neat story. Thank you for sharing it!

I used to wear my dad's flannel shirts too, back in middle and high school. I'd wear them with jeans, untucked, usually with a t-shirt underneath. There had to be a reason I thought it was cool, but no one else was doing it, so I don't know what that reason was. In middle school I also took to wearing thick men's belts with giant belt buckles over untucked t-shirts, and a long brown trenchcoat. (It sounds cooler than it actually looked. Which is to say, it looked awful.)

I'm sure you looked just fine. I don't know. I always think back to what I wore and am horrified. But things aren't usually that bad--when it comes to clothes!
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