Recently, I decided to bite the bullet and update my wardrobe before my mother-in-law could. Bless the woman, she is just nuts about buying people gifts, especially clothes. For the kids, it's great - we have spent an average of about $6 per child, ever, out of our own money, putting coverings on their little bodies. For me? Well, hm.

Here is the problem, and I have faced it all my life. People who know me know that I am quiet, shy, a bit scatty, fairly laid back, and firmly unromantic under most definitions of the word. They have a tendency, therefore, to assume I like clothes that are neutral, practical, and casual. In fact, I do not. In fact, I am attracted to clothes that act as a counterpoint to my personality. I like bold patterns and colours. I like trim, tailored elegance. I like floaty, feminine pieces. I like cartoon shoes. You know - shoes that look like they were designed for the set of a live-action adaptation of a children's cartoon. I want my clothes to say the things I struggle to show in other ways. When it comes to "quiet"? I pretty much have that angle covered. When it comes to "zany" I need to be wearing it on my feet.

But as a child, my mother used to take me on the most colossally awful, traumatic, clothes-shopping expeditions which would result, without fail, in a wardrobe which was neutral, practical, and casual. Such was her incredulity that I would actually wear anything bold, bright, feminine or elegant that she would refuse outright to spend the money on it, writing it off as a waste ahead of time, despite my being pushed to actual tears in the fitting rooms on most of our trips. I just "wasn't that person". Correction - we just "weren't that person". My mother is a frugal sort, and aside from her fear that I would never wear such "unsuitable" clothes, practical, casual and neutral has a tendency to be cost-effective.

In my late teens, I resorted to pilfering my sister's dance costumes for outfits to wear to university and out on the town. Sparkly. But by that stage the damage had been done. One of the downsides of marrying your high school sweetheart is having a mother-in-law who formed her opinion of you (and what sort of clothes you like) when your own mother was still torturing you into wearing items that were neutral, practical and casual. Every year, for my birthday, my mother-in-law buys me enough neutral, practical and casual clothes to make my own shopping expeditions more or less unjustifiable. Here's the thing, though: I am getting old.

No, I mean, really people: I am getting old. I have lately been struck with the fact of my own aging. I can no longer ignore it or brush it off. I might not literally feel it in my ovaries, but all the fertility research in the world assures me it's there. I am of advanced maternal age. My chances of conception are taking a nosedive from here, not to mention the statistics on miscarriage, pregnancy complications, and congenital abnormalities. Old, people. If I don't buy a pair of luridly-coloured, MC-Hammer-style pants right now, I never will. Although mentioning MC Hammer during the process will probably only serve to highlight the problem, leading some to conclude it's already too late. I suppose this might be your typical, low-level midlife crisis, in which case, I'm not sure why they call it a "crisis". In a lot of ways, it's fun! Break it down!

We had a long weekend here for Hari Raya, which gave us non-Muslims some spare time for shopping. The Prata Boy turned out to be a surprisingly good companion. In one fitting room, he tried on a black, collared, A-line dress - backwards - and was quite taken with the way he looked in it (like a little Jesuit priest). "I want to get this one for me!" he said in that tone of voice he uses when he's not going to be easily deterred.

"We... can't," I informed him regretfully, wondering how I was going to walk the delicate walk of "don't let cultural stereotypes tell you who to be but by the way you're a boy so you might not want to wear a dress", especially on a trip set to overturn the lingering after-effects of my own, painful conditioning. As I frantically considered my options in the face of the inevitable demand for an explanation, a young Muslim boy in traditional dress popped out from behind a clothes stand. He and PB grinned at each other, silently admired the other's flowing threads (do we still say "threads"?), grinned again, and disappeared into another rack of clothing.

"Because you have enough clothes at the moment," I responded firmly, at the same time realising that, but for this excuse, I was totally going to be buying him the dress. Anyway, it's good enough for Jesuit priests, right? Aren't they manly?

I bought a floaty, pink, feminine top, and an elegantly-tailored black one. And I bought a pair of luridly-coloured, MC-Hammer-style pants, and yes I have spent a lot of time since then trying to perform the Hammer-slide, and I also somehow promised to (learn to) sew some "matching" shorts in patchwork for PB. My biggest problem is the practical neutral-ness of my former wardrobe. If I want luridly-coloured scraps for my patchwork, I am going to have to mine the throw-out pile of my more outwardly-zany friends.

But the real reward came the next day, when I was wandering around in my new 'robe. (Yeah, the kids are totally using "'robe".) "I like you in bright colours," PB told me reflectively, out of nowhere. And I think that's all the excuse I need to order a pair of cartoon-shoes.



Serenity said...

I love this post in SO MANY WAYS.

First of all, I think at the very least, we are at an age where we should be allowed to wear clothing that makes us happy.

My case in point? I have embraced the ballerina-flat as mine. And I have no issue wearing my plain canvas Toms to work instead of fussy heeled shoes. Because I am a runner, and it's more comfortable to wear flat shoes, and they make me happy.

If wearing MC Hammer pants make you happy, then do it. Find - and buy - a bold patterned piece you love here and there. And wear them. And when your mother or mother in law remarks on it, you can say "I prefer colours, it seems." :)


Bea said...

Yes! You put it so much better. It is not that we're old and need to wear stuff before it becomes inappropriate. It is more that we are getting old enough to have the luxury of pleasing ourselves first, rather than trying to impress others. Unless by "others" we mean our 4yo's, who are brand new and rather hard to impress sometimes, too :) We have long enough CVs that the current packaging is less important - there is more inside.

Powered by Blogger.