The Owl Shirt


The owl shirt came to take me to dinner last night.

Never mind that the owl shirt had just driven hither and yon and back again to accommodate my tight schedule. Never mind that the owl shirt was wearing nice jeans and lace-up shoes. Never mind that fighting with the owl shirt would be a colossal waste of our very limited time together.

The owl shirt was all I could see. The ugly feelings began to seep out and I watched myself slip into the helpless abyss between of self-justification and self-hatred.

Insanely compelled to convey in detail exactly why the owl shirt is so unacceptable, I could not stop the rant. Along with other descriptive language, I used the word “douche bag” to describe a guy who would wear an owl shirt. I said that the owl shirt would be worn by a guy in a “before” picture. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I could not stop. Somehow I felt justified. Helpful even.

Being seen at dinner with the owl shirt would be bad for my business, I reasoned. It is my job to help men dress well. If I am willing to let my own beau wear an owl shirt, I must not be very good at my job.

I was a jerk. And a failure. And mostly a jerk.

Fortunately for me, the state of mind that does not think there is anything wrong with wearing an owl shirt to dinner is also the state of mind that is willing to change shirts and still go out to dinner with an insulting crazy woman who wastes precious time ranting about clothing and appearances. Also, fortunately for me, the beau genuinely wants to know what goes on in my crazy head. Which soothed me almost as much as the black polo shirt he put on.

At dinner, I told stories of being 8 years old and feeling sorry for my dad. My mom was always disappointed with him. I think I tried to make up for that by liking him more than her, but nothing really could.

Maybe he didn’t know what to wear. Maybe he didn’t care. My mom clearly did not care. She dressed him in the cheap, wash-and-wear polyester, double-knit crap you can only find in a Big and Tall Store. Even at 8 years old, I knew this was bad. I wished my dad had the crisp button-downs, khaki pants and penny loafers worn by the other dads. It was wrong to wish my dad was different, but I knew those kinds of clothes were successful. They were confident. Those clothes said, “I will take care of you.” I wanted to be taken care of. I wanted him to be better. I wanted him to not be a disappointment. I wanted to be proud of the dad who would walk me down the aisle someday.

Maybe I fuss about what the beau is wearing because I am afraid he will be misjudged. And that I will be misjudged by my connection with him. Or maybe I am afraid I am with someone with who will eventually disappoint me too. I believe clothes make a statement about who you are, but I know it is wrong to judge someone by what they wear. I am acutely aware of how complicated and unfair this is. Probably because I have done my fair share of judging, and I don’t think I am going to be able to stop anytime soon.

How do you feel about clothes and what they say about you?

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  1. Dana says:

    Teach us your skills how to put a respectable wardrobe together on any occasion with a tight budget. Maybe you have mentioned it in another blog… I am new finding you and enjoying them all. Let me know if indeed you have shared. Muah!

    1. annie kip says:

      Thanks for your note, Dana! I would love to do a post about dressing your man – I have a LOT to say on this topic and I am glad to know you have an interest in knowing more. I will get working on something!!!

  2. Kris says:

    At least he wasn’t wearing black crew socks pulled knee-high with grandpa shorts

    1. annie kip says:

      True! Things could be worse. Maybe only a little worse, but still worse. Good thing I have never made any fashion mistakes! (See post: Bad Camoflage)

      1. Ingrid says:

        Truth be told my husband is a Math professor who thinks white socks and addida sandals is fine!

        1. Kris says:

          Aren’t they? 😉

          1. Ingrid says:

            He claims I am the one who is out of the loop. There is a song called “math professor rock star” I kid you not there is a lyric in it that says ” there he goes with his white socks and his sandals…”

          2. annie kip says:

            Isn’t the fashion-freedom the reason people become math professors? Why else would anyone want to do math?

  3. I truly believe that almost all jerk behavior stems from some (usually childhood) hurt. We all get blindsided by our own stuff at times, and it seems that’s what happened to you. I think the Plenty Perfect stance in this kind of situation is to do just what you’ve done: Own the jerkiness and root out its source. Make amends. Strive to understand and do better.

    I think clothing is a very complicated issue, and those who say it’s superficial or unimportant are either in denial or have missed something that’s pretty huge. Appearances have much to do with how others perceive (and, yes, judge) us. It’s code for so many, many things that impact how others will relate to us. I learned this well when a school I was teaching in was having some issues with dress code. I changed my dress one day to make a point. I was never really sure if my clothing choices had much impact on my classes of mostly male high school students. Oh yeah, they surely did–even if the kids weren’t consciously aware of it until I changed my appearance. I don’t necessarily like this, and I can choose many different responses to it, but I no longer deny it.

  4. Jonathan Kurker says:

    As the wearer of the offensive shirt I would first like to say that it was a long sleeve owl shirt as it’s is winter. Also that it was not the centre piece for a dinner out with my girlfriend but rather something comfortable thrown on earlier that would have been swaped out for more girlfriend friendly attire-
    Happy I used the wisdom of the offensive bird to outlast the ranting and hear that the shirt in question wasn’t totally the issue. Glad the disapointed 8 year old girl spoke up and explained why the adult she became can be so easily triggered. Owls are not only wise but also very dependable, so 8 year old Annie does not have to worry about being disapointed!

    1. annie kip says:

      Can everyone see why I am so smitten with this guy????!!! Thank you, honey. You are the best. And thank you for clarifying that the shirt was long-sleeved!

    2. Ingrid Goldbloom says:

      How about this Shirt becomes a symbol for all who want to be wiser and more accepting. I love the fact that you are so comfortable with yourself you would wear two different shoes because each foot liked the feel of a different one. I strive to be more like you. Perhaps you could offer your shirt up for some sort of charity or better yet….we could order shirts just like them off of the Plenty Perfect website and on the back of the offensive owl t-shirt has the Plenty Perfect LOGO!! Annie? What do you think?

      1. annie kip says:

        I don’t think so.

    3. T.G. says:

      This woman sounds like a nightmare. Run for the hills, buddy. Seriously.

      1. annie kip says:

        I am really, really lucky he can see past my occassional “nightmarishness”!!!

  5. Deb says:

    Wow, that is ONE UGLY SHIRT, but all this judging biz has got to stop! Who cares?! I always try to put things in perspective by asking myself “If I were to die tomorrow (or they were), would it matter?” Supposedly only God can judge folks here on this planet … but that doesn’t seem to stop anybody from judging. The real question is, does he have a good personality?! LOL!! xoxoxoxoxoxo

    1. annie kip says:

      I am with you gal. The good news is that only dads and boyfriends can send me here! And, thankfully, the beau has the strength to hold on for the bumpy ride.

  6. Ingrid says:

    What’s really interesting in your story is the assumption that everyone’s lens
    Will be the same as yours when they see the owl shirt or wash in wear clothing
    One person might think oh I love owls! One might think wow that guy is so comfortable with himself how lucky
    One resinight think ( yes these are the ones you are guarding against) how did a guy like THAT get a girl like her. One person and and I bet it’s most aren’t as visually tuned as you or are completely in their own worlds
    And really don’t notice. It’s really about the stories we tell ourselves

    Ok now onto clothing. My Mother showed up to my High School in May wearing snowmobile boots and clomped her way down the hall to the main office. I was always embarrassed by what she wore
    And wished she would look more like the polished well put together moms. Well now I the clomper. Putting on clothes that are convenient so I can get more importent things done. I know I feel better when I put myself together. I just hate putting in the tr and clothes don’t interest me. It is complicated!!

    1. annie kip says:

      I love the other lenses. I totally forget that my way of seeing isn’t the only way. Thanks for reminding me of that. And I love your story about your mom – I would have felt the same way! No wonder you are so resilient!

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