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?