Thursday, October 8, 2009
Well. Just when you think it's safe to send the kids to Sunday school, you-know-who shows up in a skirt. Yes, I know women (and some men) all over the world commit this act of bravery on an every-day basis, and I don't want to take anything away from those individuals. Go ahead and revel in all your long-legged glory! My issues are not with the garment itself, but the person zipped-up in fabric. That would be me. Somewhere in the mental record I keep of all the important messages I've been given about who I am, exists this little gem: "You don't look good in skirts." I don't remember who said it-they could be dead for all I know. Actually, I think it was a boy with whom I attended high school, and thanks to the modern miracle Facebook I can assure you he is very much alive, blissfully unaware of the lasting impression left by his adolescent aesthetic. Does he have any idea HOW HOT I'VE BEEN? Could I get reparations just for my air conditioning bill? Under normal circumstances, I don't make a habit of archiving, let alone believing all that I'm told-but some things...they stick. We've all been on the receiving end of bad information-it happens all the time-something we'd normally have dismissed as hogwash-but for whatever reason, the motherboard blows a fuse and this nonsensical, unreasonable, ridiculous bit of verbage becomes: TRUTH. It's like...out of the blue, your heart slips your brain a mickey, and you wake up 15 years later, wearing pants.
What I should have delivered the young sartorialist was a good old-fashioned zinger-something that oozed confidence, something more along the lines of talk to the hand, shorty. That was really big in those days. Unfortunately, I've always been most confident post-confrontation, after the offender has returned to his lair and I'm alone, free to rehearse my allocution until it rings true for all of mankind, a speech full of grace and backbone fit to be delivered from either a mountaintop or the Oprah Winfrey Show. Instead, I probably skulked off, turning the words over and over in my mind like a smooth stone in a pants pocket, until they were so familiar I thought they'd always been mine.
UNTIL. I wish I could say that I had a Whitney Houston I'm Every Woman moment during which I reclaimed my power as a female-instead, what really happened was I started to notice, all around me, that people were showing their legs--all manner of legs. Legs that hadn't seen the light of day in 45 years, legs covered with a roadmap of bulging veins, legs so tanned and leathery they could have been a pair of chaps. I realized that somehow, I'd bought into this great lie that our imperfect parts should be covered--shamed, even. I remember stopping in the middle of the sidewalk, realizing I'd been hoodwinked. It was hot, and my children wanted me to do things like play outside. Without fainting. I immediately bought a pair of shorts. Short ones. And then I called several people to announce my coming-out. It was very big in the community.
Since then, I've been experimenting, cautiously, with my new-found freedom, pairing different skirts and shorter dresses I find at Goodwill with all the belts and shoes I already had in my closet, and the results are mostly fantastic. And by fantastic, I mean fun. The shroud of self-doubt will always be there in some ways, but throwing off the covers even with this small gesture is a great first step. Of course, it's always hard on the family when Mom reinvents herself. My older child, for instance, on the way out the other evening, asked why I was naked. And when picking him up from Sunday school, was so rattled by my appearance, he forgot that pulling Mommy's dress up TO HER WAIST does not bode well in a house of worship. Perhaps he mistook the tights for pants, or found the belt distracting...I'm not sure. I was, however, COMPLETELY mortified-not since my husband dropped me on the dance floor at a wedding eight years ago have I felt that kind of exposure-I think I actually left my body. It wasn't so much the falling, it was the falling down of my shirt; the breaking every nail on my right hand, and oh did I mention we were the ONLY ONES DANCING?
All of this, though, is just part of the journey-baby steps I'm taking toward becoming a full-fledged nudist. Not really. I have noticed, though, corny as it may sound, that I appreciate my legs, now that I can see them. Underneath all that premium denim, they were like two stepchildren I didn't really love but for whom I bought very expensive Christmas gifts. Since their unveiling, I am observing how useful they are, how strong they are, and how, in spite of being ridiculed into hiding those many years ago, how forgiving they are. And how much more comfortable, how unbound I am. I'll never get those years back, but it's smoke them if you've got them time around here, the time for putting childish things aside, for believing that objects are often beautiful than they appear: even in, especially in, the light.