Dressing Up for May Day

In a house of boys living in the oh-so-casual West, we don’t dress up often. So, dress-up days at school cause us some angst.

Do the khakis that fit you at Grandparents’ Day still fit for May Day? Is your only button-down shirt still on the ironing board after six months? No dear, athletic socks do not go with fancy shoes. Your loafers are too small? Can you wear them for two more hours? No time to shop!

And we have sensory issues. Even the softest dress pants rub against the back of one son’s knees and leave a “rash”. Tags we forget to cut out of anything new itch to distraction. Ties make them feel like they’re choking.

And then, when they are all looking absolutely handsome five minutes before departure, I step outside into the sunshine – dressing up in daytime a rare thing for me too – and realize my skirt is completely see-through.

Oh my god, do I even own a slip?!

No Fashion Sense

I am dressed up for a client interview, needing to feel confident. Wondering why I am not completely comfortable with my outfit. It fits nicely. Comfortable but professional. Makes me look thin.

Then my son looks me up and down as we walk out to the door – too late to change – “Mom, you look like a flight attendant.”

And that’s it. I do. Exactly.

He giggles. “Please take care when opening the overhead bins, as items may have shifted during our flight.”

I think he’s getting back at me for making him study for exams.

The UnGlamorous Mom

I bought a curling iron two years ago, but never had time to figure out how to use it. So it stayed in the packaging until last night. A move to a new hair stylist, who showed me how to curl my hair, inspired me to try before a series of holiday parties this week. I am 48. It’s about time I put some effort into looking a little polished.

But I just may not be meant to curl.

I grabbed the wrong end of the hot iron. Holy….!!

Fortunately, I had not waited long enough for it to heat totally up, as my error would have left me without a love line, lifeline, basically the palm print of my entire right hand.

It only hurt a lot for a few seconds. But I soldiered on.

Curled the first clump of hair four or five times, creating a tangled mess.

Gave up on that.

Tried curling the strands framing my face. Not a curl to be cued. They formed a 90-degree angle just below my ear. Pippi Longstockings without the braids…

… and minor burns.

Sigh. I brushed out the tangles and right angles, and went to the party my usual straight-haired self.

I’ll try a little lip gloss tonight. How dangerous can that be?

Dark Comedy

When I was deciding whether to go to film school in New York or Los Angeles, I did not choose New York, because at the time, I thought it was important that I didn’t wear black, drink coffee, smoke cigarettes or appreciate dark comedy.

Now, more than 20 years later, I have learned that humor in the darkest moments may be what heals us. I did not write during the three months of my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, because I write like a twelve year old when I am sad. But looking back, the things I remember most are not the fear or sense of loss, but moments that made me laugh.

Here are two from visits to the cosmetic surgeon (who is otherwise awesome). It is important to note that for both, my husband was in the room for moral support.

In the weeks between diagnosis and surgery, the cosmetic surgeon explained the options, and while pinching my stomach fat, said, ”there is enough fat here to make boobs, but they would be very small A’s. Smaller than you are now.”

Enough fat on the belly. Small boobs. Feeling super sexy. “Hi, honey!”

A few months later, IV in for the final implant surgery, the cosmetic surgeon stops by before we head down the hall.

Recall the husband in the room… again.

“Okay now, remember, we are working with the deformity in your chest wall….”

Chest deformity. Yep, that’s me. And don’t forget the belly fat.

Just the visual you want for your husband minutes before you go under.

And I know it only because the surgery went well that it cracks me up every time I think of it.

I Hate Your Hair!

At the end of a summer exposed to sunshine and chlorine, I finally went to get my haircut, hide the grays and return to my non-bleached-out self. My stylist went a little darker than expected.

An hour later, I ran into a friend who exclaimed, “I love your hair! It makes your skin look so creamy!”

My sister, who had taken my boys to a movie, was next, “Oh my god, I love it, love it! You look younger.”

Then the three boys walked in the door behind her, and I got hit with a single-file barrage of honesty only becoming in children.

“What did you do to your hair? You look weird!”

“I liked it better before.”

“Much better.”

And then from the smiling six year old, “I hate it!”

Apparently, we need to work on that fine line between honesty and kindness before I release them back to their schoolmates.

When Boys Dress Themselves

It was 29 degrees when we left for school today. My fifth grader came down in shorts and a short-sleeve shirt. For two days, he has deliberately walked past the clothes I’ve left for him on the railing outside the boys’ bedroom. Fine. He’s past the age when I should have stopped that anyway.

But I made a rule just yesterday that after Halloween (especially if it is 29 degrees out), my kids have to wear at least one long something – either long pants or a long-sleeve shirt. So I sent him back upstairs to change.

Mean mom.

He came down still wearing the shorts, black with blue and florescent yellow stripes. On top, he was wearing dark green plaid. Totally over-patterned.

But I didn’t say a word.

A few days before, my six year old dressed himself to go out to dinner. He climbed into the car wearing a navy shirt with red stripes, poorly matched with orange and brown plaid shorts.

They clearly inherited my lack of fashion savvy. But certain colors do not go together! Don’t mix plaids! Plaids and stripes? Often an even worse combo! How do they not see that?!

But I didn’t say a word.

One “mean mom”-ordered trip back upstairs to change a day is plenty. If they can’t get it right it after that, they will have to try again tomorrow.

As long as they don’t get frostbite on the playground.

Dressing Up Mom

If my boys are telling me a story or joke, they will follow me all over the house to tell it to me. Yesterday they followed me into my closet, and while one was telling the joke, the other was looking at my clothes.

“This does not look like you,” said the nine year old, tugging at a brightly colored collared shirt.

“That’s because it isn’t. I just bought it so I can try a golf lesson.”

“It’s more Dad.”

“That’s because he plays golf.”

The joke his brother was telling ended, and the two of them kept going through my clothes.

“You pretty much look like a dork except when you wear dresses,” the ten year old informed me, touching a casual red one he has commented on before.

“Like this one. You should wear this one a lot.” Every time I wear a dress, the one who just called me a dork tells me I look really pretty and gives me a big hug. I always imagined he knew that dressing up is hard for me, and I need a thumbs-up before I go out into the world that way. Nope.

They found some of my fancier dresses, not worn since my early thirties when I still had friends who were having weddings.

“Wow, you never wear this. You should wear this!” I loved that dress when I bought it before having three kids.

And about a cream colored one, “Is this your wedding dress? Wear this!”

“Not my wedding dress, but it is fancy,” I explained. “I don’t have anywhere to wear it.”

“You should wear it out to dinner!”

“I would need to go somewhere really fancy.”

“Then Dad should take you somewhere really fancy.”

“But we don’t like fancy food.”

“Oh, mom! Just wear the dress.”

And then they were off, leaving me alone in my closet to ponder why two boys whose clothes rarely match want their mom to look like a princess.