Hold the Dressing
Our interactions with the outside world currently consist of taking a 25 minute drive to see the coast from afar, bike rides through the neighborhood (avoiding the hills at all costs), or thanking the mailman for another package delivery. But a few times a week, if we are lucky, dear friends who live only a few blocks away will visit, masks and kids in tow, and sit on the sidewalk while we occupy our front steps. The kids run around playing hide-and-seek among the bushes and cars while the adults get a chance to hear laughter that has been missed from the time apart.
This week, on a truly perfect summer evening (minus the virus, protests, politics and dashed travel plans), I was observing my kids prance around. They were absolutely filthy. They had been digging in the yard earlier. My daughter had spilled chocolate milk down her front and flour from a baking project still dusted her face, and caked her hair. My son continues to wipe his hands and mouth on his shirt, so - let’s just say that all of his meals and snacks for the day were visible. His curly hair was sprinkled with small white petals from a plant outside, the result of some backyard antics. My daughter has taken to wearing mismatched socks on purpose, now terribly dirty from treating them like shoes. And my son was without socks, having chosen instead to run around in bare feet that will require multiple rounds of scrubbing to get clean. And both of my dirty little beasts were wearing their pajamas. On the street in public for all to see.
How could I let this stand? I jumped into action. Well, not exactly, since they had already been running around for 20 minutes….but I digress.
“Rachel! Go inside and change your clothes and wipe your face! You are wearing your pajamas and you look a mess!!” And without missing a beat, she turned to me and replied “So do you!”
I was indeed a mess, too. My fingernails colorful from the paint I had scrubbed off of the floor. My hair unkempt from at least a day of not bothering to remove my headscarf. My old grey house slippers, that resemble closely the very loved, very matted stuffed rabbit we call Puffy. My most comfortable dress littered with loose threads from my morning sewing project. And that most comfortable dress being the same comfortable dress that I have worn for 3 days in a row or more. The truth hurts.
I think getting dressed is overrated right now. There is so much going on in the world. I think now is precisely the right time to find comfort in whatever ways we can. For some people that might be eating, or binge-watching television. For us, clearly we have decided that what we decide to wear, or what we decide to do to our hair, is less important than just finding something to be comfortable in. Not getting dressed is all about being comfortable physically, and mentally, with our body and how it feels without hiding behind anything. Without any restrictions.
What an opportunity we have to spend that primping and perfecting time on something else, like the puzzle that has been sitting on the table for a month? Basics like soap, deodorant and toothpaste are still used with regularity - surely our friends are thankful for that. But the lipstick, hair gel, brightening serum, lavender oils and so much more has been shelved. Frankly, it's pretty amazing what we have around this house that clearly we don’t need because we haven’t been using it, and it just hasn’t been missed.
When I get dressed, I’m much less likely to dive into that messy, glittery craft project my daughter always finds no matter how deeply I bury it in the craft drawer. Not caring as much about my outward appearance is pretty liberating, from a craft perspective at least. I can just do, and enjoy, and pour that glitter with freedom and uncertainty. (In the backyard, of course. My appearance can go to hell but I won’t be allowing glitter on the living room rug.)
Don’t get me wrong. I believe that our appearance matters. It just doesn’t matter all of the time. When we pull away the superficial layers, we can connect further with how our grooming or dress habits are the result of what we really want for ourselves versus being about what we think others expect of us, or expect to see from us. In an old house dress, with matted hair and terrible nails, if my friends turned away, declaring their inability to handle my outward appearance, then I might need new friends. Now, if I showed up to dinner that way - that would be another story entirely. I do believe that my friends seeing me in my old house dress and hair scarf shows them how willing I am to be vulnerable around them, trusting them with the real me that sits just beneath the surface of decent jeans and a little mascara.
Getting dressed has never been mandatory. I feel like most of the Bay Area lives in their pajamas, sweats and jeans whether they are heading to the laundromat or a Michelin-starred restaurant. So we are a little messy. We are a little dirty, in the most harmless ways. Our clothes are a little worn. Our hair is a little tangled. But we are healthy, and happy, and above all else, totally comfortable. Wasn't it Annie who taught us that as long as we bring our smiles along, we are as fully dressed as we need to be for the time being? If she wanted us to wash our face and comb our hair, too, she should have been more specific.