Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Workin' It Nun-Style

It was recently brought to my my "inner Sybil" more than anyone, that I have hit the nail right on the head if I wanna be chillin' it Nun-Style with the threads, if you know what I'm sayin'.

I dress like a nun.

I really do. By choice, this time, it would seem.

Sad, really, but so very glaringly true as I sit here and watch the fashion show that goes on every morning in this place. If they don't hire me? It'll be cuz of my wardrobe, I swear. I mean, what kind of hip biotech company is gonna want a nun at the front desk?

Before? When I had hair long enough to wear in a bun? Yup, school marm. I just needed the really itty-bitty metal framed glasses like the teacher on Little House on the prairie and I'd so bust out with the gingham. With the shorter 'do I tend to clasp half of it back in a it's still pulled back, only now it almost looks like I'm, yes, wearing a habit.

Yep, that's what greeted me in the bathroom just now; so I have literally just let down my hair. The conservative black sweater and scarf? The drab dark pants and plain white blouse? The Venetian glass that looks like a crucifix? "Hi Sr. Mary, how's it kickin'?"

I just don't think I can pull off the bright orange scarves I see cruising by, or the OH MY GOD THEY ARE POINTING AND HURTY LOOKING high-heeled shoes the other admins are clunking around in. Or even the cute little crochet-looking/open-lacework knitted-looking little cardigans some of the scientists sport. It's just all so "fashionable" and "in." As it's women's fashion in particular, it's probably just "in" for the season as well. Momma didn't raise a fashion-conscious daughter, uh uh. We live in "durable" land here. How many years will this work? Not how many weeks.

How did I make it through 18 years of LA-livin'? Very simple really. My mom, being the "po' messican cleaning lady" at the ritzy high school was yearly given BAGS AND BAGS of cast-offs by the secretaries, teachers, nuns, and even students. Really. 99% of my wardrobe came out of those bags. I sometimes wish I had been a more out-going popular kid, I could have started the "retro" movement decades before it happened. DECADES. There were complete outfits that could have brought back the 60s, 70s and sometimes, even touching on only a few YEARS behind the current style. My mom would pin and hem and down-size the most hideous and fabulous things out of those bags. If it fit, she didn't care WHAT shade of avocado green it was, it fit!

I cared. Maybe just a little. Maybe just enough to always dive deep in those bags and only choose the really dark and plain colors. That must have stuck with me more deeply than I cared to admit. Now that there's no "bag" to dig things out of I try to find the "timeless" outfits I can get away with wearing for years and not the fashion queen.

I really should have known I did the nun thing for forever though. As I sat here and began this entry I remembered a story. It's not a happy story. I'm trying to make sure I remember and tell it just the way it happened. This would classify as a "horror of horrors" moment:

I was in high school by then, the same one where my mom cleaned the toilets for a living. Had I a tatoo that read, "Yes, I am the janitor's daughter," I would never have had to open my mouth or nod that first year. Ah that first I was in the school choir. On the day in question we were singing at a mass/tea. We had to appear in black skirts and white blouses for the horrific event of my recalling. I had plenty of white blouses. A mountain of them, I had about 5 or 6 of the same style even, but various sizes. (Some of you know where this is going already, don't you?)

Right. So after the performance we were asked to go into the dining room and mingle with the guests (we were trying to get some donations or something, I've blocked that part out). One of the nuns comes up to a group of us, a group I'd just really started relaxing around, maybe even considering myself, oh I dunno, LIKE them. Sr. Celine finishes telling us how wonderful we were when it happened...One of the girls raised her hand and whispered behind it to one of the other girls, there was a deft but unmistakable pointing to the Sr., and then to me...and giggling. Oh how I hated the giggling. I looked over to Sr. Celine and wished I could disappear. She was oblivious and had started to turn away, but (and of course it was me) she had been patting my arm, near the wrist, and it was there that I saw the matching edging. I looked up the arm at the blouse itself, we were wearing THE SAME BLOUSE. In fact, ha ha, ha ha, we can all laugh about it now, yes? 18 years on? Because not only was I wearing the cast-off of one particular nun, OH, NO, no no no no. My eyes had jumped to all of the nuns scattered around the room in a very "Carrie" moment, Under blazers, or staring right back at me from each and every one of those nice little nuns...the same blouse. I was wearing part of their old "dress" uniform (they didn't wear the penguin suits, but they still wore a kind of uniform).

The rest is kinda fuzzy.

I did not burst into tears. I did not break into a run. This much my mother can attest to...I do know I did turn very very very red and maybe had a hard time breathing. I know that the the first chance I got I snuck into the big school kitchen and sank down on my favorite chair and imagined all the different ways I could get out of returning to the school, ever.

Right. That was not going to happen. What did happen? Hmmm, obviously not traumatic enough for me to remember. Or maybe so bad I don't want to remember? 18 years is an awfully long time. I know one girl stopped speaking to me. She had this knack of pretending I didn't exist, you know, if someone was standing behind me she'd talk to them "through" me? What fun.

I also know my mom and I went shopping for a white shirt of my own.


Hmmm, I'm wondering if I go for the dark unassuming outfits now cuz I don't ever want to be pointed-out like that again? Doubtful. I didn't stop dipping into those bags until I pretty much left LA. And boy did I go hog wild and pull out some bright red blazers and OH-HOW-VIVID "hawaiian-esque" blouses. I found it much easier to go "goofy" with the clothes than to hide under a rock. These were free, afterall.

Ah, there it is. I can't afford to be goofy with the fashion. So I guess I'll keep dressing like a nun until my pocket-book runneth over, or something. I'll try to refrain from quoting too much scripture in anyone's direction.

Peace out!


Bezzie said...

Amen sister!!!

Although I find myself blending with waitresses more than nuns when I'm wearing the usual white top/black pants.

Beth said...

I'm with you on the fashion thing. Who wants (or can afford) a shirt that only looks "in" for one season?

I "feel your pain" because I've been there (partially). First, my mom took a job as a janitor so she could buy me a violin. I will keep that violin forever.

Second, I had hand-me-downs, too. And I learned the hard way not to wear the trendy things in the bag. Well, the things that were trendy. I remember wanting to have elephant pants. They maybe have been before your time, but the pant legs were very, very wide. We got a bag of stuff and there was a pair of elephant pants in there that I couldn't wait to wear. I remember getting teased about them because they were so out of style at that time and I never wore them again.

I still have a hard time with pants that are too short. If they are the least bit short, I can't stand to wear them. I recall the voices saying "Floods! High waters!"

It's hard to break away from the hurt of being picked on and teased. For me, it has lasted through to adult life. Oops - I've written a novel. Sorry!