Monday, November 12, 2012

Why I Stopped Not Caring and Started Wearing Concealer

If you graduated from high school in the nineties, as I did, then you remember the flannel shirts and the enormous pants and the intentionally-dressing-like-a-smelly-homeless-person that was so aptly referred to as "grunge".  I also remember the day I said to my mother "I think I'm done dressing like an old man".  She may have cried a little. But it's harder than you think to climb back out of that putrescent hole, I'll have you know. 

Thanks a lot Kurt.

To be totally honest, despite my many improvements in the dressing department, I still have that red polyester boucle buttonless "cardigan".  You know, the one with the square pockets on the front that I bought at that thrift store one night almost fifteen years ago?  My husband cannot understand my unadulterated obsession with that thing, but I just can't let it go.  Who would buy it if I donated it?  No one who would love it, I can promise you that.  So I keep it and I wear it (but never out of the house. I'm not that cruel).

But otherwise, for the most part, I manage to maintain a certain level of presentable.  Not just when we're going out, but yes, especially when we're going out.  It took a while for me to get here, though, with periodic forays into "Dressing well is a waste of time!  People should love me for who I am, not what I look like!  In fact, it's probably a sin or something for me to even care about how other people perceive me!  Insert other self-righteous thing about looking like I just got hit by a truck!".

But I keep being shown the light and over time have come to accept the fact that what I do, how I present myself isn't about me.

Ah.  Don't you hate it when that's the answer?  I know I do.

Because we are neither just body nor just soul but rather an inextricably linked embodied spirit, how we treat and present our bodies can be a reflection of, and reflect onto, the condition of our souls.  That in turn lets our families- our children and our husband most importantly, know exactly how we feel about and treat this whole vocation of ours.

What I'm saying is if that if I don't care to at least put on some "real" pants on a regular basis but happily play dress-up when it's time to have coffee with friends, what does that say to my children about my priorities and enthusiasm?  Happy to spend a few extra minutes to show my friends and the public that I take them seriously, but not so happy to do so for my family.  And I say this with such conviction because I used to be that person.  And I can't even say which came first, but in the end, both the dressing and the mothering were fairly miserable.

But maybe you're one that doesn't play dress-up when you're going out either.  Sweats at home.  Sweats at the grocery store.  Haphazard pony-tail and au natural raccoon eyes seven days a week.  In this case, we have an even bigger problem- telling others, not just our families but the public and our very selves, that we find this life to be a miserable sort of thing.

I don't find this life to be a miserable sort of thing.  I find it to be frightening and challenging.  Invigorating and frustrating.  Sometimes very, very difficult, at other times bursting with joy.  But always, always a reflection of God's great glory.  By being intentional about at least getting dressed, maybe even a little more (sliding a bracelet on takes less time than saying the words "sliding a bracelet on"), I'm acknowledging that I take this role, this season of life, seriously.  It puts a little pep in my step (you can't wait for the pep before you start getting dressed.  It will never come.  Honest.).  It lets my husband know, in a small but still meaningful way, that I'm grateful for all he does.

When I leave the house with my pile of children, there's no guarantee that they won't cause a scene or otherwise make us wish we had easy access to a boarding school, but if I present myself in a way that doesn't frighten off other women, they'll be more likely to say "Hey, I could probably handle that" instead of "Oh my goodness, that woman looks like she's two steps from the grave!  What was she thinking? No children for me ever, no sirree!".

So for myself, my children, my marriage and my contribution to the cause, I get dressed.  I smooth down the frizzies.  I put on a little concealer.  I say "This job is important, this role matters. And yes, even though it's sometimes hard, you could totally do it, too."



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64 comments :

  1. I hear ya. I've let myself go lately. I do need to point out that "real" pants means any kind of pants other than "pajama" though. Don't argue.

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  2. I needed it, too. Time to engage a little more fully :)

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  3. Flannel shirts and work boots were my late nineties high school uniform. I told my husband the other day that I was so excited b/c I was pretty sure flannel shirts were back in style. And even though I have long ago gotten rid of my college-days thrift store ugly sweaters, I all too often take sweaters out of my husband's "donate to goodwill" pile to keep for myself. I may be a hopeless case. :)

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  4. I never leave the house with my kids w/o getting dressed first. But lots of times I skip (and skip and skip some more) the shower and wear the same miserable elastic waisted outfit for days on end. I never thought to think what message that sends to my children.

    Ugh. Curses!

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  5. You mean my exercise pants don't count? I think applies so much during pregnancy too, when I'm tempting to just be grody and dirty and smelly and blame it all on the pregnancy. And then I have the nerve to tell people how much I LOVE being pregnant. I'm sure lots of folks don't believe me. I've started to try to acquire easy to wear/wash clothes that I can walk out the door in. Being presentable is kind of essential most of the time, as it teaches our kids to feel the same way about themselves, y'know?

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  6. Ah yes! Thanks Dwija! I often look like the wrath of God when I go out of the house.

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  7. i have been prompted to step it up, too. it's sad when my kids ask where i'm going each time i look slightly presentable. i expect them to dress in the morning to prep for their day. it's about time i set the example. ALL FOR!

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  8. Love this. I really love this. I can't leave the house without being showered, dressed, and make-up'ed. That's just my way of feeling good about who I am and what I can accomplish during the day. Since becoming a SAHM, I tend to forget my own needs and tend to only what my family needs. But I deserve to look my best and FEEL my best so I can do my best.

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  9. What a beautiful post...and so thoughtfully put! It's taken me about four years to get this idea down. It was (and is) so easy to just stop caring. Plain and simple. Esp. when your husband is not the "words of affirmation" kind. Who really cares what I look like? Certainly my breastfed newborn doesn't! It's taken me this long to understand that getting ready is for them. Getting ready is for productivity. Getting ready is for my husband. Getting ready is for ME and my sanity.

    But then again, I'm just reiterating what you said...and you said it so much better ;) Good work, mama.

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  10. Alright already! I'll go change out of my PJ bottoms now. Happy!!?!?!?!??!!

    You were speaking directly to me, weren't you? Damn.

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  11. Love it! I try to do this, but some days I fail miserably!! Thanks for the inspiration to keep at it!!

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  12. Thank you. This is awesome!
    You summed up exactly why I dress the way I do. I love skirts and totally non-grunginess, and I feel like a lot of moms are looking at me like, "Oooh you must think you're really something else, wearing real clothes.". But really, I'm just thinking, "I'm trying to make the spit-up on my clothes/ in my hair look a little nicer." :-). I'm going to link to this post in one of my very-near-future posts, I think. Thanks again.

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  13. I love this and I think I need to buy some concealer. Also, now I know that Pearl Jam and Kurt Cobain are to blame for my fashion-faux-pas-ness. I knew there must be a reason.

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  14. Crap. This very thought has been percolating around my brain for a while now and......damn. You just convicted me. Thanks for saying this gently :) I needed to hear this. Now to go shopping.....my family will definitely thank you!!!

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    1. This is why I have such a love affair with Ebates and Ebay- good stewardship of the dinero while simultaneously celebrating the vocation. Win-win!

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  15. Read while wearing my superman t-shirt and black, stretchy, paint stained pants. Same thing I changed into after Mass yesterday and slept in. The saddest part is my first thought was, oh look, not so bad today!

    I need a new wardrobe.

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  16. Sometimes dressing poorly does reflect the condition of your soul to be sure but other times it's simply an indication that you are focusing on other things. I gave up make up a long time ago, no longer colour my hair, and keep it cut at a half inch length. These things don't indicate that I don't care about myself, my loved ones, or the great wide world beyond our walls. They simply say that I have chosen to invest the time and money elsewhere.

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    1. I would say that if one is intentional about these things- she intends to not-dress in a certain way, intends to keep your hair that way on purpose for certain reasons, it fulfills the same goal as someone who puts on make-up and colors their hair- the goal of energizing themselves to be of proper service to their families and community.

      It was really the lack of intention and care that was so detrimental to me in the past, not the lack of a certain type of clothing :)

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    3. Let me try again...Ugh!

      get what Aunt B is trying to say, I think anyway. :) Don't get me wrong, I respect what you are saying, too, Dwija. For some women, being intentional with self-care and dress and personal appearance might be just the thing God is calling them to focus on. I get that and you're right to mention it.

      But for other women, being intentional about personal appearance might not be as vital. Take me, for instance. I can be terribly impatient and rude to my 5 kids and husband. I lack generosity and a joyful attitude and instead of responding with love to the littles around me, I react in anger, especially when I'm inconvenienced. I could spend the rest of my life being intentional in this area alone and still have major work to do. :) Sigh.

      I'm not so sure everyone woman needs to be intentional in their dress and hair and make up. Quite frankly, to add this to my spiritual to-do list overwhelms me. Perhaps that is not what you meant and perhaps that's how I'm reading things...

      I overthink things in a major way...shocking, I'm sure.

      Have a great day.

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    4. I hear what you're saying, I really do. I have the same faults, the same shortcomings. It can be downright atrocious sometimes! What I've found is that for some reason, when I take a moment with the outward things, I somehow feel more calm and patient and kind inside. An uncluttered home and an uncluttered appearance often smooths the edges of my frustration. It probably seems counterintuitive, but my list seems so much shorter when I've prepared physically to battle it. And nothing fancy, honest. Just...you know...not pajamas ;)

      So maybe don't think about it as a thing to add to the spiritual to-do list but rather as a tool toward accomplishing the real, important things that are already on there. Does that even make sense? I do talk too much, that's for sure!

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  17. Glad I curled my hair this morning, after reading this! I also think my kids feel like they're "worth it" when they don't *only* see me dressed up for other people.

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  18. Love the outfit! And the BOOTS! Love 'em. And I'm holding onto all my oversized men's sweaters and chunky jewelry just waiting patiently for that trend to come back. Grunge will be back in before we know it.

    And you are so right :)

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  19. Wow! I really never thought of out all in this way before. Thanks for this amazing, eye opening post. Ask so true. :)

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  20. I love this post. You said it perfectly and when asked about *my feelings about dressing nicely, I will direct the asker to this post. You rocked it.

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  21. My mom frequently expressed the same sentiment to us as kids about keeping the house clean. "Put your things back in your room, please." "Why? Are we having company?" "No, but we live here. I think it's worth having a clean house just for us."

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  22. I'm dumb as a doorknob when it comes to the fashionista thing, but isn't plaid coming back? But not like it was before - more like this, right?

    http://www.pendleton-usa.com/product/Women/BLOUSES-SHIRTS/BLOUSES-SHIRTS/FLANNEL-WEATHER-SHIRT/170086/sc/1740/c/1740/pc/1815.uts

    (And that's a *Pendleton* shirt - an appropriately old-lady enough brand of nice plaid shirts, just to make it clear that I'm not going all Seventeen Magazine on you all. Married and babies and whatnot, you know?)

    I lived the Kurt Cobain years - in the drip-drip-drippy Pacific Northwest. The dream of the 90s is alive in Portland (and Seattle), but, thankfully, the rest of us have moved on.

    All that being said, I'm terrible about getting makeup on, though Cynthia's post the other day inspired me to attempt more frequent applications of mascara. http://schroederfamily-cynthia.blogspot.com/2012/11/7-pretty-little-quick-takes.html

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    1. I think if you've got a belt on and the armpits actually fit...like...your armpits, you are WELL out of the grunge danger-zone. And even if grunge "comes back", we're too old. Because if you were around the first time, you're not allowed to do it the second. Or so they tell me ;)

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    2. Seriously, remember the 70s retro period of, oh, 1997-2002? Or whenever it was? My mother laughed and laughed at the sweaters and jeans we were bringing home, because she had had ones just like them.

      (And before y'all feel old, I am in my thirties... it's just that my mom and dad were married young and didn't wait until they finished their third doctorate or whatever the going rate is now to have me.)

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    3. To clarify: Mom and Dad aren't old. Lived the 70s. Natch.

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  23. Nothing fits and after 3kids, I'm defeated and frustrated. Stretchy pants is all I can do.

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    1. Oh mama, I feel your pain! Babies can put such a strain on our bodies. Give yourself time. For everything there is a season. Take it slow and allow yourself to love the new you. Sometimes something new-to-you in a different cut than you used to wear can be enough to make your day brighter. Hugs!

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  24. I'm so with you on this Dwija. It's a "soapbox" issue of mine.

    Really, it takes all of 5 minutes for me to put on a full face of makeup, 2.5 seconds to put on some pretty earrings, and a bit of self-control to resist buying yoga pants.

    It's really about others and dignity, it's like manners.

    I love your gentle encouragement here!

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  25. Such great motivation! I am glad that I have motivation (aka work) on Monday - Friday to motivate me. I just need to work on Saturday. I do get ready on Sunday for church, but have just in the last year or so started "dress"-ing up for Mass. I thought it was sad that I was dressing up for weddings, other events more than I was dressing up for God. Like you said, it is good for our kids to see us dress up. :-)

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  26. I definitely have standards for myself, and the way I am dressed, especially in public. But I've never thought about the idea of trying to make a good impression on those who may be frightened by the idea of having a large family -- great point!

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  27. LOVE this! Thanks for the encouragement and humble honesty - both desperately needed today =) kuddos! pax, amanda

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  28. You were speaking to me today. I just began homeschooling my first grade daughter this year, and I think I really need to put more effort into getting up early and getting dressed nicely. It will set a good tone for the day and hopefully help her take it seriously. I'm also at the point where I'm trying to look better when I go out, but I've never cared much about my hair. (What's wrong with a pony tail?) I've never been to a salon for more than a cut, and just recently colored my hair at home for the first time. I do not wear make-up, but I hate the way it feels on my face, and the expense and learning curve are daunting to me. It will be embarassing one day when I realize that I really and truly NEED it! I've noticed that I do feel better and have more confidence when I look nice when I go out, but I still need a good kick in the butt to remember this and actually do it much of the time. Thanks for putting this so clearly and gently. I'm sure my husband will appreciate it!

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    1. And I would say that if make-up makes you feel uncomfortable, then don't wear it! The idea isn't to be someone you're not as much as the best version of the person God intended you to be. I don't dye my hair either and I don't cake the make-up on because that isn't me. But shuffling around in my pajamas all day isn't me either ;)

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  29. I shower every single day. I put on decent clothes (though they usually end up spit stained). I have no holes in my non-yoga pants. I put on some concealer and powder my nose when I go out. I am conscious of how my hair looks, in and out of the house.
    I still won't wear lipstick though.
    :)

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  30. Hah! Love it! See? Being intentional doesn't have to be something crazy. And it means different things for everyone! For me it's yes on the lipstick but no-not-ever on the powder :)

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  31. love this! i am soooo guilty of sweats at home but getting dressed fun to go hang out w/ my friends on my rare solo-excursions. Though currently I always have a cute baby accessory since she is not leave-able yet :)

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  32. Ok, Dwij- I'll put on concealer and comb my hair. But the flannel stays!

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  33. I agree with so much of this! I refuse to not get dressed everyday. I also homeschool so I know how easy it would be to stay in a track suit and ponytail every single day. I was a daily ponytail wearer until just this past month when something told me that if I was going to have all this hair, the least I could do was treat it well. Not to say there aren't still ponytail days, but they are now once or twice a week as opposed to all the time. Excellent post! :)

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  34. There are righteous justifications for my overstuffed closet and vanity each morning? alright!

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  35. I don't know if any of you are familiar with the singer Marie Bellet, but she has a fantastic song that speaks to this. It is called "What Difference Does It Make?"

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  36. Excellent post! I'm pretty passionate about this issue, I think because I was a homeschooler and I was always obsessed with people assuming my homeschooler status by how I dressed. Eventually my obsession with not looking homeschooled turned into developing my own style and look. Now that I'm a young mom at home, I believe how I dress and take care of myself is a reflection of the joy and fulfillment I feel in my vocation and it's one of my strongest tools for evangelization. Thank you for so eloquently sharing this sentiment :-)

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    1. How you've expressed yourself here in your comment is quite eloquent! Thank you.

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  37. Eddie was more my guy than Kurt - but YES - this journey took years, the mentalities were buried in the psyche in all these surprising places! (Still finding them?? I'm only 5 years into marriage and on toddler #2, we are still perfecting this mothering operation!) Nihilism and sloth merge so conveniently in the psyche as well...from style to sin/concupiscence in less than 60 seconds! Even though I was always a 2-sided coin, 1 side loving to dress up for special events like prom and dances, and the other loving to rock a flannel and skip the makeup, it amazes me how easily I absorbed the mentality of the day which I nicely took into my college campus ministry conversion a la "spiritually poor means not caring about the hair and makeup or what anyone thinks of me, judge me for who I am not what I look like." Never could quite shake the back and forth though, it depended on my mood, I was 75 % plain jane and 25% fashionable - which tells you something, being always drawn back to femininity. We are meant to prepare and groom ourselves, just like we are meant to work on acquiring virtues and advancing the purification of our souls (through the work of the Holy Spirit)! I think at the end of the day the reason I kept bouncing OUT of the feminine grooming was that NO ONE could give me a good reason to be feminine! That just wasn't PC! Nobody was talking about it. Thankfully that has changed a whole lot! Nice reflection Dwija, important stuff.

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  38. Look at you sassy pants! This is such an aptly-timed posts, I have been thinking the same thing lately. I definitely notice that when I make a little effort in the morning (or afternoon, let's be honest) to get "dressed" and maybe throw on some make-up, I feel better about myself, which of course, affects everything else.

    I'm still not really out of the yoga-pants stage, because I have no clothes that fit and I HATE spending money on new clothes when I feel like I'm always pregnant anyways, but I'm working on it. (The clothes that is, NOT the pregnant part!)

    I loved how you approached this, perfect.

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  39. Oh, I so agree! I am very encouraged by a friend of mine (can I still call her my friend when she is at least 20 years my senior? Yes? Okay) who has 6 children, the eldest of whom is handicapped (wheelchair et al) and always looks so well put together. Even when she claims that she's grungy and in her house clothes, she still looks a sight better than whenever I'm grunged at home (new word: grunged) So yes. I love this post and all it's contents. Thank you! I hope I remember this when/if I'm a mama!

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  40. Love this post! I whole heartedly agree but I don't think I'd ever been able to articulate why. My husband thinks that show "What not to wear" is ridiculous but I have tried to explain how its so much more than just buying new clothes--its about taking care of yourself and showing the world that you feel good about yourself, but I just never could really say it how you put it in this post. Thank you for saying it, and saying it so well!

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  41. your so right ! God Bless You ! I have been really letting go lately, not caring how I look like and what not. I have a one year old, and thinking about myself is really hard at time. I think about my sons eating, sleeping, moods, activities for him to enjoy that I forget who I am. I really needed this, thank you for this beautiful reminder
    Mommy of a one year old
    Kanda

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  42. How did you know that when I finally read this today I would be sitting on my couch on Mother's Day not wearing pants at all. Oh, I had pants on earlier today when I went to church...but even that was iffy for me and I was more than tempted just to skip the pants and not leave the house at all. DH left yesterday for a 3week trip to Amsterdam and I am home with the kids by myself again for Mother's Day (tradition in the making). Anyhow I think it is a good reminder to be deliberate in my dress and appearance. It is too easy for me to say "aw, forget it" and list my excuses for not getting dressed or putting on a presentable face. I wanna move to the west side of this mitten just to hang out with you.

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  43. I'm currently reading Gregory Popcak's Beyond the Birds and the Bees and there's a quote in there that says something about how the body is the "seat of the soul"...this really hit me! Your post confirms something I've been thinking about a lot lately, so thank you for sharing your thoughts on this!

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  44. Johnette Benkovic jokes that wearing makeup is an act of charity as she gets older:)

    I've just come to this realization myself. If they're going to say, "how do you do it?" or "You must be busy/crazy" at least they will wonder how I look so 'good while doing it.

    Plus its an affirmation to my husband. If I can spend a few extra minutes on my appearance for church and moms nights out, I can easily do that right before he comes home. A great Marriage writer speaks about how we want men to fawn over us like the day they fell in love with that college hottie but we consciously let ourselves go and expect the same treatment. I do my hair during naptime and reapply the lipgloss at 5:00 and he has the same reaction: Wow you've taken care of my children, are feeding me and look great... and the affection comes back.

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