Katy Waldman of Slate wrote a piece about mistaking her mother’s nightgown for a sundress and accidentally wearing it to work.
Want to guess what happened when this twenty something editor of Slate arrived at the office wearing her 60-year-old mother’s nightgown?
If you said absolutely nothing, you’d be correct.
Most miraculously of all, no one had seemed to notice. (I checked with co-workers the day after I found out about the gaffe, and they pled total obliviousness. Plus, as of now, I still have my job.)
Waldman waxes on amusingly about the possible lessons learned from this experience but eventually lands on the real lesson:
“How you look really doesn’t matter as much as you think.”
It’s a universal truth that takes so many people so long to learn, and for a great many, it is something that is never learned. The fact that Waldman has come to this understanding in her twenties is an accomplishment.
It often much longer to come to this realization.
In fact, if Waldman is single and you live in the Washington, DC area, I would suggest you find and marry her immediately. There’s nothing better in the world than being married to a woman who can throw on a tee shirt, a pair of jeans and a baseball cap and leave the house without a thought about makeup, hair or any other nonsense.
I made a list of things I wanted in a wife before I met Elysha, and this was one of them. I also wanted her to be British, speak Spanish and be independently wealthy, but I’d take her confident, carefree nature over almost any other quality any day.
Last week our school hosted its annual fair. One of the featured attractions of the fair is a dunk tank. Every year teachers climb into the tank and allow children to attempt to dunk them into the water below.
Every year I am surprised that more teachers don’t volunteer for this opportunity. How often in your life are you going to have the chance to sit in a dunk tank and make children laugh? It’s one of those experiences that you will never forget.
While there are many good reasons not to participate in the dunk tank, I’ve been told by colleagues in the past that one of the reasons they don’t volunteer is because they are worried about their hair and makeup. I politely nod at this assertion, but in my head, I’m thinking something like this:
“The only person who even notices your hair and makeup is you. Honestly, no one gives a damn about what you look like, and we almost never notice your appearance on a day to day basis. You know those “good hair days?” You’re the only person on the planet who knows your having a good hair day, and more important, you’re the only one who even cares. You have the opportunity to make a lifelong memory. You have the chance to make kids laugh. You’re going to let your hair stand in the way? That’s either tragic or pathetic. No, it’s both.”
Despite a host of parental assertions, character-building literature and after-school specials, people continue to believe that appearance matters, and while it may to a small degree (and for a small, materialistic percentage of the population, it might mean a lot), Waldman is right.
How you look really doesn’t matter as much as you think.
For Waldman, this realization required accidentally wearing her mother’s nightgown to work (though she was probably on the path to realization before this incident. For others, this truth tends to come with age, increasing self confidence and wisdom.
For people like me, a childhood spent with ill-fitting, hand-me-down clothing and $5 haircuts teaches you this lesson. Though you’re clearly not wearing any of the trendy clothing that your classmates are wearing, you eventually realize that no one seems to care. You worry like hell about it for a while, and then one day you come to the understanding that clothing is fairly irrelevant. Your hair is fairly irrelevant. Even things like your weight and height are fairly irrelevant.
If you’re funny, brave, well informed and occasionally helpful, that’s about all you need in life to be accepted.
If you don’t believe me, if you think that this scene from The Devil Wears Prada actually possesses a kernel of real truth, I suggest you wear your mother’s nightgown to work one day and see what happens.