Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Shoe on the Other Foot

Remember wardrobe malfunctions? Yeah, me, too. I think I told you all about my swimming suit catastrophe in high school. That was an accident. Strictly speaking, it was a series of accidents, the kind of cataclysm that makes you think there has to be something to waking up under the wrong stars. My mother used to quip, “I should’a’ stood in bed.” But the keyword on that unfortunately funny day was accident.

There’s no way I could have known that not one, not two but three bathing suits would, uh, let me down, so to speak, all in one day. It was my own personal disaster movie.
And then there are those self-inflicted wardrobe malfunctions.

I know there is a classic dream sequence that goes something like you are standing in front of your classroom reading your book report when you happen to notice that you have forgotten to dress for the day and you are (fill in the blank) nude, still in your pajamas, in a clown suit or otherwise embarrassingly not ready for prime time.
Seriously, stuff like this really happens. Maybe you’ve been there?

Like many of my contemporaries, I am half-convinced that today’s fashions actually free a person from the fear of wardrobe errors. After all, if it’s OK to display various sections of your undergarments as a fashion statement, doing so by accident could at worst be seen as an ambiguous style choice. Which is worse? The classic tradesman dorsal cleavage, or purposefully having your pants waist somewhere south of your own waist? At least the tradesman can stand up and resolve the problem although by that time the viewers’ eyes may have melted right out of their skulls. There’s a scene from one of the Indiana Jones movies that comes to mind when faced with the unexpected moon shot. There but for the grace of, well, you get the idea.
But we’re used to thinking of these things as something to resolve or better still avoid rather than parade. So when the younger folks present themselves with what we would consider at the very least a hobbling trousers-and-drawers combination, we blurt before we can stop ourselves, “Pull up your pants!”

Oh, yes, yes, I know that the baggy pulled down thing is supposed to indicate that one might be concealing something more than the usual equipment, perhaps a deadly weapon, in the extra space created between the wearer’s natural branching and the britches hung low. For me, of course, the deadliest weapon is the laugh-inducing, blushing in sympathy, head-desk inspiring vision of a young person trying to be cool. I’m sure there’s a more up-to-date word for cool now, but in the effort to keep my embarrassment at a distance I have not kept up with the latest patois.
It becomes astonishing to us to learn that the victims of terminal embarrassment we are trying to save are actually ourselves. It’s quite certain that the pants fashionistas feel pride, not shame at their selection. Why, I remember fondly when one’s choice of foundation garments was a secret sense of pleasure at the surprise it would bring that special other person when breathlessly revealed. No, that wasn’t in the 19th century or in a Bronte novel. So the sudden revelation to an unintended audience was, well, it wasn’t a fashion choice.

Ah, but what about those unwitting choices we make? One of the hazards of the workaday world is that we have to dress for the public and admittedly more conservative professional environment before we are fully awake and often without the benefit of proper lighting.
The key here is preparation. When it came to getting ready for work, this was never my strong suit, no pun intended. I dressed according to my mood for work. If I felt gloomy and dark that morning, I would wear something appropriately sepulchral if only in color. If I felt bright and cheery, I went with pastels all the way. Felt like blending into the woodwork? Beiges and browns, of course! And I never wanted to pick the mood-o-day mode-o-day the night before. No, the day deserved its own mood.

Naturally, this made getting ready in the morning a bit of a daily crisis, which served doubly as a natural sort of double espresso. There’s nothing like a time deadline to get things right when you’re half asleep, dressing in the dark and terrified of being late to work. Anything that went the least bit wrong was magnified.

In hot and humid Illinois summer mornings, I would regularly ruin 3 or 4 pairs of pantyhose by putting my thumbs through them trying to drag them up my humid skin. There was no cure for this except having many, many pairs of pantyhose. God forbid that I wear hose with runs in them or not wear them at all. It wasn’t done. I kept spare pairs in my desk drawer. I did the same with earrings because nothing could horrify me more than the sight of myself, finally awake in the office ladies room with earlobes with holes and no earrings.
Nothing could save me from myself ultimately. My shoe habit, for the purchase of so many pairs of shoes could only be described in terms of addiction, often took the form of buying a style I liked in every color available. At least once I looked down at my feet about mid-morning only to discover one blue shoe and one black shoe on my feet, doomed to wear them the rest of the day.

This is the exact scenario portrayed in the 7 of Wands in the RWS deck. Our hero is essentially not quite ready. He is, at least, on top of things, but it’s pretty clear when you look at him that this could change at any minute. This guy is getting no breaks. If you look closely, you’ll see that he has one shoe on and one boot on. Was it a decision made in haste? He obviously has higher priorities at this moment than fashion. Would a little preparation have helped? He is Mr. Wardrobe Malfunction and he will take care of it later, thanks. Please call back when he’s not busy.

This is one of the best reasons I can think of for having a buddy at work, someone who might help you notice that there is some small thing you want to resolve before it really matters to you. When I was a new computer programmer in Illinois, my buddy was Don. Don was happily married, a little older, funny, smart and not too charming; he was The Friend. We talked over coffee in the break room in the morning.

“You, uh, have a rough morning so far?” He raised his eyebrows and nodded toward my waist where hung the belt to my dress, never buckled.
“Thanks,” I sighed, grateful that this one, at least was easy to fix. And as I left the coffee room, I whispered softly to his shoulder.

“Barn door.”
Yup, it’s good to have a friend at work just in case you aren’t completely prepared.

Best wishes.

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