I have lived in South Florida for the majority of my adult life. I don't now (Praise the Lord and Pass the Prozac) but the simple fact that I did, has left an indelible mark on my neurosis, uh, I mean personality.
South Florida is like this caricature of stereotypes. You have the horrendously, unimaginably poor...who are conveniently installed on every street corner to remind you how good you've got it. You have the unrelentingly rich, who are busy cutting you off on I-95 in their Ferrari's. You have the young and innocent that are frantically trying to prove that they are sex symbols, in their barely there shorts and skirts and see through shirts with peek-a-boo bras. You have the old and withered that refuse the be called Grandma and insist on dressing, ironically enough, identically to the young girls who have the fashion sensibilities of a hooker.
Living there can teach you alot about what you don't want to be...and can give you some pretty disturbing insights into the values of this country...my favorite illustration of this had to be the apartment complex that I lived in for several years in my early mid-twenties. The apartments were nice...the rent was truly a bargain...the location was quiet and serene...what masqueraded as the school district was something more akin to cell block D. Anyway, what amazed me more than anything was the number of Porsche's, BMW's and Mercedes that were parked there...I never could figure out why, if you had the money for both rent *and* an enormous car payment you wouldn't do something reasonable like, oh, I don't know, BUY A FRICKIN HOUSE?!?! Honestly the answer was simple...no one sees you drive your house. Only the people that happen to be there at the moment that you are turning into the driveway have any notion that that house might belong to you...or that you are delivering pizza there. Either way...me? I never got that.
Anyway, one of the lessons that I gleaned from this experience came directly from the "Glam-ma's"...and that was that I never want to be one of *those* women...you know, the ones that dress 20 years too young. Now I am in my 30's and no where near South Florida. And I keep worrying that I have become my own version of this...now, before you start busying yourself with calling me a hussy, let me to explain...in FL I never worried that I was dressing like the club kids...I keep as much of myself covered as the weather will allow. Mommyhood has added so much too my life...much of it around my mid-section, so I will keep that to myself, thankyouverymuch. Now that I am in PA, I still don't dress scandalously...the coverage is strictly G rated. BUT. I don't dress like the other moms. At all. I don't wear cardigans and mommy jeans. I am not a turtleneck and loafer girl. I wear cords and funny t-shirts, Doc Martens and funky hats. My wardrobe lends itself well to playing with the kids...my shirts make me laugh (or at least smile), my pants give me breathing room enough that I can crawl around or run, my shoes ensure that I can step anywhere and not worry that my socks will get wet. I am comfortable this way...when I look in the mirror, I think I look fine...the face I see is the same as I have always seen, so it doesn't look haggard to me, perched atop whatever ensemble I have pieced together from skulls and witty sayings...but I wonder...especially since it is not so different from how my kids are dressed.
None of the other mom's talk to me. For the year that I was here as a single parent, I chalked it up to me being viewed as something of a threat...NOBODY was a single mother at any of the venues I went to...the husbands didn't talk to me out of respect for their wives (or perhaps fear for their lives...not sure), the wives didn't talk to me out of ?? Fear that single parenting was contagious? Not really sure...I would talk about my hubby all the time, to any one that would listen...I wanted to reassure them that I really wasn't some cougar out after their man. That I was a wife, just like them. After a year they were (I guess rightfully) skeptical.
When my husband finally arrived, I wanted to trot him out at every possible occasion...like as though I was saying, "See, I told you I had a husband!!!". I figured the ice would thaw and the other mothers would welcome me to their little club. We could schedule playdates and carpools and...yeah, didn't happen.
My husband rationalized well, you know, they stay at home and you work full time, outside of the home...you are the major bread winner, so you are kind of different from them...maybe you seem a little threatening. A little odd. I mean we are in the middle of Amish country after all...
Then I lost my job. A part of me thought wow, now I really am on a level playing field. I have a husband - see him? Over there? - I stay at home and care for my kids. I have girl parts...so, can I join? Apparently still not.
I take my daughter to story time at the library...the mothers all seem to know one another, and hang out. I try saying hi and half of them don't even acknowledge me. So I play with the kids. The kids seem to like me well enough.
I take my daughter to dance class...we all wait out in the waiting room for the full hour. I actually have a friend there...we talk for most of the hour, and occasionally the other mothers talk to her too. When she is not there? Nobody even looks at me twice. Or at least not while I am watching.
I go to birthday parties with the kids. The parents all stand around and watch, and catch up on what little Johnny and Sally have been doing since last they saw one another...I smile and look hopefully at them. Nobody engages me in conversation...well nobody except for Weird Uncle Joe, decked out all in Camo, that hasn't been right since that cow kicked him in the head. He talks to me. And he drools. And he smells. Please someone, come and take Uncle Joe away...
My hubby says that the problem is that we moved into the 1950's. He is supposed to make friends, then when we socialize with them, I can be friends with the wives. Clever. Except that he is anti-social at best, and only grudgingly socializes with anyone that he didn't either marry or produce from his loins.
I am wondering if the problem isn't more superficial...I look around at all of the mom's and I notice that they all look sort of similar. They all have this short, highlighted hair-do. This has different degrees...from barely distinguishable from their husbands' haircut to just brushing the shoulders. The color is a warm, medium brown...again variations in there range from dark blond to kind of auburn. Me? I have waist length black hair. No curls, no waves, no highlights - though I am thinking of adding some funky colored chunks (see, this might be the problem). It's not a bad haircut...in fact it looks really nice on a lot of hem...I don't think I have the face for it. They are all wearing sweatshirts or fleece that have either repetitive patterns, are plain or have some kind of animal on them. (Quick story, this one rather "well endowed" mother had on this forest green sweatshirt with puppies cuddling on the front. Every time she would move, the puppies would bulge. I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying "Let the puppies free!!!" - I am clearly not right). Me? If it has anything on it, it is likely a skull. Or Tinkerbell. Or some snarky saying such as "I'm the evil twin". Because I am. Did you read the part about the puppies???
So I am wondering, in short, if they are put off by my appearance. Do I not look "mom-ish" enough? My kids seem to think I am the real deal...I feel like they look at me as the "teenaged mother" of the group...the funny thing is, I am probably more Martha Stewart than 90% of them. Ya know, if Martha Stewart wore combat boots...to church...
Does there come a point in time when we are supposed to stop dressing how we like and how we feel and instead dressing like we *should*? When I was working, I did lots and lots and lots of dressing how I should...Monday through Friday from 7AM - 6PM. The way I dress is sort of like me wearing my personality on on my sleeve. I am comfortable, ironic, whimsical, useful...and if I follow that logic I suppose dead...because skulls are nothing if not dead. But still. Is their outfit an indication of who they are? Is there a stay at home mom uniform that I am supposed to don in order to fit in? And if I did, and it got me in, would my personality get me kicked out? Because my personality is a far cry from puppies in fall leaves...and I can't take that off.