Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cute is What We Aim For

The other day I was shopping in the sort of establishment where the salespeople wear little blue smocks that resemble the pinnies we used to wear in high school gym to indicate what team we were on. It's not a great look, but it does provide uniformity and recognizability - plus it hides a multitude of sins and protects your clothes.  So it's not all bad.  I will confess, though, that I often picture that moment when one realizes, 'Yeah, this is my life.  I work here, now.' and then - as if to bring the point home - as if they weren't resigned enough - they are handed their pinny and name tag.

Now most folks, based on my own casual observations, tend to dress down under their pinnies.  Makes sense to me.  May as well be comfortable, if no one is going to see your outfit anyway.

But the other day, the young lady who rang up my order was dressed very nicely.  Her hair and makeup were perfect.  Her nails were perfect.  She was clearly a young lady who put a lot of thought and effort into her appearance before being forced to cover it all up with a smock.  Her job, like so many jobs, also required her to wear a lanyard with keys around her neck.  And this is why she drew my attention.  She was wearing her lanyard backwards so that it resembled a choker beneath the open collar of her blouse. It couldn't have been a convenient set-up for when she required her keys, and frankly it didn't look very comfortable - I imagined the weight of her keys pulling back against her throat - but she was doing her damndest to look cute under circumstances that fought her every step of the way.

My initial instinct was to giggle. Pinnies and lanyards aren't cute.  No amount of manipulation is likely to change that.  Save cute for after your shift.

And then I remembered ROTC.

That's right.  In college, this peacemonger was in the ROTC.  Judge if you must.  To those of you who are judging because I took a military obligation casually - I apologize.  You are right and I was wrong.  My only defense is the naivete of youth.  To those of you who are judging because I did something that goes against my basic ideology - I apologize.  You are also right and I am wrong again.  Same defense.  The thing is - I could complete my physical education requirement with two semesters of ROTC or three semesters of health/phys ed.  You do the math.  Also I got those kick-ass combat boots out of it.  I know.  It was terribly flawed logic.  Even offensive to some, I imagine.  But I was young and selfish and it made sense to me at the time.  If you call me out in either direction I won't defend myself.  I may have then, but I won't now.  It wasn't a good or right thing to do, but I did it.

The reason I was in the ROTC was not the point I meant to make today, though - I wanted to talk about the uniform.

We were provided with the aforementioned boots, pants and a shirt in Army green, a webbed belt and a hat.  We were also told to wear a white T-shirt under the shirt, but were not provided with one.  We had to wear this uniform to class once a week.  This was during the big, neon-bright, highly individualistic 80's.  Wearing a drab uniform on campus once a week was a major buzzkill.  I did it, though - because frankly - I would've done almost anything to get out of gym.  I looked at the uniform as a means to escape a pinny.

I, like the young lady in the lanyard choker, did the best I could to make what I was given fashionable.  I regularly ditched the T-shirt, preferring to wear my collar unbuttoned a button or two below regulation and popped (I already told you.  80's.).  I wore my permed hair (80's.  Stay with me here.) in a side ponytail and positioned the hat in a way that would set that off rather than straight on top of my head as I'd been instructed.  I was a little unclear, in my youth, about the concept of uniformity.  I guess if I HAD been clear on the concept, I would've rejected it anyway - so it's sort of a moot point.

It was pretty hard to look cute in that uniform, but I gave it hell trying.

Just like the young lady in the pinny and the choker.

You do the best you can with what you've got.

I am at a place in my life, now, where fashionability - while still desirable - is not a huge priority.  That's a pretty comfortable place to be. (Literally.  You should see my shoe rack.  Comfort reigns supreme.) BUT I need to remember the follies of my own youth before I think about passing judgment on others.  And, once again - 80's.  My fashion follies were massive and awesome.  



Unknown said...

There's got to be a picture somewhere of you in the ROTC uniform, isn't there??

Unknown said...

I love the uniform.. I am a uniform girl from the word go.. I know I am weird.

Theresa said...

Just found your blog and I'm LOVING it!

Katie Gates said...

Very entertaining post, Tammy. When I was dealing with the 4-semester phys ed requirement at college, and I had reached the latter half of my senior year and still needed one more semester of PE, I thought I'd cracked the code when I signed up for bowling. After all, the apparatus INCLUDED ashtrays! I was mistaken in thinking that class would be like some party...

sitting on the mood swing at the playground said...

Oh, Tammy, I love this post and how your mind connects things. I took dance in college to avoid gym. Now I can't hear Neil Diamond without picturing my dance teacher in his tights performing Coming to hindsight maybe I should have opted for gym.

And...uniforms? I learned the hard way NOT to wear a red top and khakis to Target...although I couldn't be stumped when shoppers thought I was a team member and asked where items were.