For a short time, I had a humorous/observational column in a local magazine called Upstate Women. Unfortunately, the magazine is no longer being published. I enjoyed the experience of writing a column so much, that I would like to continue writing in that vein. So once a month, I will offer a new column about something that bugs me in some way that may strike a chord with you, too.
Several of the columns you will see have already been published; the others were written after the demise of the magazine. The column will be called "Inanities" because I feel that is the word which aptly describes the things that make us want to smack our heads in frustration. Please let me know your reactions to these columns as I would enjoy hearing what bugs you, too. You can reach me at email@example.com.
by Nancy Rechtman
Who are "they?" When we were young, "they" were the ones who always got to do all the things we begged our parents to allow us to do. But Mom, they get to eat candy before dinner! But Mom, they get to go to bed after midnight! But Mom, they get to wear make-up! They had the greatest parents that ever lived because they were allowed to do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. And when our parents asked us who, exactly, are they, we had vague answers. They are everybody else we would defiantly shout! But we usually couldn't name names. All that mattered was that they were who we wanted to be.
Now that we are older, I am again wondering who "they" are and why we want to be like them. Because now they control what we buy, what we wear, what we look like, and how we think of ourselves. Remember how a couple of years ago, they told us the camouflage look was the new look? Everywhere you turned, you couldn't see anything, because it was all camouflaged! Pants, jackets, pocketbooks looked as if they should be hidden in a forest next to Bambi. Then we blinked our eyes and the next season they told us to look soft and feminine, no longer like we crawled out of a mudhole in mid-battle. We were suddenly supposed to look like some version of a Harlequin romance heroine. Then last summer, they ordered us to deck out in all things turquoise - turquoise bracelets, earrings, necklaces, toe rings... Don't get me wrong. I think turquoise is a lovely stone - in moderation. But all you could find in the jewelry departments of any store at the mall were mounds of turquoise. Visions of Santa Fe and Taos floated through my head every time I walked through a mall! Then, one morning in the fall, I was watching an interview with one of these arbiters of fashion when she pronounced that turquoise was now out and some other stone was going to be the "in" thing for fall. What! What were all the stores going to do with their endless supply of turquoise? Open a rock quarry? And what about all the vulnerable women who, like lemmings, had trusted these fashionistas and bought a trunkload of the stuff? What was to become of them?
Why are we so willing to let other people tell us how we should look? Once we are past the age of 18, do we really look cute in shorts that cut off our circulation? Is it really attractive for us to wear the same peasant look we wore when we were our kids' age? And, by the way, why can't we wear white pants in winter? Hey, it would blend in with the snow and we could have our own camouflage look that way! Why are we so afraid to go against "them?"
Of course, there are certain styles which are timeless that we all flock to, like comfortable old friends. Such as the little black dress that we're all supposed to have in our closets for every occasion. Wear it to a cocktail party, wear it to the theater, wear it to a funeral, one dress solves it all. And does it really matter if every other woman in the room is wearing their little black dress? We might as well all blend into the wallpaper.
Wearing stripes is always in style, but lately, it seems that every women's department in every store I go into is teeming with stripes. As you walk through these stores, you are adrift in a sea of thin stripes, thick stripes, multi-colored stripes, stripes upon stripes...And they're all horizontal - to make us look even bigger than we already are?! You might be able to find some florals thrown in and, of course, the ubiquitous solids. But it seems that the wild imaginations of the fashion denizens who control our buying power want us to look as if we are mutant zebras. I looked in my closet the other day and saw that I actually had four red and white striped shirts. And five black and white striped shirts. Sure, they had different sleeve lengths and the stripes varied in thickness. But they were all striped shirts with the same exact colors in them! Why is that? And what does that say about me?
Once again, it goes back to our desire to fit in and be one of "them." We want to be different, but not too different. We want to look like we are in, but don't want to look exactly like each other. We want to believe we are wearing cool clothing, but within the boundaries of what people will think is cool. Because if you go out-of-bounds, two things are possible. One is, you might look like a fool. But the second, and even worse fate is... well, here's an example. Let's say you find what you think is this amazingly unique shirt at the store with abstract giraffes and palm trees in a melange of bright colors and you buy it thinking that it's one-of-a-kind. And then you go to meet your friends for lunch and, ohmygosh! They are all wearing the same shirt, too! Quelle horror! (Not to mention the sight of a bunch of women sitting at a table wearing neon jungle prints across their chests!) Get the picture? But if you all show up in stripes, even if they are the same color, who will care?
I'm not sure what the solution to all of this is, but I am getting awfully tired of being told how to look and what to buy. I am a unique individual and want to express that in the way I dress. Just like everybody else.
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved. Small excerpts of the column may be republished as long as appropriate credit is given. To request permission to publish larger portions or the entire column, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.