In high school, I wanted to be shorter…and smarter, so that life would be easier in college. In college, I wanted to be prettier, skinnier (darn Freshman 15!), and smarter, so that I could get married and get into a top graduate school. By the time I was in graduate school, I was tired. And married. And pregnant with my second kid. All I wanted to be was finished. (Successfully, of course, so that I could get a good job.)
In the few years since grad school, I can honestly say that I haven’t wanted much, except to make sure that we could pay the bills and that we were raising well-adjusted, happy and well-behaved children (no sweat, right?!). And suddenly I noticed that now that I’ve reached all of those goals of my earlier life, I am no longer as critical of the way I look as I used to be (and anyone who knew me then, knows I really used to be). Part of me feels that I’m giving up some sort of womanly privilege to look good because I’m too busy being comfortable. Should I put more of an effort into the way I look each day, like some of my friends who actually take time to blow dry their hair or to wear a shaitel just because it looks nice? Should I make an effort to wear more fitted clothing just because I can?
In reality, however, I’m a self-proclaimed “fleece bag-lady.” I just can’t help it. It doesn’t help that 50% of my wardrobe is made of fleece. 45% more is hand-me downs or gifts from generous sisters in law or my mother – or a few pieces that I finally fit into again after high school, purchased in the days where I had to look good or I’d never find a husband. The last 5% is actually clothing that I purchased myself. Probably not recently. It might also help to mention that 9/10 skirts in my closet are made of denim. It’s a really good thing that denim is socially acceptable in Israel, because I’ve worn it on many an interview, since I had nothing else suitable to wear.
Lately, I really wish I could stop wearing fleece (and possibly even denim). I’m not honestly sure why. But no matter how many non-fleece items are in my closet, I find myself with almost no motivation to put them on. It’s probably because it’s the winter, and I’m cold ALL THE TIME. But I think that’s just an excuse. So is the fact that I’m taking care of the kids at different points during the day. After all, my sister is a kindergarten teacher, and she’s not nearly as frumpy as I am. I rationalize to myself that I’m more productive since I don’t waste time on vanities. That I can work with sharper focus because I’m comfortable. And it’s possible that these thoughts have some truth behind them.
A lot of women I know say they dress well for themselves, so they feel good about themselves. But I feel good when I’m warm and comfortable. So should it matter if I always look frumpy? I feel like it should, but I just can’t bring myself to change. Is it laziness? Fear that I might not like what I see when I actually take time to look in the mirror?
I question whether wearing lipstick or stylish clothing will really make me a better person – even if it will make me a more attractive one. Part of my conflict lies in the fact that as the mother of girls, I want them to take pride in who they are, to feel good not only about the way they live their lives (as I do), but about the way they present themselves (which I don’t, mostly). If I continue being a fleece bag lady, I may be serving my own needs, but am I really doing what’s best for my girls? On the other hand, I see that they’re already more interested in makeup and hair things than I am – so perhaps my disinterest has served its purpose, and inspired them to embrace the physical beauty that G-d has given them.
What’s a busy, cold and over-tired mother to do?