I was digging through old photo albums when I was home over Thanksgiving and came across a photograph of me as a toddler wearing a headband, navy blue Mickey Mouse muscle shirt and a tutu.
“I can’t believe you let me wear that!” I said to my mother.
“Oh, honey,” she said, “that was an outfit you picked out all on your own. You stopped letting me dress you when you were 2 years old. I used to send beautiful clothes with the tags still on to your cousin Josephine because you refused to wear them.” She sighed.
This should have been a sign that I would spend the rest of my young life confused about clothing, fashion, what is appropriate for various situations and having extreme wardrobe malfunctions at the office. Seriously. I once had to show up to a family wedding wearing a lime green bra under a white dress shirt because I my mom had forgotten to bring my bag from the cabin. But this past weekend takes the cake.
I’ve been palling around with an 88 year old woman as of late in my spare time. She is the grandmother of the little girl I nannied for last fall and is in need of some organizing following a move from her McLean home into a 2-bedroom apartment in assisted living. She is still smart as a whip, a great conversationalist and as she has been heavy in the DC/VA Democratic politics for the last 60 some odd years, has not only great stories but great political artifacts that I have been charged with sorting through.
Last weekend she asked if following our usual day of paper sorting, I would accompany her to a Christmas party, as she is not comfortable driving at night. She kept referring to it as the “Robb event” and in my distracted/it’s a Thursday night and I had 2 glasses of wine before I came here/I’m exhausted state failed to put together that the Robb she was speaking of was the former Governor and Senator for the state of Virginia who is married to President Johnson’s daughter, Lynda Bird.
I did my best to pull it together Sunday afternoon- I had been told me to dress up and dress conservatively, but in my young mind that equals keep your tattoos covered, not you are going to a former governor’s house. I did my best: black skirt, black sweater over a black and white plaid button down (untucked!) and the piece de resistance- black motorcycle boots. These ones specifically.
That is correct, I MET A FORMER VIRGINIA GOVERNOR AND HIS WIFE- THE FORMER PRESIDENT’S DAUGHTER- WEARING THESE BOOTS. At their house! At their Christmas party! I think this is where I should add a for the win! to wrap things up, but it gets kind of worse. The second I walked into the house and took in the men in suits on a Sunday evening and the women either in suits or the skirt/sweater/blouse equivalent, I immediately regretted all decisions I had made that day.
I guided my old lady to a couch where she saw some of her friends, sat her down, retrieved her a glass of white wine while secretly and frantically trying to tuck in my button down shirt, smooth my hair and uncuff my sleeves. I sat down on the couch next to her, eyes wide, wondering if this was my real life. An old lady sat down on my left, “are you part of the household?” she asked. Oh god. She thought I was the help.
I watched the properly and confidently dressed men and women coming and going in front of me, taking in the beautiful home and wondering both how I had ended up at such an event and again, how I had managed to get it so wrong. I put a smile on my face, escorted my old lady around the room and honestly was slightly relieved that I could hide my poor grooming behind being my old lady’s ride to the party.
As we walked down past the indoor pool and off to a side room, I was introduced to Helen Thomas, the White House Correspondent who retired this year after she made questionable comments about Israel. The two women spoke candidly about President Obama and my generation and while I leaned in to catch their quiet voices, all I could think about was I met Helen Thomas! The first female of the National Press Club and White House Corespondents’ Association! A legacy! While wearing motorcycle boots…
Shortly after, my old lady announced our departure and we rose to leave. As I stood outside waiting for the valet to bring around her car, I recognized a Senator my association had honored in May. I introduced myself, explained where I worked and told him I just wanted to say hello. He looked me up and down, paused and said, “what are you doing here?” and not in a conversation-starter way, but more seriously, how did you get into this party? type of way. Maybe it was the motorcycle boots that tipped him off.
And again- win some, lose some, but at least do it in style.