Tuesday, September 20, 2016

I Didn't Wake Up Like This

Contrary to popular belief I am not opposed to casual attire. When I'm done with work or socializing or errands or anything that has me in front of other humans, it's about 2.3 seconds before I'm in pajama pants, a t-shirt and my hair in a headband. I love to be scrubby around my house. I also think casual has its place in the world for casual events: lunch, running errands, hanging out with friends. Where I have problems is what casual means and why we've gotten to a place where people dress like total slobs in public. Stop the madness.

Let's talk about one that should be easy: the casual workplace. I HATE the casual workplace, and the only reason I hate it is because humans can't be trusted to dress responsibly. (Please note I'm referring only to the corporate/business workplace. Obviously there are lots of jobs where one does not or should not dress in a suit.) A few weeks ago Forbes published an article titled "Why You Should Dress 25 Percent Better than Everyone in the Office". I love this article. If you want to be taken seriously as a leader, dress the part.

I will never forget an instance when I worked in the Michigan House of Representatives. My office had a no denim policy, so even on more casual Mondays or Fridays we were dressed up. The legislature is only in Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and the way some staff dressed on the other two days is shocking. Once I got called to a last minute meeting on a Friday with a roomful of legislators. I was thankful to be wearing a skirt, blouse and boots. Another staffer (from a different office) showed up in painted on jeans, a low-cut top and a weird jacket with a furry collar. One of the legislators made fun of her out loud to the room. It was rude of him to do so, but everyone was thinking the same thing: you're at work. Dress the part. 

In my head the casual workplace means business casual. For women that means pants (not jeans unless dark and really otherwise dressed up), a blouse or sweater or a casual dress (knit, sweater dress). For guys that means pants (same caveat with jeans) and a polo or button down. Those are the options. It makes me crazy to see people going to work in an environment that requires professional attire wearing clothes I wouldn't wear to walk my dogs. Lately I've seen some particularly egregious things that make me cringe.

Ladies I know rompers are popular this year, but let's be honest, they look good on about 2.3% of the population. I have a girlfriend who is tall and thin and looks amazing in a romper. You know what she'd never do? Wear it to work because one should never EVER wear a one-piece romper or jumper to an office. I saw someone wearing one last week, and I think I actually stumbled in my heels while staring. If you are fortunate enough to be able to wear a romper (thanks to my curves I am not), then wear one to brunch. Wear one to Target. One of the lines in the Forbes article says dressing better than others telegraphs that you're in charge. Wearing a romper to the office means you don't want people to take you seriously. 

There are some easy casual office faux pas: socks with sandals (please stop); Crocs (well ever. Please never wear Crocs);  shorts (unless you're at an office golf outing. Sole exception); anything ill fitting that regularly shows a bra or thong unless you regularly pull it up; any workout attire (ANY). I have other personal things that bother me, but they're at least livable sins. There are lots of people whose clothes don't fit well or just aren't right for them, but if they're trying then that's something. At least try people.

The atrocities of the casual workplace pale in comparison to the rest of the world. My husband and I are flying next weekend, and I wonder when people started treating the airport like their living room. I don't dress up to fly (unless I'm coming from work or need to be dressed up when I land somewhere). When we last few to Virginia I wore shorts, a tank top and running shoes because I didn't have room to pack them. I was not wearing the cutest outfit ever, but it was casually appropriate. I don't need to see your pajamas. Ever. Unless we're having a sleepover. Why do you need to wear workout attire to be comfortable? Workout clothes are for working out. Try pants or shorts. You know...with a button. Workout clothes are appropriate when going to and from a workout. I often wear running clothes to drop off my son at daycare and then go running. But I don't wear them all day (again different if you're a yoga instructor or a personal trainer; that's work appropriate.)

Here's another one I find amazing: shirts that show one's midriff. I'm not at all anti; as a matter of fact I think it's cute if done right. I spent my freshman year in college never covering mine. But I had 6-pack abs and worked out every day. These days my 6 pack is less prominent and my scars from six abdominal surgeries are the stars. Nobody wants to see me in a midriff bearing shirt. I will not wear one. Unless you can really pull it off, please don't. Be kind to us all. 

I put a lot of time into what I'm wearing. I know what I'm wearing to an evening reception in two days, to tailgate on Saturday and next week on our vacation. I mentally prepare for what I'm going to wear days and sometimes weeks in advance because the Forbes article is onto something. While striving to dress 25 percent better than everyone in the workplace projects you as a leader, striving to dress one's best all the time projects you are confident and in charge of your life. And this goal is easily attainable. People judge us by the way we look. I'd rather them see me in a meeting being more dressed up than anyone in the room rather than remembering me as the slovenly one. 


One of my fav work dresses. I needed new head shots, and we had some fun.

Monday, September 12, 2016

334(ish) Days

I'm convinced that terrible things almost always happen on beautiful days. Obviously there are exceptions, but maybe when something awful happens and you walk outside into a beautiful day it hurts a little less. Maybe it makes one appreciate life a little more. I'm not sure.

While watching 9/11 coverage last weekend I was reminded of how achingly perfect that morning was. A few years ago I blogged about a death in my dearest friend's family, again happening on a stunningly perfect day. It's been 11 months since I lost my dad. When he was in the hospital for a week before his surgery, the weather was flawless. The day of his surgery and days after were cold and rainy, but I don't really remember them. When I think back to that awful time nearly a year ago I think of those brilliant days before he had surgery.

This photo of my dad and my son in his last healthy days makes me lose it every time. 
I am a lot like my dad in many ways, and one of them is to not dwell on things (in general...there are exceptions). I feel endless sadness and anger at my dad's sudden departure from this world, but I don't get bogged down in it largely because if I surrender to those emotions it'll be hard to pull myself out of them. I've visited West Virginia many times since he died, and it's started to feel less weird that he's not there. The home he shared with my mom feels more like hers than theirs. It's tidier. It's quieter. 

Last week my son and I spent the entire week at my mom's, and I had the hardest time that I've had since we lost dad. It was a week of lovely days - sunny, hot, beautiful. I felt my dad everywhere every day that we were there. 

Last year my husband, son and I walked from the hospital where my dad was staying to Mountaineer Field for a game. In this season's opener I could barely stop crying. I thought of the games my dad took us to as kids. I thought of how much he loved football. I thought of the weekend before his surgery where I went over to the hospital late and we watched football together. I got us coffee from the nurses at 9 pm because just like my dad I can drink regular coffee any time and still get a good night's sleep. 

I witnessed brilliant sunsets from my mom's deck and knew Dad was there. I went running in my favorite place - Deckers Creek Trail - and felt the same way I felt last fall in the nearly month I spent in WV. I visited my dad's grave for the first time (it's an hour from my mom's house) and could not process that he was there even though I saw his casket ready to be lowered into that same ground. The air held a hint of autumn in the mornings, and it smelled the same way it did last year when we were home.

My son at the cemetery. My heart aches that he won't remember Pap Pap.
The week was not all sad; far from it. We had a great time with my mom. We went to two Mountaineer football games, a WV Black Bears baseball game, and ate at all my favorite restaurants. My son had a blast at the play area at the mall, and we caught up with friends at the Children's Museum in Pittsburgh. I took naps. I read novels. I was almost relaxed.

With my son at a Black Bear's game
WVU home opener against Mizzou
The Daniel Tiger exhibit at the Children's Museum in Pittsburgh
WVU v. Youngstown State
This face! Loving the play area at the mall.
A quiet run on the Deckers Creek Trail
But my heart hurt, and I expect it's an ache that will never go away. It's been nearly a year, and it feels like no time has passed and yet so much time has passed. It's a feeling I cannot explain. All I can do is live the best life possible, one that would make my dad proud. Carl Jung said "the word 'happiness' would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness." The sadness makes us appreciate those achingly beautiful days, and that beauty helps us survive the grief.  
A beautiful sunset from my mom's deck. I see you, Dad.