Over the years I've gotten used to the surprised looks I get when people realize that my kids are mine (i.e., Oh, they're calling her mama, she isn't the nanny!). For the longest time I've blamed it on Alfie's Caucasian genes , but nowadays everyone tells me The Pea looks just like me, only fairer (and the boys have my coloring anyway). Since that excuse doesn't work so well anymore, I'm looking for another one : maybe it's because my kids are usually much better dressed than I am.
This morning, Jammy's teacher told me she saw his jacket hanging on a hook outside the classroom yesterday. It wasn't there anymore, and I panicked. I love that jacket; it's an aviator jacket with a sherpa collar and cuffs, distressed leather and tons of cool patches scattered all over. It's one of the few identical things that 3Po and Jammy are willing to wear at the same time, and if one gets lost there goes the twin look. Besides, I paid a lot for that jacket (okay, I got it on sale but it was still a splurge)!
I rushed over to the lost and found and breathed a sigh of relief when I found it. Not a big deal after all, but afterwards I got to thinking about how nice that jacket was. And how I don't have a jacket as nice as that. My winter coat is a fake sherpa coat that I got from Old Navy for about $20. It's thick and fleecy and comfy, but I have a sneaking suspicion it makes me look a bit dumpy. I do have some decent clothes, but when I'm racing around in the morning I usually just pull on some yoga pants and a shirt (sometimes straight from the bottom of the laundry basket because I couldn't be bothered to fold it and put it away), hoping the outfit will inspire me to work out and figuring no one is going to care what I look like.
Maybe I've been living in casual California for too long. When we were in Manila it really hit me how nicely everyone dressed, and I.. well, I wore my usual tees and yoga pants or jeans. Women wore leggings and skirts and dresses. There wasn't a single sweatpant or oversized tshirt to be seen. Sure, people wore jeans and tees, but the jeans were nicely pressed and the tees were fitted. People wore accessories like bracelets and earrings and pendants. I don't mean that everyone wore expensive clothing, but most people obviously took the time and effort to look decent. Even people who didn't look like they had much money went around the shopping malls in stylish flip-flops, while I stomped around looking like a clown in my scruffy Mary Jane Crocs.
Whatever the reason, I know this is something I need to work on. Saying that people don't care what I look like is no excuse. I know Alfie cares what I look like. I know my kids do too (I love it when they look at me and exclaim, delightedly, "Mama, you look nice!"). And deep down, I think people do care what other people look like. Not on a personal level, but I think people do form opinions about other people based on how they present themselves. If two candidates present themselves at a job interview, all else being equal, who is going to make the more favorable impression: the one dressed smartly and professionally, or the one in a wrinkled suit? Why else to seasoned travelers advise people to dress nicely if they're hoping to get upgraded on their next flight? Besides, I feel more confident when I dress nicely, which affects how I deal with other people and how they deal with me.