In this week’s Happier Podcast hosted by the ever insightful Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth Craft (the sage!), they really threw down a gauntlet with the challenge to “wear ‘clothes’ every day for a month”!
A daunting prospect indeed. It’s not that I spend my days wandering around in my birthday suit but apparently the definition of ‘clothes’ does not include such slatternly attire as my regulation uniform of:
– gym kit (not even high end athleisure wear of the Lululemon ilk counts so it’s safe to say my common-as-muck Nike and Sweaty Bettys won’t cut the mustard),
– Running shoes/ gym trainers (smart trainers are apparently allowed so thank goodness for my leather Ash hightops, though not sure my trusty Uggs will pass the muster
– Hoodies (unless of a sumptuous fabric that redeems their slovenly stereotype, think cashmere, cable knit, fine merino wool)
– Sweatpants (nooooo – I love my sweatpants sooo much, especially my chavtastic, wannabe teenager ones, with ‘Wills’ emblazoned down the leg)
And to state the obvious, no PJs (yes, I am wearing these when my husband leaves for work at 7am and back in them by the time he’s home around 8pm so he’d be forgiven for thinking I’ve loafed around in them all day).
To make a tough challenge even tougher than a tough mudder, the challenge is to stay in these until after dinner! I can barely stay in my ‘not clothes’ (ie a veritable combo of aforementioned sartorial no-nos) until the kids’ bath time when I’m positively itching to put on my PJs. This makes the Whole 30 sound like a walk in the park. I really don’t think I could do it.
Then to make an absurd challenge even more insurmountable, in addition to wearing real ‘clothes’ the goal is to also wear makeup AND change jewellery! I have been wearing the same pair of earrings and necklace since circa Year 2k. I do take them off occasionally (not without much harrumphing at the inconvenience) for x rays, surgery and the like. Or if a big fancy do like a ball then I deign to put on something a bit more bling. But really, there just aren’t enough minutes in the day to be faffing around with changing jewellery.
In The Crown, Lilibet has someone put it on for her, remove it at the end of the day and store it away safely. Us mere mortals of the non-Royal variety have no such privileges. Though I daresay I have a lot of wasted jewellery that never sees the light of day. Ditto my clothes.
While listening to the podcast I realised I was still in my gym kit – gym vest, capris, sports bra (so much easier to machine wash than a real bra), a relic from that morning’s Piyo class – that ended 3 hours earlier. And I swear doesn’t warrant enough sweat to justify post workout shower. Only on the days I do a proper workout eg running, HIIT, do I shower after my workout and am hence forced to remove said kit and change.
I also had no makeup on (as usual) and my hair was pulled back into a messy ponytail cum bun thing with hair grips to tame wayward straggly bits from annoying the heck out of me when doing downward dog. I’m too old to pull this off with the nonchalance of a French ingénue. To be fair even in my youth I couldn’t pull this look off.
I used to relish getting dressed up when I had a job in the city back in the days of yore. Though increasingly, as I spend the majority of the day alone, I choose comfort over glamour every time and throw on some sweats, a breton top and a hoodie then pull my Uggs on for the school run. If I’m lucky I don’t even need to get out of the car for the drive-through pickups so I could be naked waist down for all anyone cares!
The reasoning behind this challenge (condemnation) is allegedly a test to find out if wearing ‘clothes’ makes us feel different in our outlook – in Elizabeth’s words, more ‘ready’. She also highlights that the stretchy nature of ‘not clothes’ encourages relaxed overeating (think inverse corset effect) but she clearly hasn’t seen my collection of jumper dresses which do away with the need for waistbands altogether! It may even serve to illustrate that our choice to wear ‘not clothes’ is still what makes us feel the happiest and most content.
Most days I go the gym, swim, yoga etc so my choice of outfit is legitimate. Sadly, my choice to stay in said outfit ALL DAY based on the activity of 1 hour is highly illegitimate. The thing is, it’s just so darn comfy and I just love to be comfy. If onesies weren’t such a nuisance for toileting I’d no doubt be in one of those 24/7.
But Gretchen is right, it’s not putting your best foot forward.
So this morning, I wore ‘real clothes’ (well, jeans rather than sweatpants) to my son’s class chapel service first thing. Though I have to concede that I didn’t put on any makeup as I was heading straight for a swim afterwards (tell me no one wears makeup to go swimming?) It was a total nuisance packing separate sweatpants in my swim bag but the idea of wrestling into a pair of skinny jeans with damp legs, in a cramped changing room, with questionable hairy bits all over the floor was too much to bear.
Truth be told I did feel less self-conscious in ‘clothes’. On a typical school foray I have a teeny weeny inferiority complex anyway (blame it on my school days and experiences of, let’s call it, ‘racial disparity’). I secretly will no one to cast aspersions and I’m not even referring to those working mums looking all smart and coiffed ready for a day at the office, but rather the glamorous stay at home mums in their over the knee boots, faux fur jackets and up to date colourist appointments – the ones who would be horrified with a challenge to wear ‘not clothes’ every day.
Doing a bit of amateur psychoanalysing (a favoured pastime) while listening to the dulcet tone of forty something little boys singing about Moses, I deduce that my ‘not clothes’ are a manifestation of my comfort zone – physically and emotionally. Physically I just crave a sense of warmth, comfort and being cossetted. Who doesn’t? As for emotionally well, said clothes are usually black, don’t attract attention, are unassuming, practical and plain. Gosh is that really how I now see myself??
With this in mind, the moment I came home after my swim I went immediately to change out of my ‘not clothes’ before I got distracted and immersed in a completely unplanned task or had a chance to start procrastinating (I’m very good at both). Granted it’s just a pair of jeans, a T shirt (with real underwear) and a hoodie (I know I know it’s on the forbidden list BUT this one is cashmere blend, pale pink and really rather pretty), I feel different. Less comfortable certainly (the jeans are kind of tight) but more…. determined and purposeful.
It’s not just about what judgements people make from your appearance – judging books by covers and all that, but about how the external reflects the internal and caring about that external is symptomatic of caring for the person inside. I’m not really a vain person (pointing out the obvious to anyone who ever sees me on a school run) but I do want my kids to be proud of (ok, let’s just settle with not embarrassed by) their mum. And I definitely don’t want them thinking I’ve consigned myself to the middle age scrap heap. Perhaps feeling more ‘ready’ will radiate a more positive outward expression.
Recently the green eyed monster made a brief cameo when my son’s classmate wrote (of his permanently immaculately dressed and made up mother), ‘My mummy is beautiful’. My son, on the other hand, wrote, ‘My mummy is dairy free’ – great epitaph that will make; I might as well be a carton of almond milk.
So I am determined to try just a little bit harder, to make just a little bit more effort, by stepping out of my comfort zone. I’m not saying I’m going to venture too far but wearing ‘clothes’ every day is a start.