I wore a pink shirt to work last week and caused a commotion.
People alternately stared at me and did double takes as I walked past. Co-workers were blurting out comments that ranged from, “WOW! What’s the occasion?” and “You look bright and cheery today!” to the more direct assault on my style by saying, “Who are you?” and "Are you feeling okay?" I never knew I could turn the world on its ear by adding a splash of color to an otherwise Morticia Addams-looking wardrobe.
I guess I’ve earned my nickname of “Johnny Cash”. (I’m the “Woman in Black” in case you missed the reference.) Black and I go way back, long before emo or death metal music deemed it the required uniform of tortured people everywhere. I gave my heart and soul to black as a high school kid who was desperately searching for an identity and a way to disappear. I briefly immersed myself in “Goth” (such an overused and frequently misused term). It just went so well with my frighteningly pale skin and sour attitude.
I thoroughly enjoyed pretending to be moody and misunderstood. (Okay, so maybe I wasn’t pretending about the moody part.) I made my dark eyes darker with layers of black eyeliner, and patted on even more white powder so that my face looked almost corpse-like. I brushed my hair down over my eyes to help avoid any unwanted human contact, adjusted the chip on my shoulder, and, in my mind, I set forth on a journey many, many cultural light years away from my small-minded, small-town peers.
I abandoned the Goth persona before it had a chance to really take, but I kept clinging to my precious black. It was comforting, my security blanket. (I will admit to also buying into the urban legend that you can weigh 250 pounds, but the right pair of black pants will make you look like an underweight super model.) More importantly, black allowed me to be a shadow in the background of this world and glide through under the radar, and that’s the way I like it. For me, black screams, “Nyah nyah nyah nyah! You can't see me!”, and besides, I don’t have to think twice about what I’m wearing in those wee hours of the morning before work when I know that it will always be black pants with a black shirt and shoes. I prefer to call my wardrobe “sophisticated” not morose or drab. And no, I do not work in a mortuary.
But a week or so ago, I had a surprising change of heart.
While out shopping one afternoon, I caught a glimpse of myself in a store mirror, and it stopped me dead in my tracks. In my own defense, it was late in the day, and I was tired. I had on exercise clothes (black, of course), a ball cap (black, of course) and was without the benefit of full make-up.(Excuses, excuses) I lingered over my reflection for a few minutes. What I saw in that mirror under those harsh, fluorescent lights was reminiscent of the Crypt Keeper from HBO’s “Tales from the Crypt”. My black hat and black shirt made my already wrinkling face look gray and lifeless, and who cares that black is making my butt look smaller when at the same time it’s illuminating the dark circles under my eyes! In that split second I made a life-changing decision: I’m breaking up with black.
My epiphany came that day when I realized I might just have a sunnier disposition if I didn’t always look like I was on my way to a funeral. Maybe if I’m not wearing black from head to toe, people will stop interrupting my shopping trips by asking me to check the back room for their size jeans while I’m at The Gap. (Seriously, do people really think a tired-looking forty-something mom would be hired to sell fitted tees? Doubtful.) Maybe if I tried an outfit in a floral or stripe print now and then, people wouldn't have to wonder if a trendy hair salon employs me.
And that is where the pink shirt comes in…