There was a time when I was a slave to fashion. Something happened during my freshman year of high school. Jeans and T-shirts were no longer enough.
My high school years were in the decade of Miami Vice. I had a closet filled with linen and 100 percent cotton pants, shirts and jackets. This drove my mother crazy until she decided that if I wanted to wear cotton and linen I had to iron my own clothes. It was a small sacrifice in my mind. I could walk down the halls at school and everyone would notice my impeccable taste.
I continued serving fashion through college and into my 30s. The 100 percent cotton pants and jackets were replaced with silk ties and wool suits, but I still wanted people to know that I had impeccable taste. When I faced the world I wanted to project the proper image.
Sometime during my 30s something happened. It all started with something like a call from home to say, "Can you pick up some milk on your way home from the gym?" A few years earlier, I would have driven home, taken a shower, and put on the right kind of clothes for the grocery store. There was no time for that, so I walked into the store in my baseball cap and gym clothes. No one seemed to notice. No one acted different. I survived. No one really cared what I was wearing.
I continued the experiment. I went to the hardware store in dusty clothes that said I had actually been working. No one asked me to leave. No one really seemed to notice at all. A terrifying thought popped into my head. Was it possible that no one had been looking at me since high school?
I see my daughter going through the same thing I went through in high school. I never thought that clunky combat style boots went with a skirt and a sweater. I suppose my parents thought the same thing about the ridiculous styles of the cotton pastels and black linen that shouted Miami Vice. It may not look quite right to me, but when I pick her up from school, I see a parade of other girls in clunky combat style boots wearing skirts and sweaters.
Your high school years may have been filled with bell bottoms and tie-dyed shirts, cotton and linen, double breasted suits with pointy lapels, or designer jeans and T-shirts. Our parents thought we were strange, but it was important to us to have people look at us and see our impeccable sense of style.
If you've lived long enough, you too have had the realization that no one is looking at you any more. It's safe to stop by the store to pick up milk after your workout at the gym. I have confidence that my daughter will live long enough to come to the same realization. When I see her trying to dress fashionably, with the hope that everyone will notice her impeccable taste, part of me wants to let her know this little secret.
They are not looking at you. They are too busy thinking about what they look like. I have come to realize that it is better to let her come to that conclusion on her own. It may take her as long as it took me. She might learn the secret earlier in life. For now, when I see those clunky boots, I remember 100 percent cotton and linen, pastels matched with black and white, and I smile.
I have been a priest for 16 years. I spent the first four years in Minnesota and Wisconsin, six years on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, before becoming the pastor at Advent Episcopal Church in Westlake in 2010. If anyone would find it interesting I have a son and daughter, which I refer to as a matched set, a wife, a dog, and a cat.