Let’s Besmirch Our Characters Together

We humans are interesting creatures. We do all sorts of weird, crazy, bizarre and eccentric things to make ourselves stand out and get attention from others. The one thing I’ve been noticing a lot lately is how our appearance garners that attention. I know I’m not writing anything new. Lately, however, I’ve become more interested in how we present ourselves to others. Maybe it’s because I’m back out there in the dating world and trying to garner some attention myself. I’m learning that as we vie for that attention, we also try and do things to camouflage our flaws from others as well.
Speaking of camouflage, the other day I was at the local Rural King (a farm & feed store) to purchase a hammock they had on sale. As I was walking up and down the aisles, I came across a rack of loose fitting and large bikinis. What stuck out the most to me was this: the design was camouflage. It. Was. Hideous. I couldn’t resist taking a picture of it with my phone. I asked myself, “Who would wear such a thing?” I surmised that the only possibility was a Gretchen Wilson, redneck woman type who likes to swim and duck hunt at the same time. The kind of woman who is willing to wade into murky, muddy river water up to her neck in order to catch a catfish with her barehand by sticking her fist down its gullet.

The camouflage bikini: sexy, yet practical. For the woman who can swim and shoot a duck at the same time.

Last month, I went to the Peabody Opera House in downtown St. Louis to see David Sedaris read from his newest set of essays. The styles people were wearing to this cultured event in an elegant, remodeled solid piece of Art Deco architecture were bizarre to say the least. My mom pointed out to me a woman with wild pink hair with a daisy applique stuck to her barrette. Her blonde roots were pushing through like weeds in a field of thistle flowers. I wasn’t so shocked by her hair as by her footwear. She had on cheap, dirty, white flip flops with daisy appliques on the straps. And her flip flops didn’t bother me so much as the fact that she was trying so very hard to match them to her navy blue vintage 1940s dress with a white collar. With daisy appliques around it. And this entire look didn’t bother me as much as the fact that it was so obvious she was trying to be a petite, dainty dame when her body type was that of a short, stocky broad.
After the reading, we all formed a snaking line so as to meet the author and have our books signed by him. Daisy was a few feet in front of me and my curiosity got the best of me. I wanted to hear how she sounded when she talked. I got my wish a few minutes later when another woman in line recognized her and struck up a conversation about making their own beaded jewelry at a local craft store (this would explain the excessive daisy appliques). Expecting to hear a scratchy, husky voice that maybe, just maybe, dropped the F-bomb at least once, I was taken aback when out of her mouth screeched a squeaky, affected “Oh myyyyyyyy gaaaawwwwsshhh! I’m sooooo haaapppyyyy to seeeeee youuuuuu!!!!” uber-nice girl voice. It. Was. Ridiculous. And over the top. Nothing of her appearance, her voice, nor shoe choice matched up with her Hello Kitty voice. I was expecting a voice like Barney Rubble imitating a woman and I got Fran Drescher imitating a California valley girl instead. I was intrigued. I leaned in even more to hear what else she had to say. She had my attention.
I began people watching as I stood for over an hour in line, inching my way closer to the master of the self-depricating, satirical essay. What stood out to me the most was people’s shoes. One woman wobbled back and forth on her 4 inch spiked, gray boot heels with the toes cut out. Her overlong red toenails hung off the edge like a puma waiting to strike (or trying to balance itself). Her date, loping along in his down-to-business shined black slip on shoes, tried to steady his lady love without wrinkling his white pressed cotton shirt with black flowers embroidered at the breast. Since I had on sandal wedges (with only a small amount of bling going up the front of them), I could tower above the people around me and look down at their feet. I noticed tennis shoes with holes in the fabric, cowboy boots with gold steel toes, black flats with big black flowers on the top, brown Teva hiking sandals, red sequined heels with exaggerated red bows. People’s feet were just screaming for attention.
When it was my turn to meet David Sedaris, I noticed that he was wearing black-rimmed glasses, a light pink blazer, a lighter pink shirt, and a gray and pink striped tie. But what did his shoes look like? I had to know. I smiled at him and said, “Hi” in my most charming voice. He struck up a conversation with me immediately. Somewhere in our conversation he found out I wasn’t married. “Why, just look at you! We need to change that!” he remarked and smiled up at me. So charming. I smiled too and acted all shy and looked down at my feet with toes that sported chipped purplish-mauvey-pink toenail polish that slightly clashed with my brown sandals and light brown pants. I saw that he was wearing light gray canvas Keds sneakers. It. Was. Perfect. It all matched. All of it. His sweet voice, his quick wit, his keen observation skills all were neatly packaged in his sweet suit coat, delicate colored shirt and light gray Docker pants and topped off with playful tennis shoes befitting a man who makes his living laughing at himself and others.
When he found out I was an English teacher, he cringed a bit. We talked about moving to Australia and dating and teaching English to teenagers. He asked me how to spell a word. I countered back with being afraid if it was a pop quiz. He laughed and said, “Seriously? How do you spell it?” He recovered quickly, spelled the word correctly, and signed my book with the inscription: “Let’s teach the kids to besmirch our characters together.” I was all in. We shared anecdotes of besmirching our own character, and I made him laugh. He laughed so much he slapped his leg.
For at least a week afterwards I was telling the story about how I made David Sedaris laugh. I was on top of the world. My ego was slightly inflated, but not out of check. I needed that special someone who was just being himself and visiting with each and every one of his readers as if they were his best friends. I stood in line for over an hour to get his signature, but got validation for being a funny, intelligent person who can hold her own with a man who can banter as quick as a Kentucky Derby horserace. I know he was as equally kind and charming to me as he was to Daisy or the Cowboy who wore a blue and green plaid striped Western-styled shirt and gold ivy shaped grommets embossed on each shoulder. This experience made me think that sometimes we get so caught up in how we think we need to embellish our appearances to make up for something inside ourselves we’re trying to hide or think we are lacking that we forget to just put our genuine selves forward. If only we could see how ridiculous we look at times, we would laugh more at ourselves and have more space to genuinely get to know one another instead of vying for attention and special treatment through our appearances only.
But, at the same time, if we all didn’t look ridiculous some of the time, I wouldn’t be nearly as entertained. Would you?
"Spike me"
Bedazzled Roadkill

Angel?

Or Demon?

Trendy or Terrible? Not Terribly Trendy.