Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Judging People by their Appearance



My Red Hat Society chapter had our Christmas party last weekend at a restaurant out in the boondocks that looks like it would be right at home in the Alps next to a ski run. There’s a giant, fieldstone fireplace in the middle of the dining room that effectively divides the space into two semiprivate areas and the twenty-two of us took up one side with a horse-shoe shape of tables and chairs. The log walls and vaulted ceiling went high, chalet style and on one wall was a huge TV screen that was showing a slide show of winter mountain scenes. I had a good time despite the fact that I was woefully underdressed in black sweatpants, a red sweater, purple L.L. Bean vest and a red hat while everyone else was wearing purple and red party garb with spangles, bangles and beads. The night before the event I realized I’d either need to loss 5-6 pounds over the next ten hours or shop at midnight and my good sense ruled out those two things. I hate wearing things that are too tight and I’d eaten myself out of my party clothes. I feel a New Year’s Resolution forming.

I’m also not good at buying $10 gifts for these parties where you don’t know who will get the gift via the pass-it-right-left game we play. I only had this one real gift to buy for Christmas so you’d think I could get it right. While everyone else brought things like ceramic cookie jars (two ladies did), jewelry, scarves, candles, tree ornaments, bird houses and elves, I brought skin care products and breathed a sigh of relief that I didn’t have to lug home a Christmas themed cookie jar. In my defense, we’re all old! We should have the same rule they have at the senior hall where only consumable gifts are allowed. If not that, I wish my Red Hat sisters would switch games and do the one where you get to pick a gift from the pile under the tree or steal one that someone else is holding. I’ll admit that I’ve taken home the gift I brought playing that game, knowing it won’t end up in a donation box. Is that cynical or pragmatic, I can’t decide. Either way, can you guess the second New Year’s Resolution forming in my head? I’m starting to obsess about my skin again. Recently I found the switch that fell off my “complexion machine” last summer (think mini sander for your face) so I can use it again. I found it in a drawer with hair clips I rarely use. 

So many people judge others by their appearances, I actually felt ashamed of my under dressed party attire though I’m sure my Red Hat sisters were not the ones judging. But going back and forth to the bathroom made me feel conspicuous in my easy wash-and-dry caregiver fashions (and I don’t know how much longer I can use that excuse for not putting more effort into updating my wardrobe. It will be five years come January when my caregiving days died with my husband). Walking through the restaurant with eyes following in my wake reminded me of the summer when my husband had contracted to asphalt-patch holes in parking lots across the city. Dirty, terribly hot work and at the end of the day you’d end up stripping naked in the garage and you’d still manage to track tar into the house. But the thing I remember the most is how people walking by our work crew seemed to be judging our characters by our appearance not unlike how Julie Roberts in Pretty Woman was looked down upon by store clerks when she was wearing her hooker clothes. Thankfully, for my self-esteem it was in the same time frame when I was going back to college in my 40s and I’d have to drive my husband’s Corvette back and forth. Talk about people judging you by the car you drive, I experienced that first hand on campus and I also discovered early on that if I wore a skirt to college the other students treated me like I was a professor---greeting me with smiles and opening doors but when I wore jeans and a t-shirt like they did I didn’t get a second glance.

If asked most of us would say, “Oh, no! It’s not right to judge others by the clothes they wear” but most of us would also agree that we all do it in varying degrees. But here’s the thing: Making snap judgements about our environment and other humans in it is actually a primal act inherent to our very survival, a skill honed by Early Man when staying alive meant being good at reading the sensory messages coming into their brains. Although modern man no longer needs the same level of sensory messages coming in to be safe judging each other by appearances remains a strong, primal instinct. It’s in our DNA. Since I’m as guilty as the next guy of making snap judgements about others I feel an urge to attempt the Tarzon yell as I swing away from writing this blog entry to go search for a website besides L.L. Bean to shop for a new outfit.  “Ooo-wa-ooo-aaooaaooaa-ooo!" ©

31 comments:

  1. LOL I loved Tarzan. When I was a kid, I used to swing from the thick, strong vines in the woods across from our house while doing he Tarzan yell. Children are in touch with their wild side.

    I feel your pain about not being able to fit into your party clothes. I needed to go to a funeral a few months ago and couldn't fit into a single appropriate thing in my closet. Why is that? I tend not to spend much money on clothes when I'm carrying extra pounds. I tell myself that I'll lose the weight soon.

    My friend was in NYC and went into a posh store. She was in her jeans and sneakers and basically dressed for urban warfare. She was interested in an expensive item, and the clerk snubbed her. Like Julia Robert's said, I don't know if she was on commission, but she lost that sale.

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    1. When I was young, we had the run of a lake that would take us a half day to walk around and there "Tarzan vines" on the other side. We did the same thing you did. Today, people wouldn't let their kids that far out of their sight, I don't think.

      That's me too with buying clothes! There is a certain size I won't buy. There are a few stores here in town I won't go in out of fear of getting the Julia Robert's treatment which is crazy. If they had money, those clerks they wouldn't be working in a store.

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  2. very timely points. thank you....much to think about!

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    1. Thinking is my favorite hobby these days. :)

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  3. Jean, I'm having problems with my weight also. My aunt passed away recently and my slacks were very tight. In fact I just recently bought two pair of pants and even though they were the same pair ( Black & Gray ), the black one so tight that I couldn't even wear them. I have my cruise coming up at the end of January and I don't know what to do. I'm trying to cut back on everything.I may have to buy a new pair of pants just for the cruise. I was doing so well and then my mother passes away and all the problems dealing with her will and the problems with my brother & sister I now gained so much weight. Oh well I'm back to trying losing it again.
    Don't worry about what you were wearing that evening. The fact was that you were there with your friends. I'm sure that they were just happy that were there with them.
    I'm taking my Camero off the road tomorrow because we are suppose to have snow the next four days. My car has never had any snow on it and I don't start now.
    Well that's it my friend. Enjoy your day. See ya.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. I'm sorry about your aunt. I'll bet you're a stress eater like me, plus with our Italian heritage we're also used to celebrating with food so it easy for our weight to yo-ya. Whatever you decide to do for your cruise, sounds like you really need to go and maybe forget some of the stuff going on back home.

      We're getting that same storm. Glad the Camero is in storage now.

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  4. My daughter often says "my problem visiting Portland is it's hard to tell the homeless from those that just dress that way." For sure around here fashion is casual. I judge neatness more than anything because that tells me what the person feels about themselves. Most everybody has a bar of soap. It really irritates me to visit a medical office and find people in scrubs that look like they came from the bottom of the laundry basket.

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    1. Ohmygod, I've never looked closely at medical scrubs. It would more then irritate me to see dirty ones on someone. That's funny what your daughter says but I understand it. There is a difference in dressing standards in different parts of my city.

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  5. I've eaten my way out of anything decent looking in my closet and refuse to spend any money on my fat size. Needless to say, anyone judging me as if I just don't care about how I look - maybe I don't think it's any of their problem.

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    1. That's me in a nutshell...don't want to spend money on my fat size. :)

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  6. In addition to losing weight, I'm looking for my new Grandma uniform (instead of leggings and long baggy tops). Because people DO judge the cover. It's gotta be washable and mostly cotton. 2-3 standard colors with WOW accents once in a while. And go with black shoes/purses. AND I'm going to get matching lingerie! I think if I feel good on the inside, it will project onto the outside.

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    1. I used to buy matching lingerie...lots of fun back in the day. When you find your new grandma uniform I hope you'll blog about it. If I ever win the lotto I'm going to clear out my closet and start over.

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  7. This topic is so timely to me. I had this conversation with someone recently. She said she never judges by what people wear. I said I couldn't lie, I sometimes do. I know I shouldn't but there have been times when I walked into a room and made an assumption. I wasn't going to lie for petes sake. She insisted she never did.
    When I was young I worked one Xmas at a jewerly store for extra money. I went up to everyone and offered my help. My boss one day said about the man that just walked in. You can have this one because he doesn't have any money. He assumed this by the way he was dressed. This man bought a lot of things and spent thousands of dollars. I said to my manager you don't know anyones story you shouldn't assume. I sometimes need to remember that. Thanks Jean!!

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    1. I would not believe someone who says they never judge others by what someone wears. Biker guys with lots of tattoos would get treated differently than a guy in an expensive suit would not earn the same trust level, I'm sure, on first glance. We can judge but try not to let that judgement influence how we treat that person though and that would be honest. And we a often the one who judges ourselves the most.

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  8. I used to work at a social service agency. The 'dress code' there was decidedly casual, but I always tried to wear "nice" clothes and felt professional, but casual. Since I retired 6 years ago, I notice I mostly wear yoga pants or tights with long tops that cover my gut and my butt. Very, very casual. The two days a week I watch my almost 2 y/o granddaughter. I have on yoga pants and a hoodie with a pouch pocket in front for storing all manner of baby necessities along with my phone. I call it my "granny nanny" outfit. It's so comfortable I also wear it at night lounging around my house, or on weekends watching football. OK. My standards have gotten lax. I volunteer 2 days/month at the old agency and when I put on my "work clothes" I feel so dressed up! Times and fashion-sense changes. My rules have always been comfort, some semblance of not looking like a fool or a bag lady (but I get that they can't help it -- fashion really is not biggie when you are trying to survive!), and ease of care (no dry cleaning; OK if I spill on it cuz I definitely will.) I'm sure you looked just fine at the Red Hat thing! I'd have worn my black yoga pants, a black sweater and a red scarf. My winter uniform. :)

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    1. I wish I could wear yoga pants and hoodies. Sounds like comfortable wear and a classier version of my favorite comfort clothing of sweats.

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  9. Yes, most people judge by what people wear.
    I have different problems.
    I remain the same size for more than 20 years(blessing or curse). I don't like shopping and just wear my old clothes. My friend Betty told me to buy new clothes, Betty said who doesn't like clothes shopping? My ex-friend Bill asked me if I shop at second hand store...I told him it's just my own very old clothes.
    I did try to wear five different outfit in a week before retiring.

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    1. DDD thanks for the comment. I think this is your first? Welcome!

      You would fit right in at the senior hall. Lots of retired professional women there who have quality clothing that was made in the last century. Nothing wrong with that! But then there are a very few ladies who are clothing horses who have lots of new stuff. I have decided I need to keep a list of where I wear what so I don't repeat the same outfit too close together. :)

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  10. At some point in my past career I was one of the cultural diversity trainers for the employees and we spent a lot of class time reminding people that it is human to judge others. As you have mentioned, it is for a variety of reasons, some that no longer exist in our society. Again, as you mentioned in the comment above, it only becomes a problem when we act upon our pre-judgments and discriminate.
    Most pre-judgements are gradually eroded by conversation or an encounter like in the jewelry store in the comment.

    We are playing concerts Sunday and Monday this week and dress is "Christmasy". Last year and I'm sure this time as well, I will be in all black because I don't own anything red or green! And I am not in the same situation as most of the commenters, I have basically been the same size since I was in my twenties and have a lot of clothes from a long time ago!

    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. I envy people who never change size. I bounce between 2-3 sizes and have all my life.

      I have only one thing that is Christmasy and it's mostly black with a yoke of poinsettia at the top. Every year I tell myself I need to buy an "ugly sweater" because so many people wear the around here but I can't seem to get them to the cash register.

      I love what you said about the cultural diversity training you did. Prejudges do go away when we take the time to talk to each other.

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    2. NOTE: I'm using a little laptop I hate right now because my desktop got a malware my anti-virus control couldn't disinfect among other things, so it's in the shop. If I don't post on Saturday you'll know it's not back yet. Got it from clicking on what looked like a fake news...be careful out there!

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  11. The place the Red Hat Society held the luncheon sounds utterly charming. I would certainly be entertained by all the glittery outfits, but relieved I could sneak by with something more 'classic'. Do you think anybody really held your simple outfit against you?

    Lately I've been brazenly enjoying wearing bulky tops to cover my bulkier butt. LLBean marries Talbots - that's my look. Fits right in around here. The look is classic chic, but go 60 miles into NYC and I'd be tagged as a suburban yokel. Oh, well...it's the smile I wear in my heart...

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    1. No I don't think they did but I do usually try to dress up more for the parties...basically twice a year. I felt out of place because some of them had some lovely beaded dresses to die for.

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  12. LOL, Your outfit would have been perfect for a red-hat event in Maine, where "dressing up" means wearing cords instead of jeans and maybe a cashmere sweater. When I first went to teach in Gettysburg, PA (on the Mason-Dixon line) after almost a decade living in Maine, I was almost always not appropriately dressed. It was especially a shock to learn that the only two kinds of shoes I owned -- bean boots and sandals -- weren't appropriate for most seasons and activities there.
    I like those consumable gifts, too -- and, of course, I have to scarf them all down before my weight loss New Year's resolution, which scarfing down all the gift treats makes even more urgent, kicks in. -Jean

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    1. I loved our trip to Maine, saw so many plaid shirts it wasn't funny and, of course, we had to go to the L.L.Bean store.

      We've gotten some great consumable gifts at the senior hall including home made breads and dry soup mixes, soaps, hand creams, etc.

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  13. When I was young, slender and pretty, I was confident in myself to go anywhere, regardless of how shabbily I was dressed, and that confidence meant I wasn't judged badly (at least I think so!).

    Now I'm old, dumpy and - continuing my personal style - dressed like a bag lady usually (well, I'm at home alone, so who cares?!). If I sometimes make an effort, its because it upsets the kids otherwise.

    Having said that, I remember walking into a swish, upmarket store a few years ago, shabbily dressed as usual. I made a small purchase. The young sales lady wrapped it up with the same detail and attention as for a much more expensive item. A posh, very well dressed lady waited her turn behind me. I remember thinking that the store trained its staff well, as I wouldn't have been surprised to be treated like Julia Roberts/Pretty Woman.

    Remember the time Sharon Stone wore a $10 (or something like that) black T-shirt to the Oscars? don't think the price/label matters generally. Its important to look and feel comfortable.

    I'm not a great fan of gifts after seeing so many of them discarded at the Church Sale/Salvos, often with the loving giver's gift-tag. But I appreciate that the recipient didn't chuck said gift, and made the effort to give to a charity shop. Even in consumables I find that people now prefer non-scented creams etc so not easy to please all. ~ Libby

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    1. Sharon Stone looked great in that t-shirt dress!

      There was a time in my life when I was super slender and I couldn't stay out of the clothing stores and the gyms. It's the one thing in my life if I could do over, I would.I would have never stopped going to the gym to keep my weigh in check.

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  14. I guess I judge people by what they wear. It seems right now, my high school friends are all into wearing sweatshirts with be-jeweled butterflies on them or sparkling christmas trees. Most of them overweight, really don't look good in them. I did a really bad job of judging a person by his appearance back in the day. A disheveled man got out of a really old Volkswagon Beetle. His hair was longish, he needed a shave, his pants were baggy and his sweater had patches on the elbows. He stopped and asked if I were enjoying my day, I mumbled, "Yes", and walked quickly on. Come to find out, the grubby man was Mr. Charles Stewart Mott--founder of the college I was attending that day. Founder and builder of Mott's Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor and basically the founder of anything meaningful in Flint. Can't always tell a book by its cover! A lesson I learned that day.

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    1. We've all made those kinds of mistakes...and the ones in reverse when we think someone has money and class but it turns out it's all cover and no content.

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  15. "All cover and no content" is a great parallel to our "all hat and no cattle."

    I once got to hear myself being judged, in person. I was over at the marina, and it was the end of a long day with an orbital sander. I was in shorts, tee, boat shoes, and a whole lot of dust.

    As I was walking down the dock, I passed a little girl, maybe ten, and her mother. Mother was all dolled up in yacht club basic: lots of white and navy and gold jewelry, with a jeweled red anchor on her shirt. As we passed, the little girl asked Mama, "Does that lady have a boat here, too?" "Oh, honey," said Mama. "I don't think so."

    It was wonderfully funny.

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    1. Now, the big question is, "Did you have a boat there?" LOL Seriously, do you do all your work at the same marina? You have such an interesting and unique (to land dwellers) profession but the details of how exact a boat restorationist works is a mystery to me.

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