I just needed one thing from Whole Foods. I never go there for more than one thing; even with the Amazon subsidies, it’s still never the best price for anything. Except these wonderful/horrible grain free, dairy free, paleo, vegan “tortilla chips” that taste remarkably like this specific kind of pizza al taglio near our old apartment in Rome, just a plain square of salty pizza dough slathered in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and a smear of the brightest tasting San Marzano tomato sauce.
These weird chips (the nacho flavor, for the record) taste exactly like this specific Roman thing for which I was homesick, and so into Whole Foods we trooped, me and only the younger three.
Just as we’d crossed through the overpriced produce section, the tiny baby hair elastic I’d been using to corral my erstwhile fourth day locks snapped, my greased tresses tumbling free onto my shoulders. Normally this would not be a thing, but since I happened to be walking past a full length mirror near a display of hemp yoga tights, I was slapped with the full knowledge of precisely how my hair looked.
Frowning at my reflection which, truth be told, I am much, much less apt to do these days, I ducked my head and began scrounging through my purse for something, anything, with which to assemble a messy bun.
Nada. Eyes passing over both daughter’s heads, I wondered if I could swipe a loaner until we got through checkout. Alas, both were sporting the same crappy single use elastics which had just ricocheted off my head.
Now fully into the beauty section of the store, I reoriented myself towards the hair products and wondered, just maybe…yes, a whole bottle of dry shampoo wearing a ‘TESTER’ sticker in all caps.
Unfortunately, Whole Foods aspires to a level of consistency that leaves mere mortals forever falling short, and so the all natural non toxic non polluting non confrontational dry shampoo which I turned enthusiastically upside down over my own head whilst giving a hearty squeeze turned out to be a $13 dollar bottle of peppermint scented cornstarch and dried clay which came out very, very fast.
The short summary is that I strode briskly about the store collecting my bags of crack chips sporting a sort of reverse balayage (all natural!) comprised of grease and baking ingredients, looking like George Washington after a tipsy wig-powder touch up.
And I cared a little, but not a lot.
This weekend I walked into Mass and remembered just as I was crossing the vestibule that it was my turn to lector. I set a child free from each hand, bid Dave good luck, and reversed course into the sacristy to check in. (Just kidding, I helped by tossing two kids into the nursery and then sprinted to my perch front pew.)
Luckily I’d applied some makeup in the passenger seat on our way over, and they say a well penciled brow covers a multitude of crows feet. Or something. My hair though? Basically as bad as the Whole Foods situation, and I was getting ready to get up in front of a not insignificant crowd to proclaim the word of God. My state of mind, however? More or less indifferent.
Sure I wished I’d had time to peek in a mirror, but it seemed more critical that I get the Pitch Perfect twins signed into the nursery before Mass started, so I’d made the call.
Moms have to make the call a hundred times a day, in ways big and small. Do I cut my prayer time or workout short because someone is screaming a need? Probably. Do I step freezing out of a 4 minute shower because the baby is awake, even though I haven’t conditioned yet? Most likely. Do I take the extra 10 minutes of sleep instead of staying up to do a quick HIIT workout on my phone. Almost every time.
When I was a really new mom I remember feeling overwhelmed with getting into anything other than workout clothes for day to day garb. Running shorts and a ponytail seemed like my only options, and so I reached for them over and over again. But as the oldest babies aged and the newer babies arrived with similar demands, I think I realized that if I didn’t start wearing real clothes again on a regular basis, I was going to spend the next decade looking like the volunteer Cross Country coach at the high school.
I mean, there’s nothing wrong with wearing your workout clothes around town every now and then, don’t get me wrong! It sure helps that they’re usually stretchy and come in 50 shades of forgiving black. But I have found that as my face begins to show my age, my desire to elevate the daily momiform increases.
And it’s not because I feel bad about myself or because I’m struggling with “mom” being my primary identity these days, quite the contrary. It’s only as I’ve begun to deeply settle into this current state of life that I’ve been willing to concede the hastily thrown together athleisure + running shoe combo as my signature look.
Now I get dressed most days in “real” clothes because this is my real job. And If I do make it to the gym, I’ll still swap out my workout gear for a sweater/jeans/flats combo afterwards, even though it makes more laundry. I’ve figured out that it actually feels good to feel put together, and that “put together” is a pretty fluid concept. For me it’s the aforementioned sartorial trio, maybe swapped for shorts/sandals/blouse in the hottest part of summer.
In my initial forays back into real dressing, I wasn’t totally confident of my personal style. It took a lot of hits and misses at Old Navy and Goodwill, a lot of hours invested in reading personal style blogs and clicking on Instagram accounts or Pinterest (remember that place?) images that caught my eye. Eventually I figured out the cuts and colors that worked for me, and suddenly it became easy – fun, even – to walk into a store and immediately filter out 85% of the inventory because I already knew what I liked, and what worked for me.
Emboldened by the nascent superpower of dressing myself, I starting reaching more frequently for tried and true combos, eschewing the regrets-only section of my closet for the dozen or so pieces of clothing I actually wore. Eventually, having ingested enough glowing feature pieces on Steve Jobs and the brave woman who wore $300 pants to work every day for a month and nobody cared, or something, I took the plunge and committed, bagging up the unworn losers on the back of the rack and declaring myself a clothing minimalist.
Who cares if I wear the same 2 dresses to church, on alternating Sundays, for 5 months at a time?
Nobody, it turns out. And I think I can safely attribute my newfound willingness to get completely dressed and apply makeup to one area where I’ve scaled way, way down on decision fatigue.
To shower or not to shower? That, it turns out, is still the real question.
What about you, my fellow mamas? Do you find joy in repping the athleisure all day, erryday and forgoing the exhausting process of blow drying and mascara application altogether? Are you currently in trenches so deep that even getting out of pajama pants feels like a major feat? Do you live somewhere where it’s less culturally acceptable to “dress down” (read: basically anywhere outside of Colorado or, I’m guessing, the Australian Outback) and does it impact your daily style? Do you find yourself wishing you had a daily style nailed down?
I’m always so curious about what other women think in this area, and whether they do think of style and other people’s perceptions and all that. I suspect I’m an incredible overthinker in this as in most areas, and so perhaps you guys are going to tell me, Jenny, this is super weird and shallow! Sorry, I can’t help it! I’m off all social media for Lent and my superficial thoughts have nowhere to lay their weary heads, so bear with me, haha.