For my birthday, my sister made me a fleece zebra print hat and scarf. Now “zebra” is not my animal print of choice. (I think she was getting back at me for the elephant socks I gave her for her birthday). However, one day last week I decided to wear the hat and scarf even though zebra is really out of my comfort level.
What persuaded me to be brave was the book I just finished, Women in Clothes, by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, Leanne Shapton, and 639 others. Yes, 639 others. According to the cover, the material in the book is a “conversation among hundreds of women of all nationalities—famous, anonymous, religious, secular, married, single, young, old—on the subject of clothing, and how the garments we put on every day define and shape our lives.” The editors sent a survey of over 50 questions designed to prompt women to think about their personal style. There is a huge variety of material in the book, some of it more interesting than others, but one theme stands out to me: Women with style don’t necessarily have great taste. What they have is attitude. They seem to be able to put any crazy thing together and then wear it as if it is fabulous.
So, even though I am a person who doesn't wear zebra prints, I decided to act like I am a person who wears zebra prints. I decided to just pretend I look fabulous in it. I put on my hat and scarf, and then I noticed my husband looking at me and raising an eyebrow. This is a man who never comments on anything I wear, unless I ask, but he said, “Well, that sure is a different look.” I don’t think he meant it in a good way.
Still, I persevered. “I can do this,” I thought. I was on my way to the kindergarten class where I volunteer, and I imagined the kids running up to me and saying, “I love your hat, Miss Cheri!” After all, giraffe print is kind of a big deal in that class, so I was sure they would notice zebra print immediately and be excited about my new duds.
They didn't. They weren't. No one said a thing.
“Maybe I’m not a person who can wear zebra after all,” I thought. But after class, I soldiered on. “The hat and the scarf together may be a bit much,” I thought. “I’ll wear just the hat into the grocery store, without the scarf.” I did. No comments. I wore it to Office Depot. No comments. Now this lack of comment was noticeable to me only because whenever I wear one of my two black hats or my lime green fleece ear warmers, people in stores quite often say something complimentary. I don’t know why, as none of the three are particularly memorable. The hats are black knit or black fleece and the ear warmers are just, well, ear warmers, only green. If people so often comment on these dull hats but don’t on the wild zebra hat, what does that silence mean? Hmmmm. I was rapidly losing my ability to pretend I belonged in zebra. “Maybe I just don’t have the panache to pull it off,” I thought.
But then I got out of the car at home and the construction worker next door yelled across the fence at me. “Cool hat!” he said.
I felt so much better.
Me in zebra: