Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Person Your Mother Warned You About

The problem with working from home (and there are a few of them -- I know that if you are a person who goes into an office every day, this is probably the part where you roll your eyes in annoyance and you may have muttered "Oh PLEASE" to yourself, which is fine, but let's review what you have in your workplace that I don't have in mine. A supply closet, which the magical office fairies keep well stocked. Other people with whom you can talk and make lunch plans. Possibly even on site IT support. Think about it) is that, well, you're at home. So if you are having a crazy hair day, the kind where no matter what you do, your bangs insist on looking like something hideous JK Rowling might have mentioned on an evil character in Harry Potter, or if your skin is doing something blotchy, or if you oversleep and don't have time to shower -- well, none of it matters. It's fine. Because no one will see you.

Now, having said that, I would like to say here that I do shower and actually get dressed on a daily basis. I usually also put on makeup because it helps me with the transition between "not working" and "working" -- a vital distinction when your office is in your house.

However, I should point out that dress code here is verrrrrrrrry relaxed.

Which is, of course, where the trouble starts.

You see, of late I have an affinity for things with skulls on them. I don't know why, or where it came from. I just ... kind of, a little ... like skulls.

I also like pink.

So when I found a hot pink tshirt with a black skull screen printed on it, you KNOW I bought it. Admittedly, I bought it for a halloween costume. But I love it. It's perfectly comfortable. And so, sometimes, I wear it when I'm hanging out at home. No big deal. I don't, as a rule, wear it outside of the house, with the exception of a recent concert-going adventure, for which it seemed wildly appropriate.

So in the opposite fashion of most people, I have clothes that I have deemed "work appropriate" but not "leaving the house" appropriate. Because, as I've mentioned, I work from home.

On occasion, though, I forget what I'm wearing. And then I go to run an errand.

It happens.

Yesterday afternoon, I had to go to the grocery store. I had a list, I had my purse, I was ready to go. I was walking through the parking lot when I noticed a mother and her toddler. The little guy waved at me from his perch in the shopping cart. I smiled and waved back. The mom looked at me, made a face, and moved the cart to where the kid couldn't see me.

"That's so unfriendly," I thought. 

I went into the store and felt like people were giving me a wide berth. The first couple of times it happened, I didn't think much of it, since I had grabbed what could best be described as a NASCAR cart -- it only wanted to turn left -- and so steering it down the aisles was an issue. "Maybe they're afraid they'll get hit with this godforsaken cart," I thought.

But it kept happening.

That was when the paranoia set in. Did I SMELL? Was I stinky? Was my hair doing something crazy? Was I somehow, unknowing, giving off a vibe that said "Potentially armed and unstable"? What was going on?

I hurried through the remainder of my shopping. The cashier eyed me warily until I began to make small talk. Then she thawed out.

I went to my car and caught sight of my reflection in the rear windshield. And began to laugh.

I had on a black skirt, black flipflops, and the hot pink skull shirt.  Due to a recent bout with insomnia, I had big dark circles around my eyes.

Some days, apparently, I AM the person your mother warned you about.

However, the whole "stay away from the scary lady" thing made me think. How offensive is it that we still judge each other so harshly for things so very, very superficial? Did I seem dangerous to that mom in the parking lot, when I waved back to her son?  Because ... why? A hot pink shirt with a skull on it screams "danger"? Because nothing screams "serial killer" like my five foot five inch, skirt and flip flop clad self?

While the whole thing was comical, it also makes me incredibly sad. At the same time, though, it fills me with resolve to be a better person, a less judgemental one, who is not willing to take anything or anyone at face value.

Even if they're NOT wearing fun shirts with skulls on them.

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