On my wedding day, I confidently wore my veil upside down. Just as confidently, I conducted an interview with astronaut Buzz Aldrin wearing my skirt inside out. The moms from my old hood still like to remind me of the day I wore my swim skirt backwards. By now donning a black and navy-blue shoe combo has become passé. These couture combinations are not by design defiant, just blissful ignorance. It is, in fact, how I seem to wear my genes.
I take comfort knowing I come from a long line of wardrobe malfunctioners. My kind, very prim and proper grandmother, who never had a hair out of place, was about to embark on a month-long bus tour of the United States. With her luggage stowed beneath the bus she excitedly boarded. While standing in the aisle, she removed her coat and got comfortable in her seat. It wasn’t until Iowa that she noticed she had forgotten to put on her skirt, and “That my dears,” she would impart “is why you should always wear a pretty slip.” This genetic clothing glitch might skip certain generations. My parents--unless you count polyester leisure suits or white, vinyl-stretchy boots--seemed to wear outfits as intended.
According to family lore, our fashion mishaps date back to the turn of the other century with the arrival of my Irish ancestors to America. The story goes that my great, great somethings, were below deck in the midst of dressing when they heard “I see her, there’s Lady Liberty." Not to miss the sight, my forefathers ran on deck, just as they were. Upon seeing the Statue of Liberty the patriarch proclaimed, “We come to America naked, let us see how she will cloth us.”
This brings me to the present, and why I am looking aghast at the JFK Airport TSA officer when he says “Please remove your sweater.” I actually look around to see to whom he is speaking. It must be me, because the gal behind me is methodically removing all of her body piercings, plinking them into the plastic bin and is certainly not wearing any sort of outer layer. I, on the other hand, am wearing a baggy sweater over a crew neck t-shirt. He says it again. “Either remove your sweater or move to the next line for a body pat-down.” OK, maybe that would have been an option, but I am running late, super late, like gonna-miss-the-flight-to-LA-late, like not-gonna-get-paid-if-I-don’t-show-up late! Plus, the line for the pat-down is long and Glinda-the-Groper is taking a little bit too much pleasure in her searches, it seems to me. Perhaps she is hoping to discover the first “inseam bomber?” The crowd behind me is getting ugly, the time is growing short, the slings and arrows of outrageous embarrassment lose out to my need to get on that flight.
Off comes the sweater, revealing, yet again, a dressing defect. In cool weather, I, like most folks, dress in layers. It’s the order these layers take that might be considered a little unorthodox. The pattern is, t-shirt, bra and then sweater. (Why? Because. All right?) So there I stand like a poor man’s Madonna, a very poor man’s Madonna (the singer, not the virgin) wearing my underwear as outerwear. And it couldn’t be white- on-white. Nope. I’m wearing a bright orange bra over a white t-shirt
I may have experienced a moment of selective amnesia because the next thing I remember is being on the other side of the metal detector praying my sweater will emerge from the baggage screening device. While I'm waiting, the girl with the body piercings checks me out, “I like the look,” she says. “Thanks,” I say, “fashion sense runs in the family.”
My kids are mini-mees of my husband in build, face and gait. It’s hard to see where I fit into the picture, maybe the eyebrows or some of the hair color is like mine (whatever that used to be.) But the other day I saw my son in unmatched sneakers. I asked “Are you aware you’re wearing two different shoes?” He looked down. “So I am.” He shrugged and then with a backwards wave slunk out the door with a slur of words, “sallright, mom, sallright." I agree. It is all right.