When our lockdown in France happened back in March of 2020, I started wearing wedge heeled sandals and dresses. Every. Single. Day.
I was fresh off several months of my “turn things I don’t love into things I love” Suitcase Method cure. The problem, of course, was seasons were changing: from September 2019, when I started my Reverse KonMari Suitcase Method to March 2020 when we were stuck at home, there was more sunshine and nicer temperatures, especially in our fourth floor apartment. What I had altered and figured out how to love was no longer seasonally appropriate.
But something else was happening, too. I suddenly had people at home all the time; little people who were concerned about what was happening in the world and why they couldn’t go out to play. A little switch flipped in my brain that told me I needed to make it look and feel, as much as possible, like everything was normal. Even better than normal. Whether it was for my own sanity or for theirs, this became urgent.
So every morning, I saw to it that we all got dressed and brushed our teeth. I wore heels and dresses so that I would feel like I had gotten dressed up for the occasion (even if it was just to play Play-Doh or build a pillow fort). I can honestly say that my family made it through the lockdown with a ton of great memories, and not one of them was of us staying in our pyjamas all day.
Most of all, when I picture that time, I picture my rainbow dress, the one I had not yet had the courage to wear out in public because it was one of my “I don’t love it” dresses. It is a loud, obnoxious dress. It is the least European thing I can imagine, short of an American Flag bikini. Yet I bought it because…well…I guess I thought I could pull it off.
I actually have a whole grouping of these kind of obnoxious dresses. I call them my “Look at Me!” dresses. Bright colors, graphic prints. I love to look at them in my closet, but I heretofore had not loved wearing them. Truth be told, I don’t like it when people look at me. Like reallllly don’t like it. So wearing a dress that I literally call a “Look at Me!” dress creates cacophonic dissonance in my mind. (Perhaps nearly as loud as that rainbow dress.)
Lockdown was the perfect time to wear my “Look at Me!” dresses. I don’t mind it when my scalawags and their indulgent father look at me. After a few weeks, I got used to seeing myself in those dresses. And while I came to the conclusion that the dresses wore me, and not me the dress, I was okay with it within the four walls of our apartment.
Then lockdown lifted and I had a decision to make: would I be brave enough to wear my “Look at Me!” dresses out in public and not just leave them to languish in my closet where they looked pretty on hangers?
Yes and no. As I felt my way through the newness of once again living in society, I realized that if I was going to see people I knew well, there was no way I could wear a “Look at Me!” dress. On the other hand, if I was just running errands or going to the park with little chance of seeing people I knew, I was fine with it.
The dissonance remained: whatever I thought these dresses said about me was something I didn’t want the people who knew me to hear.
It was a fascinating study about what image of myself I want to project into the world. The “Look at Me!” dresses became a kind of costume, whether inside the apartment or out. I wore them as a character who had plenty of confidence, lived in the moment. Add the petticoats I inherited from a friend last summer, I could practically rule the world with all that confidence.
The question was, and to a large extent remains, why do I not want people I know to see me as a confident person?
Enter: Gravitas, stage right.