Monday, October 19, 2015

Even this would not make my mother proud

Last spring on a trip to Boston to apartment hunt, a man about my age tried to pick me up in the lounge at the Philadelphia airport. For some reason he thought a good line was to comment on how unusual it was to see a woman of my age with undyed hair. What he actually meant was a woman as well-dressed and bejeweled as I was that day. Ever since my first transatlantic flight, which I took with my parents on a trip to Italy and Greece when I was 19, I have been following my mother's advice to dress up for plane rides. Back in the summer of 1969, for the flight from JFK to London I wore a red, white and blue A-line dress with navy pumps. I may even have worn white gloves while boarding.

This insistence on dressing for travel was one of my mother's dicta about the importance of competitive dressing. She made sure to impress on me that one is judged by one's appearance and that it is always better to be overdressed than underdressed. Even today, when most of the passengers seem to be wearing pajamas, I would never dream of not putting together an outfit for the plane. I am not entirely willing to forgo comfort for style, so I often compensate by wearing a diamond or two with my low-heeled shoes.

So I looked pretty good that day in the Philadelphia airport as I tried to get rid of the guy.  Later, on the plane, he tried again, inquiring about the purpose of my trip. When I told him I was moving to Cambridge, he needlessly commented that I would fit right in with my grey hair. I am sure he didn't realize that this move put him squarely in the "jerk" category and destroyed any chance that I would agree to share a cab with him. However, it turns out he was right - there is a casual, crunchy look to most of the women here. In fact, the only elegant woman I have seen in the three and a half months I've been here was in an elevator in downtown Boston. Here in Cambridge, no one seems to give much thought to their appearance. You might think this would be incredibly refreshing and liberating for someone who has been burdened her entire life with the need to dress well. I wish I could report that I have found a new level of self-acceptance and a release from the constant stress that comes from needing to impress. Actually, I am enjoying the triumph of finally being better dressed than everyone else.


  1. I used to travel half way across the country for my large company. On one trip I met my boss, who worked in a different division in a different state, at a plane change in Chicago or some such place, on a Sunday, going for a Monday morning meeting. He surveyed my crisp jeans, white blouse and nice loafers. He was crisply dressed in full business attire. "What if your luggage were lost?" he acidly observed. He didn't change my travelling habits.

  2. Ha. At least you would have had your crisp jeans and nice loafers.