The first time that I saw That Mom, she was walking near The Plaza. Her purse was slung across her body the way I wear mine, only she looked crisper and more confidently stylish than me.
I saw her again at a ballpark. While I was gritting on field dust, she cheered her son from an identical chair. Why did she look many degrees cooler than I felt?
When I saw her pushing a shopping cart at the Big Red Box Store with a teenage girl, I was perplexed. We both had on a similar mom-uniform. She looked like me, only a polished and seemingly together version of me. What did she have that I didn’t?
Then I got it.
It was the white.
Stylish Shopping Woman had on white shorts.
Crisp Plaza Mama had on a white skirt, and Cool Ballfield Mom had on white capris.
If I clad myself in white, I, too, could be stylish, crisp and cool; I could be That Mom! I altered my shopping course to change my life.
Standing in the tiny dressing room, I tossed my wrinkled khaki shorts on the bench and reached for a pair of white capris. It didn’t take long to remember why I didn’t wear white.
It didn’t fit my lifestyle.
While simply standing in the dressing room I worried about the real potential of an invisible-to-me stain in an awkward place. I fretted about my undergarments showing.
Almost audibly, I heard every piece of what-to-wear advice about putting a dark color on the desired minimization area. Trust me when I say, capris cover that whole terrain.
I looked in the mirror. I did look a little like her. Maybe if I stood straight, styled my hair and didn’t have a cornflake stuck to my shirt, I could be her.
I squinted at my reflection. Yes! I was her!
Then I did something I had never done: I bought white — a pair of shorts and a skirt.
Over the next two months I put them both on several times, then immediately took them off. All the dressing room fears were compounded when the pristine white faced my real life. I couldn’t do it.
Last week I spotted the bright whites in a pile of earth tones and decided that enough was enough. What would I want my kids to do? Face their fears (and as fears go, this one is pretty tame).
I put on the white skirt and left it on.
I had several coffees and none of them landed on me.
I painted my toenails a dark purple and didn’t drip on myself (the floor, yes; myself, no).
I went to the movies with Luke and worried that an M&M had melted to my posterior, but shooed the thought away. Asking a teenage boy to inspect would have sent him into therapy.
Facing my fears is one thing, but stupidity is another. I donned an apron to frost cupcakes and make dinner.
At the end of the ordinary day, I inspected the skirt.
It was a wrinkled mess.
Chocolate frosting, a little dirt from … who knows where, and a greasy spot from popcorn.
Then I had a moment of clarity: Even with a frosting-sploshed skirt, melted-off makeup and messy hair, I had felt pretty good about how I looked all day. If someone had thought ill of me for life-spots on my white clothes, it said more superficial things about them than me.
What I had on didn’t matter. Being That Mom isn’t a fashion choice or a lifestyle. That Mom is an attitude.
Susan Vollenweider lives in Smithville. For more of her writing, go to thehistorychicks.com.