816 North

Even for an audience of one plus the undead, the ‘uniform’ projects an image

The “uniform” Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s character, Negan, wears in AMC’s “The Walking Dead” is (probably) different than a work-at-home mom’s, but it still projects an important image.
The “uniform” Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s character, Negan, wears in AMC’s “The Walking Dead” is (probably) different than a work-at-home mom’s, but it still projects an important image. AP

Monday morning. After two days of family-centered, weekend decision-making comes Monday and we shift our focus.

In this house we go back to school, back to work and one of us (that would be me) spends the morning as a hausfrau. I tidy-up the debris field of the weekend (why do we need so many charger cords and earbuds?), do laundry, change bedding, and iron my husband’s now-clean work clothes, because that’s the kind of wife he got. (I also watch “The Walking Dead” when I iron, analyze that.)

I take a few minutes to appreciate the silence of the house and then I go to work.

By “go to work” I mean, “go to my basement office or sit at the dining room table with a laptop.” Technically, I never left work. Such is the life of the work-at-home, self-employed set ... or, at least, such is the life of this one.

I communicate with people all day, but I don’t see them, so I don’t need to look a certain way or project a certain image. The most that I require of my clothes is a pleasant smell and comfort.

And yet, I expect more than that.

Last Monday, during the “appreciating the silence” minutes, I scrolled through Facebook. The first post I saw was from my friend Sarah, who’s an elementary school music teacher:

I wish I would’ve gone into a career that had a uniform, because I despise having to make big life decisions, like what I’m going to wear in the morning.

The struggle is real.

She was making a joke and — I know, I know — as far as life problems go, this is on the low, low end of the privilege scale. Behind “Darn paper cut!” and “This milk is bad,” but before “The Sentsy wax is gone.” It was Monday, though, and I felt her struggle.

That morning I had already changed my outfit three times.

I was like a middle-aged Goldilocks:

This one it too loose!

This one is too thick!

This one is too “why the heck did I buy this?”

I had no plans to see anyone. No Skype calls, no meetings, no errands, no volunteer activities, I wasn’t even expecting a Fed-Ex delivery. It was just me, a laptop, an iron and the undead.

I had Spring Fever ... bad. I wanted to wear something light and breezy, but the temperature forced me to reach for the dark and dreary — the over-worn winter clothes.

The fleece-lined tights and leggings that used to make me feel cute and toasty, are now pill-lined legwear of discomfort; the cozy cardigans have become faded, stretched and have lost buttons. Formerly the Short, the Long and the Nice black sweaters have become the Armpit Rip, the Grease-Stained and the One Day This Really Was Black sweaters.

Instead of a soft jersey dress with pockets and new, pristine white Keds, I settled on a version of the same uniform I’ve been wearing since October — stretched-out tights, a faded oversized hoodie and beat-up black flats.

I think Sarah, and most of us, wear a uniform of some sort even if it’s not dictated by someone else. While he may not be required to wear freshly pressed button downs and khakis, they’re my husband’s work uniform nonetheless. I don’t have to get out of my pajamas, but I get dressed in what I think of as my uniform to tell myself it’s time to focus.

It’s our personal style, our own way of telling ourselves it’s time to do what we do all day. They are the clothes that project the way we want the world to see us, even if the population of our world, that day, is only a mirror.

Susan Vollenweider lives in the Northland. To listen to the women’s history or historical media recap podcasts that she co-hosts or read more of her work visit www.thehistorychicks.com or www.susanvollenweider.com.