Joco Diversions

EMILY PARNELL| Are these pants too bright? Sometimes we must stroll along in our choices

In their defense, they weren’t really wrong.

My teal blue pants were brighter by daylight than they had been in my bedroom, or in the store. And the whole matchy-matchy thing I had tried with the floral shirt just added more color. I mean, just because the yellow shirt’s leaves


match the deep teal blue of the pants doesn’t mean I should wear them together, I guess. I knew it wasn’t the most fashionable choice I’d ever made.

I ran it past my husband. “Is this too bright?” I asked.

He looked at me. Really looked, truly evaluated, before saying, “It’s fine.”

Once I got out in the sunlight, I decided he and I were both wrong. It was too much. But it wasn’t worth going home to change or anything like that. Because who the heck cares if my outfit’s a little bit bright, right?

But I was wrong. Some people do care. I would never have known this, except that I heard a group of women gossiping about my outfit. They couldn’t see me, nor could I see them, so I’m really not even sure who it was, and if I did, I probably wouldn’t know their names anyway because I hardly know anybody there at all. But I was in plain earshot of their little fashion police pow wow. Oh, to have been gutsy enough to call out, “I can hear you.” But I wasn’t. I just listened and kept working.

“Did you see her pants?”

“No, are they, like a mint green?”

“No, darker, you’ll just have to see them.”

“I mean, they might be OK by themselves, but just because the colors match doesn’t mean you should put that whole outfit all together.” They were all women speaking, voices I didn’t really recognize.

And it went on for a while. I won’t bore you with the details, but the bottom line was, they didn’t like my pants and shirt. Not together, anyhow.

It was all so… funny. I’m just a freelancer, see, and I go in, do my work and leave. I say “hello” in the elevators. I smile in the break room. I try to make small talk, which may sometimes come across as awkward small talk, but it’s an effort, right? And I occasionally wear pants that are apparently a particularly offensive shade of teal blue.

On the way home, I called my husband, who laughed heartily. In fact, he found it so hilarious, he couldn’t stop laughing. It was particularly funny to him that I’d asked him what he thought — and he approved my evidently heinous choice. Once I’d finished adding merriment to his day, I called a friend to tell her my woes.

“I kept waiting to get mad — for the words’ bite to sink in and start to sting, but it’s just so ridiculous. They don’t know me — or anything about me.”

“Well, are you sure it was you they were talking about?”

I was pretty sure. I’d been described in pretty good detail.

A couple days later, my kids were talking about schoolmates making fun of something-or-other and how it hurt their feelings. It could have been either of them — this type of thing is a common occurrence with the younger crowd. I was spewing typical adult talk. “Just be nice. Don’t worry about what other people are saying or doing. You’re fantastic just the way you are.”

But their indignation was acute and their feelings were hurt. “But so-and-so said…”

I surprised myself, when I said, “I know just how you feel. The same thing happened to me at work.” Their eyes grew huge. “Some people didn’t like my pants, and they were talking about them. Behind my back, but I could hear them. I didn’t like it. But oh well.”

And a couple mornings later when I came out of my bedroom ready to leave, wearing my blue-green pants once again, my daughter looked at them.

“Are those the…?” I nodded. “And you’re wearing them?” I nodded again.

“Do you like them?” I asked her. She smiled and nodded.

And off I went. Back to the same place. In my brightly colored pants.