Why should I give a rat's ass what other people think about the clothing I choose to wear?
This question keeps clawing at the innards of my brain following an incident in my newsroom. I call it incident because I am not prone to "calling people out," sharply pointing out the lesser moments of weakness that simply define a mean person.
Rather... I am one of those folks who accept the whispered abuses of others (you know... those twits in the cubicles across the office) in part because I reconcile that A) their opinion DOES NOT matter in my universe and B) they really don't exist in my universe, anyway.
We have two primary offenders in our newsroom. Wannabee fashionistas, I'll call them, who berate and nit-pick the hell out of everyone else. They pick on folks who wear open-toed shoes with pantyhose, people who wear polyester, and they are VERY critical where shoes are concerned (hell, even Jimmy Choo would be laughed out of our shop).
The catch is... Donatella Versace and Calvin Klein, they're not. A young Betty White and an older Bart Simpson would be a more appropriate description. For sure, these two do not deserve to be handing out the fashion design demerits. Bart wears jeans and polo shirts to work consistently and makes little effort to demonstrate his mastery of mixing and matching colors properly. "Betty White" would be found guilty in any courtroom of making her own fashion mistakes. For Exhibit A, I point to an homage-to-the-80s-decade navy blue knit wool dress with hideous maroon trim and conspicuously gaudy gold buttons. Exhibit B: the most obscene pink leather two piece suit (I had no idea the leather industry was capitalizing on the availability of gay cows). I could go on and on but really, this is an exercise in subjectivity, right?
Precisely my initial inspiration for this diatribe.
Normally I accept the consequence of what I wear when my name is drawn by the lottery of their abuse. It's easy to tell when one's a target because they punctuate their ridicule with mutual glances and gawking that ooze with feigned discretion. In that brief moment of their "private" review (first they'll rake a poor soul over the coals with one another, then they further the abuse by gossiping about the unsuspecting victim with whomever gets trapped in their web of venomous critique), I hang my head and shame myself for my poor wardrobe choice made in the haze of an early morning.
But today was different.
I was mighty proud last night when I made a score at the local Mallopolis. I found two really cute tops with an off-the-shoulder cut (all the kids are wearing them) for 15 bucks each. They're long sleeved with a high neckline on the right, and slant all the way off the shoulder on my left side, but are otherwise fitted. It's a modern version to a popular fashion of the 80s... updated with more tailored construction.
This is the closest example I can find on-line, except mine have two sleeves.
photo courtesy msn.com
My new schedule at work affords me the treasured luxury of dressing casual five days a week, and the new tops were a perfect addition to add a dash of trendy to the recipe of an otherwise classic wardrobe.
They're cute, and they make me happy. Must I need any other reasons to justify their wearing?
Well, I suppose so. I happened to catch Bart humming the theme song to that great 80's flick Flashdance as I walked by: "She's a maniac, maniac on the floor. And she's dancing like she's never danced before."
I mean, c'mon. Am I supposed to believe he just happens to have this song in heavy rotation in his CD player, and that he just happens to be humming it as I walk by? A tune from the movie that first made off-the-shoulder-shirts popular?
Maybe someone else. But Not Bart. I know the way he operates.
It ticked me off. For a good 15 minutes I considered letting his little mental-joyride-at-my-expense slide by, just like all the other times. But suddenly I was awash (cue the America The Beautiful music here) in justice and doing what's right and patriotism and standing up to the bully and fighting for the little guy.
Basically I wanted to put Bart in his place. He's the guy with whom I make chit-chat, punctuate his day with flirty glances and share an occasional guffaw with in otherwise glum newsroom. Betty White I can live without, but Bart, he was a pal and I felt betrayed by his meanspirited blasting.
So I called him on it.
I passed him by the bathroom doors as I happened to walk from one department to another.
"So Bart. Was it a coincidence you were humming the Flashdance song? Or was it because of me?"
My delivery started off with a smile (which I do when I'm either happy or nervous) but quickly my expression turned to granite.
"I wasn't humming the song to Flashdance."
"Yes you were. I heard you. 'She's a maniac, maniac on the floor.'"
I glared at him, waiting for his second retort. An innocent person would have made another swipe at disputing my claim.
I flipped my hair over my shoulder and sauntered over to my desk, where my phone was ringing. As I picked up my receiver, I stared Bart down, who looked at me while grabbing a bottle of water from his desk before heading outside.
His expression said one word: Busted.
Part of me was bursting with vindication. Finally! I had nabbed Betty and Bart and their clandestine criticism of the collective newsroom. I had demonstrated the testicular fortitude to stand up to folks who mask their insecurities by being mean to everyone else. My mind raced with victorious energy akin to the feelings reserved for an Olympics medal ceremony... and all I did was call a jerk out on his mean-spirited remarks.
But another side of me felt guilty. I celebrated my "hunt" with others who had fallen victim at one time or another, but their cheers and pats on the back were fleeting when compared with the guilt of acknowledging I was no better than Bart and Betty were.
Sure. I didn't pick on them on purpose. But my celebrating at Bart's expense came from the same vein of unkindness as their own actions.
It's not so much which I did, but what I did with it, that I have a problem with. Standing up for one's self is a right no one should feel ashamed of. But my badnaming them in turn was no way to cap off an otherwise honest and deserved defense of myself.
I guess "It's nice to be nice" is a two way street ;)