“Dress for the job you want,” is a phrase my grandmother thought was garbage.
Not to glorify my dead grandmother, but she was rarely nice to anyone. I admired her so. She wore kitten heels after she’d had both hips replaced and when her doctor told her to stop wearing heels, she took a dump in the waiting room of his office. She apologized to the receptionist that had to clean it up, but she followed up with her favorite phrase, “What a waste.”
I heard her say that so often and rarely thought about the intention behind it. My grandmother was subtly teaching me her greatest life lesson: anything less than your best is a waste. Just kidding! I had to interpret something out of her ire, otherwise, I might be a totally broken person. I think the only thing that brought her joy was knowing she could make strangers cry.
But my granny never left her bedroom without looking her best. Not her house, not her garage — her bedroom. I don’t think my grandfather ever saw her without mascara or ever looked her directly in the eye. Her belt and handbag always matched, she ironed every article of clothing, and she had standing weekly hair and nail appointments. Even if she was never able to reach her full potential as a working woman in a man’s world, she was sure as shit going to make people believe she was capable of anything (murder).
During the pandemic, I thought of my dead grandmother often. What would her reaction to COVID be? Would she wear a mask? Would she be the star of a “Karen” video? Would she bully the women that did her hair and nails into opening up just for her? I can accurately guess the answers to all these questions but I know more than anything, she’d have pushed old people out of her way to get the vaccine first. But also, she’d want me to be strong and not give up. She’d want me to dress well even if the only person that saw me was my cats. She also hated cats and said I should drown them in the bathtub.
So when the world began to shut down and I couldn’t find any sweatpants at the Gap because the unwashed masses had purchased every pair, I decided it was time to honor my grandmother. To wear suits, blazers, slacks, and button-down shirts, every single workday during this pandemic. On Fridays’, as a treat, I’d take my shoes off at 3:00 PM (something my grandmother said only street whore’s did). I wasn’t going to give up on myself no matter what everyone else was doing. I would never be a receptionist that agreed to clean up a crazy woman’s feces.
The women of my grandmother’s era lived in a world where they were afforded very few options about what they could do with their lives. I’d like to think that my not dressing like a hobo inside my own home made them happy. Knowing that I woke up every day and put on slacks and a blazer made me feel like less of a waste. It didn’t help me get a job, but I know I look like a boss ass bitch when I go to get the mail.