Sunday, May 20, 2012

matching your clothes to fit your courage



      What you wear presents an image open to interpretation, and there is no way to get around it either.
       Clothing is little more than a basic covering, although our modern cultural fascination with style and fashion goes way to the other extreme. Take for example, the focus on Kate Middleton’s wedding dress, or media hype over a popular NBA player’s body tattoos.
     Attire speaks of an individual. You have among your friends and family members possibly one or two that you might be quick to say are outrageous dressers, but perhaps they are courageous, too, if you look at it differently.
     Katherine Hepburn put on pants in the 1940’s and made fashion history way a head of her time. She was her own person, and her clothing made a statement. You absolutely could class her as rebellious and independent.
     There were others, too, like Amelia Earhart. She went against the grain with more important things to accomplish in life, and she wore her courage on her sleeve.
     Think how long it took businesses and schools to accept female employees wearing pants, and perish the thought, going without stockings. The casual Friday dress code followed. Then women applauded the courage of a new generation of mothers- in -waiting showing off their baby bumps in the nineties when Demi Moore set the standard on Vanity Fair’s 1991 cover.
      Clothing can define an even broader commitment to society.
      On 9/11 while workers from the Twin Towers were running away to safety, the brave New York City uniformed police and firemen were doing their jobs, and going in the more difficult direction. There were plenty of off-duty officers that “internally” wore their uniforms into the burning buildings as well, following their professional oaths.
     There is a well-known saying going around the Internet that proclaims, “Every morning when a policeman or a fireman put on a uniform there is a complete act of selfless courage along with it. They do not know what they are going to face when they walk out the door.”
    The same goes for our military. They are sons, daughters, husbands and fathers; whether or not you agree with the usefulness of war, these men and women are serving their country.
     Now you might argue that clothing and acceptable dress has gone down the tubes. Clothing makes a statement whether it might be good or bad, intentional or not.
     Can you ever forget Jerry Seinfeld is his pink puffy shirt and Cher in her get-ups? Take a look at re-runs from early sit-coms, and there have been courageous dressers way before today.   
   “I wear clothes as I don’t have the courage in this society not to,” one freethinking feminist informed me in no uncertain terms.    
     A teacher went to school in a pair of green Capri slacks and a purple polo shirt. She thought that she looked a bit preppy, since her usual attire was much more “theatrical.”
    As she was beginning her first lesson the room erupted with giggling.
     "OK, what's the joke?"
      One brave soul responded, "You look like Barney."
     She laughed and said, "That wasn't exactly the look I was trying to achieve, but I'm glad I've brought back a happy childhood memory."
     Frantically trying to suppress his laughter another boy said, "What look were you trying to achieve?"
     She said that she was putting together colors found in nature. From the back of the room came grumbling that green and purple are never found together in nature.
      "You never see purple and green in the forest? What about tulips, lilacs and grapes?”
     Grunts were made in acknowledgement. Courage can be there on both sides of the classroom when a teacher and her students can enjoy honest laughter together.
     If you go to a festival you will encounter every imaginable statement on a t-shirt indicating someone’s status. There are particular t-shirts that catch your eye because they courageously make a statement from “I support same sex marriage,” to “save the planet from fracking.”
     The pink shirt symbolizing a breast Cancer survivor prompts you to pause a moment and think of the tough road someone walks. It forms solidarity between wearers as well. Their courage is difficult to put into words, but they journey forward together.
      My ninety-year old gym friend used to get on the treadmill wearing the title of a poetry book on her sweatshirt saying, “When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple.” I asked her what it felt like to be her age.
     “I feel the same as an eighteen year old,” was her quick comeback with a grin on her face. “I guess I am courageously living my life day to day.”
      For a colorblind individual facing the constant challenge with dressing, you hope that he has loving assistance.
     Teaching a youngster how to match prints and stripes properly can be a slow go, but do-able task. Maybe it’s fashionable to experiment with lines and angles, anyhow, and throw that fashion rule out once and for all.  
     You might feel at top form wearing a classic outfit from thirty years ago that shows-off the splendor of a different decade.
     For those of you who’s daily routine includes polishing your medals on a uniform, you should hold your head up high.
     Consider that you put on a badge of courage when you dress each day. You are your unique self.