Aging – dinosaurs, televisions, dress codes

Whenever I have one of those reality bites moments about getting older, 2 defining moments come to mind:

  • C, at age 7 and showing me a book she had gotten from the school library on the plesiosaurus, asking me if I had ever seen one in person. While I comfort myself that my daughter had not real concept of time at that point in life, it was rather disconcerting to imagine she thought I could possibly be that many millions of years old.
  • G, at age 4 and mesmerized by something on television, turns to me and asks if TV was invented when I was little. I replied that it had. He looked doubtful and then asked if it had picture AND sound. That it was even color TV made him say “wow!”

I have been truly fortunate with my kids, in that I have always been somewhat wise and am not getting smarter in their eyes as they mature in years themselves. There are zillions of airhead moments they love to rehash at family gatherings, but for the most part ours have been genial give-and-take parent/child relationships.

This morning my daughter called me at 8:15 to say she has an in-person interview for an office job she applied for several weeks ago and could she come by after work to raid my closet for more business-like interview clothes? Of course! Despite my best efforts at thinning my voluminous closet I still have a lot of skirts, blouses, and dresses in a fairly broad range of sizes from my own ups and downs with the scale. Some are just favorites I cannot bear to part with right now, and others are practical just-in-case choices. I am certain I have a black, gray, or navy skirt that will be suitable and a coordinating blouse or twin set to wear with it.

The job fluctuations amongst the youth in my immediate family this year has had me thinking a lot about the changes in the work place and what professional attire means anymore. I am definitely feeling my years in this realm, but I do not think I am especially stodgy or dated in my thoughts. When I was C’s age I was working for a then big-6 accounting firm, and it was frowned upon for men to leave the office without their suit jackets. While the professional dress code allowed for pant suits or slacks, I wore a dress or skirt and blouse and stockings or panty hose to work every single day. The only exception was weekends, when they only cared that you came in and worked when needed. That trend continued until about 10 years ago when I started my present job, where jeans and shirts are more the norm. The march of time and changes in dress codes is a lot of the reason why we are so relaxed about it, although our industry and client culture make it more appropriate as well.

My future son-in-law works in a casual dress code environment as well. I remember when he got the job, he was happy about being able to go to work in jeans and a t-shirt if he wished. This was during one of our family dinners, and he was wearing jeans and a Star Wars t-shirt, and I remeber saying “you can go to your office dressed like that?” There must have been something in my tone that gave away my askance at the idea, because he immediately asked me if I thought it was a bad idea. Ummm … YES. While I was not advocating a wardrobe makeover of suits, dress shirts, and ties, I did think at least khakis and a collared polo or a button-down more appropriate. And wear a belt and tuck your shirt in, please. For me. Setting a bad in-law precedent but I’m practically begging you. Or so it seems our conversation went.

I’m going to be the stodgy mother-in-law, I can already tell.

But he took my advice and has felt a lot more comfortable in his office environment. He told me that the managers and supervisors tend to wear more business casual attire, and since he like the work and hopes to be promotable, he’s working with the old dress-for-success model. The problem now is he has been steadily losing weight the last 7 or 8 months, dropping close to 30 lbs. in that time period. C has been working at it right along with him, and she too is slimmer and feeling a lot more confident. Hence the planned closet raid this evening.

Along with all that, G is also entertaining a job change, parlaying his present sports boutique retail experience into another establishment. My son is respectful, charming, observant, and attentive, and through the years has his built a steady client base of runners and parents shopping for their teenage cross country and track kids. As an aside and example, one of my proudest parent moments was several years back, about a year after G started in the retail boutique he works. A young man came in with his mother to buy a pair running shoes for cross country and was giving his mother a hard time, talking back and being rude. My son was assisting them and upon observing the young man’s disrespectful attitude, told him “you don’t talk to your mother like that, especially when she’s the one buying you $100 running shoes. Apologize now.” And apparently the kid did. I heard the story from G’s manager later that day, and I was shocked, amazed, and SO PROUD. What’s better … a couple of years later, I happened to stop in the store while G was helping a mother and son with a new pair of running shoes. The mom came up to me and told me about what my son had said and done the first time they came in for shoes, when her son was in seventh grade. A few years had passed, the surly young man was now a sophmore in high school, and they were still coming in to have G fit him for shoes every 4 to 6 months. She sang his praises about that day in the store, G telling her kid to shape up and apologize.

Basically my son is pretty good at his job. M and I have long felt that if he is going to toil in retail, perhaps his efforts would be more lucrative if he were to turn his attention to an upscale store shoe department. The possibilities certainly seem endless. Such an opportunity has presented itself, and G is considering it. However, that change requires a significant wardrobe update, and he is just like most men about wearing ties and dress shoes. But if it was part of the work uniform, surely one adjusts? The change would also be beneficial to his college pursuits, with a lot more flexible schedules and variety of hours available.

So as I am going through my holiday shopping madness, it is with these sort of step-ups in mind. M wants to be a lot more conservative, go with gift cards and let them buy what they wish, but I disagree. And since I’m the gift shopper/buyer in our family, they are getting actual gifts this year. However, he knows I am observant and have a pretty good eye for favored colors and cuts, body style and fit. I am actually feeling confident in my clothes stalking and shopping thus far. For once it feels like I have a practical purpose for Christmas gift giving, which always makes it so much more satisfying.

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