Monday, November 17, 2014

Fashion "Disasters" ... or Maybe Not

Thinking maybe it was time I participated in a Throw-Back Thursday on Facebook, I grabbed a box of old photos I'd found recently. Many Throw-Back photos focus on fashion disasters, and there was no doubt in mind I could find a photo of one of my own fashion disasters. After all, I turned 18 in 1975. The seventies and eighties were frightening years for fashion in oh, so many ways.

Thumbing through the photos, I noticed for the first time that there aren't many of me. Guess that can happen when you're more comfortable taking the pix than being in them.

In the few photos of me, I often didn't look half-bad. Gasp. That I looked just fine astonishes me. No, I'm no narcissist, but low self esteem and I do have more than a passing acquaintance.  Not labeled the "pretty sister" in the family, I never had a positive body image, and in those days was resigned to being what I considered decidedly chubby. I didn't absolutely hate my looks back then, but I certainly didn't love my image in the mirror in those days.

Most of the pix show me in jeans and a sweater, or short-shorts and a cotton top. Not really what I'd call total fashion disasters. I was even rocking hoodie jackets before they were hijacked by hipsters. A real trend setter, bwah-ha-ha--not really!

With the few scraps of wisdom I've gained since then, I see in my earlier self a young woman who was in her prime, slim, with a pretty smile and sparkly eyes. Decidedly not chubby, and if I had been chubby, that wouldn't have been the end of the world, now would it?

Too bad I didn't enjoy and celebrate my appearance more back in my teens, twenties, and thirties! What time I wasted worrying about my appearance!

Finally, at the bottom of the box, I found the photo that qualifies as a fashion disaster. It's a red plaid dress, buttoned up to the neck, with a skinny black grosgrain ribbon tie. That 1984 dress hadn't crossed my mind in 30 years, but once I saw it, I remembered I indeed thought it was pretty. It was a nice quality dress that I wore for many years, and I felt good about myself when I wore it. Nowadays it looks vaguely Little House on the Prairie or perhaps a garment a "sister-wife" would wear. The bobbed hair was not my best look, either. Slightly cringe-worthy, but sheer youth and good health can make up for most any fashion faux pas.Some other photos in the box show me in the garb I wore while I was a commercial fisherman. One of only two women on the island who worked crab pots, there's a shot of me looking like the Gorton fisherman. But I look happy, even though my jacket is stained with fish blood. Surely many people would see the goofy red visor and grubby slickers and judge this the ultimate fashion disaster.

For once, looking at that awkward girl that I was, I feel nothing but pride. Happiness, youth, health, and a smile can make a fashion disaster seem trivial in comparison.

So yellow rainslickers are okay with me. However, you can bet I won't be tying a grosgrain ribbon around my neck again in this lifetime.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Ernest Hemingway: The Joys and Dangers of Reading

Depending on the day I’m having, I blame, or thank, Ernest Hemingway.

Reading his books as a teen was dangerous. For Whom the Bell Tolls did me in. I followed it with everything he’d written. Hemingway made me think that it was possible for a kid from the suburbs to have an adventurous life. That the adventurous life was worth seeking. That there was more to me than a studious, meek, naive homebody.

So instead of going to college at 18, I embarked on the twisting, turning, jumbled journey of this life.

I went to work in an auto plant, making cars on an assembly line. An unintentional trailblazer, I was one of the first women autoworkers in the 1970s.

As a member of the UAW, I got an education in unions, learned to question authority. I found out what sexual harassment is, observed what alcoholism can do to people at a young age, and grasped how mind-numbing factory work can be.

I’m thankful someone wants to do that work; I respect factory workers immensely, but I could not survive the assembly line. Chrysler Corporation was floundering and laid me off from time to time, leaving me time to discover the next phase.

After breaking up with my high school boyfriend, I dated. Dating sucks. I pray I never have to date again. Family members introduced me to a fishing guide on an obscure, hurricane-lashed island, accessible only by ferries that sometimes didn’t run.

Hemingway whispered in my ear, told me that islands = adventure.

Yep, before I knew it, I was living under primitive conditions on Ocracoke Island, and married the fishing guide. I learned to cook in a fledgling gourmet restaurant, trained by a rebellious, classically trained female chef. Years passed, and I became a real estate broker, discovering I didn’t have to be paralyzed by shyness.

The marriage ended as I opened my own real estate firm and beach-clothing store. Just as the businesses began turning a profit, a commercial dredge crashed into the main bridge needed to get to our island ferries. With the bridge down, the businesses were ruined.

I parted from the island I’d loved for 13 years. My new man and I sold a few remaining assets, bought an old van, and refurbished a 1964 Holiday Rambler camper. We set out on a 2 year odyssey around the United States, logging 40,000 miles along the way.

We’ve had a few more adventures since then. Enough to agree with Hem that "life is a moveable feast."

And through it all, with each wild twist and turn, each heartbreak, each top of the world, look at that green valley below moment, Hemingway smiled.