I tried, really I did. But I just can’t pull it off. So I’ve given up. Whew, that feels better!
I think it was the beiges and grays that did me in. When I planned for this trip, unlike any trip I’ve made before, I decided to go with what is on so many suggested “What to Bring” lists: neutral color clothing – wash & wear items, mix & match. I didn’t quite outfit myself with the designer travel wear that is the rage amongst world travelers, but I certainly came closer than ever before. For me this meant a pair of beige (khaki, I guess it’s called – I’ve never had this color in my wardrobe before!), gray (what? me, gray, you’ve got to be kidding!) and black cotton capris and then multi-colored tops (I simply couldn’t do solid-colored tops as well – I know some people can do it, but for me, the mono-chromatic thing, especially in these tones, doesn’t work) – two short-sleeved and two sleeveless. The tops brought a little pizzazz into the mix, but not much – all except one were quite subdued. I did add in one of my very lightweight dresses that had some color to it – thankfully, I’ve had that, but it’s sleeveless and hasn’t been ‘appropriate’ attire in many places I’ve been. This too, was very unlike me – I almost always wear and always travel with dresses. But again, I was experimenting, so it was all part of that.
If the truth be told, I was bored with these clothes within the first week, or the first wash, for sure. But I carried on. Granted, I’m normally one who doesn’t wear the same outfit in a 2-month period and I’ve certainly been known to have a flair for clothes that are bright and beautiful, far from fashionable, but certainly colorful and even flashy at times. But I know the value of traveling lightly; and wearing the same things over and over was something I would gladly adjust to. And I didn’t want to look like a clown out here. (I sure remember feeling that way when I lived in Germany – everyone, I mean everyone wore only solid colors: black, brown, navy, gray and beige. I looked ridiculous there, really I did. It was interesting to see how my wardrobe changed over time and before I left, I had a large percentage of black clothes <which reflected my too-often mood there> in my wardrobe. Interesting, too, to see how Rainer’s wardrobe changed after he lived in California <and with me!> for a short time!)
(Another total aside: when I was in grammar school, I used to keep lists of the clothes I wore to school every day, seeing how long I could go without repeating the same outfit – gee, the Virgo obsessive/compulsive thing started early, I guess!)
But what I’ve come to realize is that while wearing the same things repeatedly might be a challenge worth adjusting to, wearing the same boring things over and over just exponentially raised the boring quotient. What to do? Well, nothing, for now. I would carry on with my experiment.
During my few short days in Bangkok, I looked around for some clothes and was shocked to find that there was little on offer of interest to me. I remember being there a decade ago when I bought plenty of cheap and colorful clothes – they simply weren’t here this time around, and the few that interested me were surprisingly expensive. So I left them there.
I paid very little attention to what I looked like – rarely even glimpsing in mirrors. The hair thing was part of this, too. Yeah, I cut my hair shorter than I’ve ever worn it in my life. I didn’t really “like” it, but I decided that didn’t matter either – I just didn’t look at it (it certainly didn’t require any time or attention, that’s for sure!). And I decided it didn’t matter if anyone else liked it either. Cowlicks and all, covered in beiges and grays, here I am, out in the world!
While I’m not quite of the belief that “clothes make the woman,” and while I don’t mean this to sound superficial, I’ve always paid attention to how I look; not in the Cosmo/Vogue, designer sort of way, never. But it’s always mattered to me and I always put at least some time and attention to making myself feel attractive. And, I’ve done enough experimenting with costuming and Glamour-ama accessories in Body Electric and Quodoushka circles to know that what we wear can and does deeply and powerfully affect how we walk through the world, how we move, interact, see and are seen. Put on some glitter or sparkles and guess what – things change, they really do. Put on a military uniform – it’s different. Ask any Drag Queen – it really does change things! And now I was learning about it from another perspective – one that was about non-adorning.
This has been going on for the past 40+ days or so. And I’ve discovered some interesting things. I have indeed been walking through the world differently. I actually feel a bit boring. I can’t quite explain that, and I realize “boring” isn’t really a feeling, but it’s a sense I have. And it’s not a common one for me. It’s like I’m more subtle, less interested in engaging or attracting others’ attention and more detached. Not caring what I look like and whether I am “attractive”(even to myself!) is a very new experience for me and one that’s been worth having. But I think I’m done with it now!
I did some shopping at the market here over the last few weeks and yesterday, added even more things – now I’ve gone through my clothes and decided I’m leaving behind most all the ones I arrived with. Okay, I’ll keep the black capris as they are like light sweat pants and perfect for long travel and any chilly nights that may arise. Earth tones? Better left to the earth, if you ask me. Ohsure, some can really pull them off – I think of Felicia and Mary and they sure have a way of making them work with style and flair. But nope, not me!
Now I have a pair of purple capris – yippee! And a burnt orange pair, too. And just a few days ago, I got a little outfit – a pair of capris with a matching top that are a bright and beautiful purple and white design and I got a great bright orange and white dress which is lightweight and cool and very fun! And I picked up a few scarves – orange and purple, so I’ve got accessories now, too!
Oh, and here’s another thing – I came without a sarong. Anyone who knows me knows I could open a sarong store with all the beautiful sarongs I have in my collection. And my dear Cape Cod friends gifted me another gorgeous one to add to my collection just before I left. But I decided I was coming to the land of sarongs, so I would just buy another fantastic one when I got here. Surprise, surprise, there wasn’t a sarong to be found! I couldn’t believe it! What’s happening? I finally found a few at the market in Phnom Penh that were boring, boring, boring and they wanted $6 for them – how crazy! And not even nice. So, still I held out. But then I arrived at the beach and was getting desperate for one. This was beginning to feel really ridiculous, especially when I envisioned the pile sitting in my closet! Finally, I relented. When I bought my new clothes the other day, I found some sarongs there, too. Again, nothing nearly as interesting or exciting as the ones available at home, but at this point, I had to let that go. So, happily, I can say I have a sarong now! It’s one of those silly ones with big geckos on it – but at least it has some burnt orange and fuchsia colors on it, so that works!
My total wardrobe make-over came to the grand total of around $25 and you know what, I feel different. I feel more “me” now, I’m more comfortable in my body – there seems to be more alignment, more congruence. I am walking differently. And while I’m not sure I’m attracting more attention, I am choosing to engage more. In the whole scheme of things, none of this really matters of course. Except that it does. And I’m grateful for having done the experiment.
I’m also grateful my hair is growing out. Really, I’ll leave the looking like Pema Chodron thing to … well, to Pema Chodron. It fits her much better really – I don’t have any business looking like her. It’s my business, I think, to look like me – and now I do! My hair is longer, it’s getting bleached out and lighter from the sun; my skin is turning a deep, dark bronze and my clothes, yippee, my clothes are not the fancy REI-style ones suggested by every Lonely Planet itinerary. But they are me. And now we are happy together once more!