You hate to think so, but it's true: compared to, say, the French, we Americans look pretty sad.
I mean there THEY are sipping fine wines in their awesome clothes, and here WE are chugging down our Big Gulps and boarding airplanes in our sweatpants.
It's not so much that we don't CARE how we look. It's that we lack confidence and are befuddled when it comes to our dress.
Because what else but a befuddlement born of uncertainty could BE responsible for the way we go around in clothes as baggy as old pajamas? I mean aside from the fact that we've all grown a mite ... hefty?
And when we're not going around in clothes that are too baggy, we're going around in clothes that are too tight.
Think how many of us look like teddy bears sausaged into pantyhose. I bet I look like that every time I try going to the gym in that perfectly serviceable leotard from the great Age of the Fonda Workout. (Lucky for an unsuspecting public I never get past the bathroom mirror.)
I think we all worry about our "look" these days, in a way that nobody worried in an earlier era, the men in their fedoras, the women in their sheaths.
I recently attended a neighborhood gathering described on the invitation as a "cocktail party," a phrase whose elegant associations evidently threw us all for a loop.
We SHOULD have been perfectly casual in our attitude toward the event. After all it would be just us neighbors with no danger of our running into any red carpet moments.
Plus, less than an hour before the party was to start, a storm straight out of the Book of Revelations blew in, and the power went out all up and down the street. Thus, chances were, we wouldn't even be able to SEE one another.
Still, we all fretted, as we discovered once the sun returned and the party started in earnest.
One neighbor came in classic cocktail-party garb: a little black dress with super-high heels. Yet even she worried she was dressed wrong.
"I had doubts at the last minute," she told a group of us. "'What am I doing in THIS?' I thought, but by then it was too late to change."
A second guest said, "Heck, look at me! Do you SEE this jacket?"
It was seersucker. Red seersucker, or was it a reddish pink?
"AND it's part of a SUIT!" he yelped. "I had the whole thing on before it occurred to me that it might just be a little MUCH!"
But to me he looked great, as I told him when we all stopped laughing long enough to resume talking.
What didn't look great was the get-up I had on, a weird, semi-tunic-y thing that had looked very chic when I saw it on that cruise ship, especially after all the Daiquiris I'd inhaled out there on the deck.
In truth I looked like all four Golden Girls rolled into one.
AND, with the curse of the curly-haired that is my curse, and the rain that had so lately buffeted us, my hair had Gone Rogue; just swelled right up, like the foil around your Jiffy Pop.
But, hey, what are you gonna do? We're not Parisians and that's a fact.
So really we might as WELL jump into our clothes, baggy or sausage-casing tight and toast the summer.
Just maybe with a nice French wine instead of a Big Gulp.
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