I counseled at a crisis pregnancy center for two years. The first year I was just a lay counselor, coming in twice a month. I wore nice skirts and basic tops, heels or flats, and basic jewelry (wedding ring, watch, post earrings and maybe a necklace if I thought about it). I wanted to dress nicely in public to give myself the appearance of professionalism and that I respected the women coming in enough to look nice for them. I was just coming into my thoughts on dressing feminine. I soon after became pregnant with Little W and took on an actual paid position at the center as the office assistant. I was past the point of wearing my normal clothing when I took the job so I lived in the 4 maternity shirts and 3 pairs of maternity pants I had. I wore heels until I was 8 months and then went straight into tennis shoes. My wardrobe changed because of my circumstances, but I also realized that since I had more basic face time with all of our visitors it was natural for me to be in pants and a top around them. They thought nothing of it either way, and with my huge belly I doubt they could notice anything else.
After we moved to our present location I felt the need to get into our community. I started volunteering however I could at a local long- term homeless shelter. I felt like I did very little considering what I used to do, mostly manning the desk during classes, passing out meds, answering phones or watching little ones while their parents took life classes. Even though it was getting quite cold out I continued on with my quest for dressing more modestly and feminine. I put on my longer winter skirts, boots, simple tops. I now wore my hair back. In a normal public situation I felt like I looked common. I was not wearing anything really expensive, and I was not wearing my pajamas. No one would point me out at the grocery store.
But at this homeless shelter, I stuck out and I felt it. I did not feel as if I alienated the few men who came to the office to sign out, but with many of the women I saw them eye me like I was a garden snake. I wasn’t going to bite and attack them, but me just being there made them feel uneasy because after all – I looked like a biting snake. I was wearing clothing they didn’t have – they didn’t have a place to live. No smile on my face or kindness on my tongue dulled what my attire spoke to many (but not all) of them.
I felt it was kind of silly at first. I mean, I wanted to tell them how alike we really were. I live a really simple life. We make very little money. The clothes I was wearing either were gifts or things that I have had since before going to college. My underwear was from a multi jumbo $5.99 pack at Wal-Mart. The only reason I could go was because my husband said he would watch our babe for a few hours- and we had little to give monetarily so our giving was predominately volunteering. But all they saw was what I put in front of them. They saw nice clothing, jewelry, leather boots. They saw me drive up in a nice looking car (they would never know that I share it with my husband). And that was not what I wanted. My heart ached- because I had done “nothing” yet said so much. My first words were already spoken and anything that I would actually say to them would have to counteract this first impression. I was conflicted.
How do I dress feminine and nice without alienating those less fortunate than myself? I never considered myself a fancy dresser. I honestly care very little about fashion or accessories. But this circumstance showed me that even I put myself in a tier above others, without even realizing it. At this point I could have said, “Well, they will judge me how they will. It is not who I mean to be.” But I knew that my dress caused a chasm. And these were my people. Even though I did not mean to tell them that I was different, my attire was. And I was not. I had been down and out. I had been at the bottom of a muddy pit- falling with nothing but muck to hold on to. I was the one that was kicking and screaming to be thrown into the world while God so strongly held me in his hand- taking all my abuse to his love. I knew what could bring true peace. What could I do?
… (Due to length I will finish tomorrow) …