house clothes

Many years ago, when I was a young and impressionable MA student, I went with a friend to see another grad student from his department. We were going to look at her laptop because he was thinking about buying one. So we went to the other side of the city where she lived with her husband who had some sort of real job, and stopped by her house in the late morning. This visit made a huge mark on my young mind because she was "studying for her comprehensive exams." Something which we knew we would have to do soon. She had an organized system of notes involving massive 3-ring binders. She had an incredibly charming little apartment in a funky neighborhood. And she was wearing an outfit that managed to strike the perfect balance between at-home studying comfort and super-cuteness. In short, I was in complete awe of this woman -- she had a kind of life that seemed so far beyond my sloppy student ways.

Reaching further back into my memory, I pull out the mesh shirt my dad used to wear at home around 1980 or so. No doubt a horrific fashion artifact were it to survive today. But it was comfortable in the hot summer, and my dad (an academic himself -- I grew up in the Egghead Family) spent most of his time in his big chair reading and writing. If he were going to leave the house, then he'd put on a t-shirt or even a real shirt. My parents each had several definite categories of clothes: dressed up, full-on professional, semi-professional, respectable casual, errand-running, and house clothes. At home, my mom even wore those old-fashioned "housedresses" that snapped all the way down the front. You didn't wear your street clothes around in the house unless you were expecting company, in which case everyone had to move up a level or two in attire. (And you had to dress up to get on a plane, but that's another story...)

About an hour ago, my partner returned home with a bunch of 20-somethings who are working with her on a project this summer. I was in my house clothes and -- a sure sign of middle age -- didn't even care. Of course, in the summer my errand-running or acceptable casual clothes are pretty comfortable and not dressy at all (t-shirts, jeans). But today I've been doing chores and sorting through piles of stuff. I'm wearing men's basketball shorts and a gang-style t-shirt from the local neighborhood shop (a gift from my partner -- it's ironic we think, but even so I don't quite feel up to wearing it out of the house ever). I have flat hair from last night's ball cap (no shower yet today) and I'm wearing my glasses. My body parts are covered and I'm comfortable. But presentable? stylish? nope. Sometimes I think I'd like to be one of those people like the girl from our MA program, whose at-home clothes were cute and presentable at a moment's notice. But obviously my family's training wins out. And, just as wearing my teaching clothes puts me in the frame of mind to teach, wearing my at-home clothes helps me tackle the chores. But I'm definitely in at-home mind. When I make the grocery store run later, I'll have to change my clothes...