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Here’s one reason I don’t do things sometimes; I would have to change my clothes. Does that happen to you? I think it’s significant of a complex society that we might change our clothes a number of times in a day in order to meet our goals. This occurred to me as I was about to take an after-dinner walk around the ‘hood, and I groaned inwardly. Changing clothes was required, and seemed a bit too much to ask. I mean, in a couple hours I would be forced to put on my pajamas!
I admit I am spoiled in the clothes-changing forum relative to some folks. Don’t we have an actual word in English for changing clothes?? I guess not. Anyway, I don’t actually go somewhere to work, so the requirements of changing (I’m gonna shorten it to that) are relaxed in that regard. I get out of bed and I’m in my work clothes- at least for writing. If I’m on a creative roll, I may spend the whole morning in my nightgown. Which is pretty sweet.
But that nightgown-clad stress reduction program only works if I don’t do yoga when I get up. These days I alternate between qigong and yoga for morning practice, which happens after I walk downstairs, feed the cat, unplug the electric garden fence, and make a cup of herb tea to haul back upstairs with me to my bedroom. Qigong, especially the form I do upon rising, and nightgown go together like lovers in the park.
But hatha yoga? not so much. Time for a T shirt and leggings, which is the comfy home version of yoga wear. I’d have to come up with something else if I was actually going to a class, a fact I often note as I hike myself into a shoulder stand and the t shirt falls, shoving my abdominal fat into my face. The belly fat means I would definitely have to up my clothing game for yoga classes; money would have to be spent. And poor people can’t afford yoga wear, y’all- even if we could get classes on the cheap. I wish I could pay to get rid of the fat. Would buying yoga wear help?
I am sure both changing and the yoga wear expense is a major cause of poor attendance in yoga classes. Changing is also the cause for all those abandoned Exercycles and treadmills that litter American basements. Someone didn’t want to change their clothes, and then they got even lazier. Buying something didn’t help.
The most common activity after writing in my world is domestic labor; of course there are always cooking and cleaning. But seasonal painting and repairing and otherwise working on my house, gardening, landscaping, and other forms of yardwork, require a change. If painting is on the docket, particular clothing is close at hand, no need to shop. I have a garbage bag of paint-encrusted clothing that always announces my occupation should I wear it in public. Not the bag, the clothes.
Back in the day my paint clothing’s announcement of occupation might have been the case for yoga gear, too, until it edged its way into popular fashion. Once, pre-yoga wear, it was considered declasse to wear skin tight clothing in public, especially for women, I guess. It was, and maybe still is a bit, like wearing underwear. No problem with wearing repurposed underwear designs any more, thanks to the athletic wear industry. People who have never done a day of yoga in their lives might nowadays be caught wearing the garb, actually. Often. Since it’s fashionable.
There was a somewhat brief period in American history when I could have worn my yoga pants and skin tight top (to eliminate revelation of my belly fat during inversions, natch) and folks would have been impressed with my fit lifestyle. It was a time period that rushed past me as I raised my progeny. It was a period where too many people thought impressing others with their fitness was a good idea, and did not change after their yoga practice.
In that transitional yoga wear period, women (mostly) might just go to work, or out shopping, or dropping their kids off at school looking fit, impressing coworkers, cashiers, and other parents to boot. In a good way. Now, we’re all used to seeing women encased like sausages in Spandex, and yoga is indeed a fashionable lifestyle choice, however hopelessly conceptual “lifestyle” is. Which yoga wasn’t always. In my life. It used to be a super-weirdo neon sign, impressing the general public with the fact that you smoked marijuana, or worse. I assume we all know what that meant in my youth.
I started yoga so long ago I don’t recall what I wore; probably a leotard and tights, one of my wardrobe basics as a teen. Which makes going to the toilet challenging, a challenge which, despite the garb’s slimming effects, eventually wore thin. Haha. But there was no specific yoga gear then. Of that I am sure.
Admittedly my trash bag painting outfit also impresses, should I wear it out in public, which happens mostly when I have to “run”, as we say, to the hardware store. For one thing, my garbage bag clothes stash makes friends by announcing my current state of affairs, kind of like walking a Golden Retriever on a leash, or pushing a really cute happy baby around in a stroller. A possible conversation starter, in other words.
People’s otherwise cautious brains light up in recognition; “I know what you’ve been doing!” People love that moment of revelative connection; you are no longer a stranger. In the first case you’re a dog lover who regularly cleans up shit. In the second, you must have procreated, a prurient matter in my society, and you regularly clean up shit. In the third you’re a handy person, who gets filthy painting houses. But similar to the first two, I think, in some ways. Or not. In defense of the comparison my cat is actually very old and misses the litter box most of the time. Unless people are visiting. Solve that one for me.
This hardware store-based automatic social recognition for my painting work is kinda nice after the writing thing. The common assumption about my painting gear, I think, is that I am a very hardworking lady, which is a relief after the sometimes hopelessly insecure rigors of the dyed-in-the-wool artist. If I tell people I am a writer, I imagine they frequently assume I mean “slacker”, “dreamer”, or probably both.
Since I am getting imaginary kudos in the hardware store for being industrious, the painting costume contrasts with yoga wear in that I don’t have to be concerned about belly fat. Nobody cares about your fat when you are up for painting the house, scrubbing the basement, tilling the soil, and digging drainage trenches, simultaneously canning pickles, baking bread, and cycling the laundry, because in those cases it is not at all your job to be ornamental. I’m not sure why physical appearance is important in yoga class, but there you have it. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The need to keep your fat from sagging, or all the ass-ogling that results when we wear stretchy pants to Whole Foods? No surprise that the good old-fashioned girdle, a clothing item that I thought was gone for good, is decidedly back. Probably with hypoallergenic options.
Of course, getting filthy in domestically practical ways is not all I do. If I go to tai chi class, that’s a change of clothing for Ms. Lazy About Changing; time to remove my invisibility cloak. However, the nature of tai chi or qigong, as opposed to yoga, means I can have a bit of fun in the clothing department, and loose and baggy, which is always more comfortable, is often an enhancement of the fun. Since there are no inversions. Colorful gauze skirts over tights or leggings, or Hammer pants, are groovy wardrobe options. Though I did get compliments when I wore all-black skin tight cotton Spandex. Sigh. It’s hard being me. Nobody else would even try, as Rodney Dangerfield famously said.
I did begin this ruminating on the whole wardrobe thing when I was at a Tamburitzans concert in Calumet last week. The Tamburitzans are a college-based troupe that does traditional European dance and music. In this occupation they are not only definitely, but frequently costumed. Indeed, I was dazzled by so many costume changes that I distracted myself increasingly, as the concert wore on. With each costume change I was more worried about how they might fit all of the clothes on their tour bus, as though it were somehow my problem.
The other contemplative observational nugget I came up with was, that unless I am mistaken, way back in the day, like a couple generations before my day, in the trad days, or maybe it’s sometimes still happening, people did not spend so much time changing their clothes. We assume that Indigenous folks lurking in the Amazon jungle might fit their wardrobe in their hand, for example, since it seems like it consists of a thong with a hand woven belt for accessorizing.
A trad monocostume for, say, a Russian or Bulgarian peasant sounded a bit relieving, I thought, as I relaxed in my folding theater seat slack-jawed, before me dancers bouncing away hours of athletic moves in ten pounds or so of frequently shifting natural fibers, fixed toothy smiles on their yet unlined faces. Though the performers were changing a lot, the peasants of old assumedly had like one handwoven shirt each. At a time. No recourse if they wanted to do yoga inversions. Unless you were a man. Who don’t require a shirt, if you did not bother with the previous image captioned to that effect.
In fact I did try the monocostume option once, and failed miserably. For a year I attended a girl’s boarding school and yes, we had costumes, or uniforms if you like. In advance, I decidedly looked forward to this uniformed lifestyle option. I had already spent about 4 years of my adolescent life obsessing over my public presentation. Staying up until all hours finishing a piece of clothing I was sewing, or washing things by hand at the last minute and draping them over the radiator to dry, perpetually strewing my bedroom floor with every option as I struggled to find the right color, the right fit, the right belt or shoes. How comforting, I imagined as I set off for the nearby tiny state of Rhode Island, to have my clothes, a navy wool blanket, a few towels and a couple sheets, all fitting neatly in the little plywood luggage trunk bought for the very purpose! Simplicity. Ahhh.
I failed this costuming test though, as I earlier stated. The prep school, Mary C. Wheeler, was/is? both boarding and day school, and of the students attending that year (a couple hundred I estimate, I don’t actually remember) there were a handful, like FIVE, who could not manage to stick to the costume protocol. Besides me, there was my friend Lovedy whom I ended up later running into at University of New Mexico, where she was studying dance. She gave me my first immersion experiences in the culture of performing artists.
One was my blue-eyed emo day student friend Pam, another artist, of the graphic sort. She gave me my first immersion experience in the lives of the unhappy affluent, when I visited her weekends in Newport. Lovedy was frequently found borrowing of my wacky clothes, especially a little waist jacket I had made from a cutwork embroidery tablecloth, an item I sometimes had to wrest from her. Interestingly, I see upon cruising the internet that the founder of the school was an artist, tutored by May Alcott, sister of famous author Louisa May. I really don’t recall being informed at the time of such groovy origins. People are way more prone to get into the bios of awesome ladies these days.
Ancient history, yes. Point being, I suppose, that I have never really been able to stop changing my clothing, even when I had the option, though the boarding school experience did help me calm my theoretically artistic obsession with the same. Adolescent, I was using my body as a blank canvas topped by a cosmetically enhanced face, and that is indeed what the fashion industry does. My obsession with my appearance continued in a less extreme but still somewhat passionate vein until I became a mother. When that happened, I abandoned the clothing arts to such an extent that I rarely looked in a mirror. I couldn’t go to the bathroom without someone banging on the door. When would I bother with mirror gazing? It’s a good thing I still do shoulder stands, or I might ignore my belly fat entirely and forever, since I have never gotten happy about mirrors again. The mirror ship sailed decades ago.
To bring this tale current, let it be noted that I had intended for over a year to accomplish this simple after dinner walk. And, as is the case every time I manage to get dressed for tai chi class, I did not regret the effort. I do understand why some college students now wear their pajamas to class, and beyond. And I also wonder, does Superman have to get into a phone booth to change? Into Clark Kent? Which is kind of like changing into being normal. Like changing from a pretty young woman in leotards into a Mom. Who is too poor to afford yoga wear.
I can’t recall that back shift happening in the comics. It seems like Supie always upgraded from cowardly nerd to hero, as inspiration to us all. Anyway, I’m sure it’s relieving for Superman to have his skin tight uniform in case he wants to do yoga, though the lack of phone booths these days might be a problem. Or maybe, like Jack Black, he just likes to wear stretchy pants. Not to impress his coworkers, but just for fun. No persistent smiles required, and belly fat optional.