Fall from fashion

It's official.

I have been in Colorado too long.

How do I know?

No, I did not pledge my allegiance to the Broncos with a full color tattoo on my rear end. An eternity in Colorado would not provide enough time (not to mention ink) for that to happen.

I know I have reached the point of no return because I no longer possess any remote sense of fashion, and worst of all, I don't care.

You can blame the epiphany on the act of a stranger. See, up until that chance encounter, I had been completely oblivious to the fact that my time in small, dusty, out-of-the-way towns had taken its toll on my sense of style. In fact, had it not been for that fateful run-in with that well-plucked, primped, polished and perfumed visitor, I would still be living in my blissful little bubble of androgynous oblivion.

But it all came crashing down around me last week. There I was, minding my own business at the self-serve car wash, busily vacuuming up the flotsam and debris in my car that had finally reached epidemic proportions. I was sucking up the last of the hairballs and Cheerios from between the seats before my 75 cents ran out, when I sensed I was no longer alone. It was not so much an evil presence as an annoying background din, much like the blaring of a too-loud TV. As my money ran out and the vacuum came to a stop, the din became more audible and harder to ignore.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see that a gold SUV had pulled up alongside me, and I heard a woman's voice.

"Do y'all clean cars and vacuum?" I heard her ask.

I chuckled at the absurdity of the question as I stood to hang the vacuum hose back up. I waited to hear the response from whomever it was she was addressing. But when there wasn't one, my nerves snapped to attention as I realized she was talking to me.

The woman in the gold SUV wanted me to clean her car.

OK, so I wasn't exactly decked out in Dior. But it's not like I was wearing a jumpsuit with my name embroidered on the breast pocket either. I like to refer to my ensemble that day as Colorado casual, the basic Durango uniform of well-worn Carhartt's, my best running shoes and a T-shirt. Sure, in most places it would have earned me a spot on one of those shows where they follow you with a hidden camera and berate you for looking like a bag lady. But for a day delivering newspapers in the rain it seemed more than acceptable it was sensible. And as anyone who has endured a mud season in Colorado knows, attempting to wear anything else is pure folly.

But it was obvious that she wasn't from Colorado (or anywhere that had self-serve car washes, for that matter). To her, I looked like someone who scrubs dirt from rich people's undercarriages for a living. Not that I have anything against people in that chosen profession. In fact, I briefly considered accepting her offer, or at least finagling her keys for a little joy ride. Hell, as long as I was there, I may as well make a little money and enjoy myself.

But my pride wouldn't let me. So what if half of my closet was devoted to T-shirts, thumbing through my wardrobe was about as exciting as reading the white pages or my ski jacket cost more than my wedding dress? Hey, at least I wore a dress. Alright, maybe the last (and first) time I wore heels Reagan was in office and I regularly borrow my husband's black Wal-Mart tube socks they're clean and happen to go with everything. I know full-body fleece may not be the most flattering of fits, but it preserves body heat and repels grape juice like nobody's business

Sure, at the end of the day, I may not look good, but at least I feel good knowing that I accept my utter lack of style and can clean my own car without worrying that I'll ruin my suede fringe coat from Neiman's.

In other words, by not making a fashion statement, I am making a fashion statement.

Unfortunately, my detractor that day wasn't listening, and as I stood there in bewilderment, she grew impatient and repeated her question.

"Do ya'll clean cars and vacuum," she demanded.

I turned to face my antagonist, in her coordinated denim and rhinestone, knowing that although the truth can hurt, it can also set you free.

"No ma'am, y'all do," I answered.

Missy Votel




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