And that is exactly how I saw fancy as I grew into a teen and young adult. It was work. Wearing makeup, donning jewelry, and dressing up was strictly reserved for special occasions. Being a theatre brat meant make up is only for the stage. Make up is part of your costume, part of your character. So at times I needed to wear make up to assume a character in my life. My stage persona would of course wear make up for a role, but “Formal Dance Angie” and “Boogie Angie” and “Hot Date Angie” all had their time in the limelight. And when a time and place did not call for fancy, then I was in my jeans and
t-shirt with a ponytail - just “Plain Old Angie”. There was a stark contrast between the fancy and plain-Jane. Some people didn’t even recognize me at times.
Over time the formal dances, partying, and hot dates faded away. They were replaced with a stable a loving relationship (i.e. comfortable enough to not care what I look like) and two kids (i.e. too tired to care what I look like). I had a brief revisit of fancy when I returned to school a few years ago but that has grown cobwebs along with the outdated books.
Nowadays I don’t wear make-up. Doing my hair requires at most a brush and a pony tail, usually covered by a baseball cap, most times unwashed. Don’t get the wrong picture here. I’m not filthy. I wear deodorant… when I leave the house. And I’d like to say, I do not stink.
I like to think of myself as low maintenance. But at times, slob is probably a more accurate description. But that implies laziness. And while I do admit to my fair share of being a bum, it really doesn’t apply to my sense of style. I am all about comfort. I prefer t-shirts and jeans. Dresses are a rarity, skirts a never. Capris yes, shorts no. Digging through my drawers will turn up massive amounts of blacks, greys, and my beloved browns. No colors until a few years ago when I decided that I needed to turn up the volume a little. So now there’s a rainbow of colorful tees, all solid, rarely a print or pattern. Jammies are even more of a snore. No sex appeal in sweats and oversized tees featuring the local business that gave me the shirt for free.
And speaking of drawers… I own several pairs of 100% cotton, solid color, no-joke, granny panties. No crazy animal prints or designs and not a single thong or lace panty in the bunch. And while I may have a few pairs that have a teensy bit of lace trim or are made of a super stretchy silky fabric, they are hardly worn and were purchased probably more than 10 years ago. But there is a small dresser that holds some fancy I haven’t explored in years. Stuff I’ve kept, held onto, but never donned. Stuff I rearrange and reorganize about once a year but just sigh as I shove it back in its dark dungeon.
Who would’ve ever guessed that my son going away to camp for a week would lead me to rediscovering my fancy and more importantly, re-bonding with my daughter?
For the past couple of years I have been so absorbed and focused on my son, Ryan. When he was diagnosed with cancer and spent two months in the PICU on a ventilator, I was right there by his side the whole time and my “new” college fancy went right out the window along with my studies. There wasn’t time, or necessity, to think about looking nice or feeling feminine. My world revolved around him and sadly my relationship with my daughter, Rowan, has suffered. I still feel guilty about not being able to spend as much time with her, constantly worrying about Ryan. Granted, Rowan was so young when Ryan was diagnosed (only 6 months old), so the attention she wanted most was a boob in her face at all times. The whole situation left me physically and emotionally exhausted and not feeling fancy in the least.
It has been almost a year now since Ryan finished treatment. We have finally found “normal”. During this time Rowan has developed quite a sassy personality and a temper to boot. We’ve been enrolling Ryan in all sorts of fun activities to try to make up for the lost summer of last year with all the chemo treatments. From soccer, to baseball, to art contests, to charity events & fundraisers: this summer has been focused on him and all sorts of “boy” activities. This week though, everything changed.
I sent my son to camp. For a WHOLE week! It is a special camp just for kids with cancer and it is only about 30 minutes away. Ryan is only 4 and one of the youngest campers. I have never been away from him for more than a day. This was very difficult for me. I had my fair share of crying and missing him. But I decided this was a great opportunity to do some fun stuff with Rowan.
I really wanted to show her what being a girl is all about. I wanted to do things that were important to me as a little girl and shaped who I am today. I wanted to have some quality mommy/daughter time. I planned some big things like shopping, her first mani/pedi, and lunch with Grammy. But the little things like buying her first necklace and first purse, braiding her hair, and eating fro-yo covered in candy for lunch, sparked a desire in me to become an ambassador of beauty, poise, and grace. I wanted to teach her how to be a girl. But it turns out I did not need to teach her this. Fancy is something every girl is born with. And the more time I spent with her, the more I was learning from her. I watched as she selected her favorite outfits to wear each day. I spied her dancing in front of and admiring herself in the mirror. I gave in to her adamant demands for certain pairs of shoes: yellow “bee” canvas slipons & purple glitter jellies. I saw her twirl around in her new dresses. I saw her “dress up” in princess gowns and high heels and crowns. I observed her coy and playful smirks at strangers. I watched her tip toe across the room to gingerly pick up toys.
I started to notice a change in me. I am wearing jewelry again. I am fixing my hair – not just brushing it and pulling into a pony tail. I treated myself to a mani/pedi: I haven’t had one probably 5 years! I dug through that dungeon of a drawer and actually wore a scarf in my hair the other day! I am starting to feel more feminine. I even put on a dress and heels to have a hot date with my man! I haven’t put on any make up yet, but it is a start. Look out world, I’m bringing fancy back!
What better way to do it than don a dress?
So now my little man is home and we are now settled back into our normal routine. But this morning instead of throwing on my regular plain janes, I dare to venture into the closet. The closet is reserved for Roberts clothes and a nice amount of dress pants, blouses, jackets, and dresses. My “work collection” as well as my “wedding & funeral” apparel. I decide on a whim to try on a dress, one I haven’t wore in years, since before I became a mother. I walked in front of the mirror reaching behind me to pull up the zipper and before I can get a glance, Ryan says with authentic enthusiasm, “Wow mom! That looks
beautiful! You should wear that today!” I am positive that I saw sparkles all around my reflection as I blushed and turned towards the mirror. I DID look good! I felt like a flirty school girl, “Really? You think I should wear this?” I don’t believe I have ever heard Ryan comment on my appearance. I decided to try on a few more, you know, just for fun. The next one was a bomb, kids agreed, and I made a mental note to get it altered (when I get the time and money to do so). That sparked a memory of having a dress altered for a wedding. It was like it was made just for me. I dig the dress out and slip it on. It is
black with large green and white hibiscus flowers, seamed right above the knees, a flattering a-line with a nice amount of flare, thin adjustable spaghetti straps, and a high cut sweetheart bustline that surprisingly shows a hint of cleavage. Fits like a glove. The kids ooh and ahh over me and I feel fantastic! I fix my hair pinning a green bow just above my ear, hair still
pulled back in a ponytail but it gives the look a fifties feel. I decide right then and there that THIS is what I’m going to wear today. My grand plans for getting all dressed up for the day? Nothing. Stay home & clean house… in a dress. For once I decide to get fancy when there is no good reason to do so. Thanks to the compliments, it was much easier than I had imagined.
Later in the day as I was lounging like a queen in deep avoidance of cleaning house… What? I wouldn’t want to soil the gorgeous fabric… one of those thin straps broke. I sighed and started to march upstairs when Ryan asked where I was going. I told him I needed to change since the strap broke. “Oh no, Mommy! But you look so pretty in that dress!” Ahhhhh! I am so glad he is home!
Angie is a stay-at-home mom of two amazing kids, Ryan (4) and Rowan (2) and you can follow her son's cancer journey here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/RyansHope/
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