October 17, 2006

Dressed like an academic

It was a presentation at a national conference, and everyone else on the panel would be wearing a suit. So I pulled out my one professional outfit – black pants and a blazer. And a long black coat. My black coat is a hand-me-up from Urban Sophisticate Sister, whose cast-off clothes are still far nicer than anything I own. As I got dressed, it felt funny to be putting on this outfit at home, instead of in a hotel room. This year the conference was being held in Snowstorm City, at a conference center within walking distance of my campus office.

Of course, once I was dressed, I had to leave the house. I have seven cats, and black pants have this special magnetism that attracts cat hairs, much the way my skin attracts poison ivy juice. I knew if I spent any time lounging around the house, taking the time perhaps to figure out what I was going to say for the presentation, or hanging out and eating breakfast, that I would I end up looking like a crazy cat lady.

So I went to campus to do a few hours of work before it was time to walk over to the conference. As I walked through the library to my office, I noticed students and colleagues giving me sympathetic looks. It was a little strange. Why was everyone feeling sorry for me? I looked down to see if there was anything particularly pathetic about my appearance. Was I covered in cat hairs? No. Was I trailing toilet paper? No. Had I made the mistake of getting chalk on my hands and then wiping them on myself so that I had handprints on my butt? No.

It's true that my students and colleagues are used to seeing me dressed in jeans, but that does not account for the way they greeted me with somber head tilts instead of the usual cheery hellos. Perhaps they thought it was sad to see me dressed like an academic instead of a tree-hugging, peace-loving, feminist hippie poet.

Then finally one colleague said something that made it all clear. "Going to a wake?"

Yeah. My looking-like-an-academic outfit is, perhaps not coincidentally, the same outfit I wear to funerals.

18 comments:

Kristen said...

This made me chuckle...obviously your colleagues know you well. :-)

Shelly said...

I'm hurting over this last conference.

zelda1 said...

I only own really dressey thing and it is what I use for all important dress up days. That means that while I wear it to functions like interviews, I also wear it to funerals, to weddings, and to christenings and first communions and anything else that has to do with wearing dress up clothes. In fact, a few years ago, I lost a considerable amount of weight and had to buy a new funeral suit as I called it and while I was at the store, a sale's clerk brought out a really nice somber suit and I said, "Well, it's nice for a funeral but I need it to double for weddings too." She looked at me like I was nuts, but hey, why own too many dresup clothes? One suit is enough for any one, right?

jo(e) said...

Zelda1: That's my thinking. One "marry 'em, bury 'em" outfit is all a person needs.

Mona Buonanotte said...

I'm with you...all my dressy clothes are black. I like to think of myself as a hip female Johnny Cash.

Jenevieve said...

Yeah, I definitely wore my "academic presentations" outfit at the last funeral and the last two weddings I attended. Black skirt, black button up shirt over red tank top (like a power tie), black coat over the whole thing. And I'm a twenty-something. We're supposed to, like, you know, love clothes.

Except that I, like, you know, don't.

Yankee, Transferred said...

I have a thing called "the outfit."
It's for meetings, funerals, the theater, etc.

Some day, I'm gonna own two outfits, I just know it.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Oh, that's funny! Except it isn't. (But it is.)

I have a very nice red blazer that I haven't worn in about eight years. I have no occasion to wear dress-up work clothes... In fact the last time I wore it was for halloween. I dressed as a head hunter: wore the suit and carried barbie doll heads on a stick.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

LOL! ROTFLOL! This made me chuckle and giggle! Very cute--and so true! :-D

PPB said...

well, there are some similarities between academic conferences and funerals.

Rana said...

Perhaps this explains why I didn't stick it out in academia! ;)

My "dress-up outfit" is a camel pants suit I wear with a red-glaze silk shirt - very snazzy, but not at all "academic."

Anonymous said...

Ha! Oh, to have a job where you can wear jeans to work!

Silver Creek Mom said...

LMAO! that was too cute. At least they are sympatictic.

Jeans are my comfort zone. I seel clothes but I can't seem to leave the jeans behind.

BeachMama said...

That is funny. I was thinking that they thought you were leaving for another job somewhere else.

I love dressing up and am just sorry that people look at you funny when you are pushing a stroller in your heels.

Leslee said...

I wear the same outfit to weddings and funerals so I can totally understand.

Kyla said...

Very funny! Everyone knows you well. :)

Lilian said...

Oh, well, that was totally unexpected!!! I was trying to figure out what the problem was, but I never thought they were looking somber because they thought someone had died!

Marie said...

I have so few dressy clothes that one of my colleagues rattled off both suits and choices for underneath when I tried to think of what to wear to a cool school event. I wore the same brown suit to 3 funerals this summer. The other is a black dressy suit that I wore to my own wedding!