I consider going to an orchestra performance among those occasions in life when a person should dress up. A half an hour before the babysitter arrives, I like to step inside my closet and take a look around. Sometimes I even try on as many as four or five outfits before settling on my little black dress. As my husband and I are heading out the door, I’ll notice that he has once again tried to get away with a dinner jacket and Birkenstocks, so I’ll kindly ask him to change. And while he’s at it, would it kill him to get a haircut?
We went to a Cleveland Orchestra performance (or “show,” as the P-Dawg calls it) a few weekends ago. I wore a little black dress. And while sipping chardonnay from a plastic cup in the lobby, I happened to notice this:
Of course, not everyone has a spiffy black dress and sensible pumps or stilettos she can wear to the Rachmaninoff show. I understand that Jesus himself wore sandals and it’s not the 1950s anymore. But if you’re going to an event that’s hosted by a group of men and women in tuxes and gowns, my feeling is that you should dress similarly as a courtesy to them. Would you show up for a planned photo op at the White House in flip-flops and a tank?
We all want to be comfortable. That’s why we take our bra off the minute we walk though the door at night and sleep in our pajamas instead of hairshirts. We have grown to expect our clothing to be more a second skin, less a sausage casing. The first time I tried to hang a clip-on tie on my son, he acted as though I was attempting an emergency tracheotomy. And I’ll be the first to admit that when I’m wearing a pair of Spanx or nylons, it’s all I can do not to start running in circles and lighting things on fire.
But I still maintain that dressing up is good for you. If it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger. It’s OK if you’re not 100% comfortable. (Remember, I’m sitting just a few seats over trying not to pick my own wedgie.) I think that when we go to some trouble about our appearance, we comport ourselves to match it. I think when we dress up, we become more refined versions of ourselves. We start opening doors we might have otherwise let slam in faces. We become more graceful or more debonair. We’re more inclined to smile at a stranger. We put our water bottle in the recycling bin instead of throwing it away.
Flip-flops aren’t the reason civilization is going to hell in a hand basket, they’re just the stone that starts the avalanche. First you wear flip-flops to the symphony, then you don’t bother to write your grandma a thank-you note for the cash she sent you at Christmas. Next you plagiarizing your college thesis off the Internet and before you know it, you’re calling the president a liar on C-SPAN and leaving misspelled, incendiary, anonymous comments on someone’s post at Salon.com. In twenty years’ time, you’re running the country (badly, in ALL CAPS).
I’m just saying it’s a slippery slope, and your flip-flops are perched on the precipice.
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