What’s In A Name

When I was in college, I started seeing a guy who came from a very wealthy family. By very wealthy, I mean, “Oh, the last time I played poker with Michael, (as in Michael Jordan and yeah, there was a time prior), I won $10k off of him….but by the end of the night he’d taken it back….plus another $10k! Oh, Pshaw!”

Basically, they existed in a world I knew nothing about. One that included exclusive memberships at Country Clubs and friends with hospitals and wings at major universities named after them.

They used the words “Summer” and “Winter” as verbs. As in, “We summered in….we plan to winter in….”

In other words, I was the Andy, he was the Blaine. (Pretty in Pink).

Overall, the parents of the Ex treated me well. They routinely attempted to lavish me with expensive gifts and shopping trips that I would politely decline. They seemed to believe that by gifting me with expensive things, they were showing me they liked and accepted me….and they were often offended when I declined.

I couldn’t seem to make them understand that I appreciated invitations to holiday and family events far more than I did a pair of diamond earrings or $1,000 in cash I hadn’t earned to spend on an afternoon of shopping….so for years we politely battled back and forth over the real value of material items.

One year, they invited me to accompany them to a swanky ski resort to celebrate New Year’s Eve. They made reservations at an expensive restaurant and purchased tickets to a fancy New Year’s Eve party with top shelf drinks and hors d’oeuvres with names I couldn’t pronounce, translate or spell.

As I prepared myself for the party, I asked the Ex what I should wear. Did I need a dress, or were pants acceptable?

After learning the whole group planned to dress in pants….since we would likely be circulating in and out of doors throughout the evening…I pooled my meager financial resources and decided to purchase a nice, expensive (by my definition) sweater from Macy’s….where I had never purchased a single piece of clothing previously.

The sweater was a thick turtleneck that fit me well. It didn’t look bunched or chunky and it hung as though it had been tailored to fit me. It had wide, horizontal stripes in alternating shades of pink with a slight shimmer that I thought was both age appropriate and fun for the occasion.

I paired the sweater with the one, nice pair of black dress pants I owned….ironing them to the point of being able to stand up by themselves.

Unable to afford new shoes, I wore a pair of black boots I owned from Target that….with a little elbow grease and shoe polish….shined up nicely.

I pulled my hair back into a loose french twist and my make-up application was simple and classic. After donning the few lovely pieces of pretty jewelry I had inherited from my grandmother, I stood back to take a look at myself in one of the gargantuan mirrors….in one of the bajillion dollar bathroom’s….at the Ex’s parents house. What I saw reflecting back at me, looked like a million bucks.

I confidently stepped out of the bathroom and made my way down the hall, where I encountered the Ex’s mother….dressed in a bathrobe….with a garment bag slung over an arm as she made her way toward her bedroom. She looked at me and it was clear she did not see a million bucks. She saw more like, $50….at best.

I scurried back to the bathroom for another look. I stared at every single part of me and still, I felt I looked nice and there was nothing more I could do at that point, regardless.

Mustering up my pride, I stepped out again and headed back down the hall. Before I rounded the corner that would lead me to the grand staircase….that might have been reclaimed from the Titanic….I heard the Ex’s mother speaking quietly with her son.

“Did she dress up for this?” I heard her ask.

Now, I have had some truly mortifying moments in life. Moments that are so horrifically embarrassing, I still shudder when I think of them….but this? This was and continues to be, the single most humiliating moment of my entire life. Considering I wore two Spiderman overnight diapers….taped together to form one…..to the hospital when my water broke and my son was born….that’s saying something.

“She looks nice. She’s very pretty, but stripes? They are just too casual and not appropriate for this kind of event” she continued. “I will look through my closet and see if there might something I can offer her. Don’t worry, I’ll explain there’s a dress code. She just doesn’t know any better.”

Ouch! How was it possible that I saw First Class and she saw steerage?

Before I could make a dash for the secondary staircase that led directly to the kitchen….where I apparently belonged….the Ex came around the corner looking sheepish. After mumbling something about dress codes and black ties, he stated his mother was coming to discuss it further….and there she was….carrying a small heap of tops.

After offering me some educational tips on dress for such an occasion and the expectations of the establishments we would be visiting….she plopped her wares into my arms….not needing to tell me I should try them on.

I headed for the bathroom fighting hard to suppress the tears of embarrassment and anger welling in my eyes….while also fighting back the urge to tell her to go fuck herself….I plopped down on the toilet and surveyed her offerings.

Firstly, we weren’t the same size. Secondly, I’m sure Blanche Devereaux would have loved the options….but since I was 21 and not 45+….I did not.

Glancing at the labels, I considered stealing a few of them to sell and finance my next semester of college, but figured that’s probably what was expected of me and I would not give her the satisfaction.

Instead, I rubbed them against the toilet seat and the drain in the shower for a bit….before walking back out to declare none of them fit….and it was perfectly fine if I was uninvited, since I didn’t really want to go anymore anyway.

The Ex collected his mother’s clothing and I have no idea what was discussed, but my invitation was not rescinded.

And you know what, she was right. As a visitor in their world that night, my stripes stood out like a turd in a Dom Perignon champagne fountain….and it was utterly absurd.

Welcome to the world we live in!

So, that’s where the name came from. It’s meant to encapsulate all those awkward, random, laughable moments in life when you shake your head at someone else’s perceived lack of self-awareness or common sense….which I do all the time….but also those moments when someone else is shaking their head at you (me)….because that also happens….all the time.


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