Thursday, September 6, 2012

A week of wardrobe angst

Last night we went to my first "Army event"; a Hail and Farewell for Z's unit. We (and a handful of others) were being "hailed" and there was one person leaving, hence the "farewell". 

I think I can sum up the entire event in two words: wardrobe angst.

Because we've been married almost a year, Z has learned that the way women plan for things is VERY different from the way men plan for things. I think every married couple experiences this conversation at some point (or many points)

Husband: Hey, we have that thing tomorrow night.

Wife: um...what thing?

Husband: you know...that thing with my coworkers.

Wife: WHAT?! You didn't tell me about THAT THING. It's TOMORROW?! Are you kidding me? 

Husband: Oh, I thought I told you. Yeah, it's tomorrow night.

It's no big deal to a man. Tomorrow night, they'll go to that thing. But for women...TOMORROW NIGHT. WE HAVE TO GO TO THAT THING.

What will we wear?! Who will we talk to?! How can we be expected to mentally prepare for this in less than 24 hours?! And, WHAT WILL WE WEAR!?!?

Or maybe it's not a universal "men and women" thing. Maybe it's just me. But it makes me feel better if I think I'm not alone, so let's just say everyone experiences this.

ANYWAYS, the point is, Z and I have had that experience, but we learn quickly. So this time around, Zach gives me a whole week to prepare. At the beginning of last week he says "hey we've got a Hail and Farewell next Wednesday night". 

Good. Got it. Duly noted. Begin mental preparation. Check calendar; all clear. 

*waits til Z leaves the room*

"Siri, what is a Hail and Farewell?"

*and then, seized with panic*

"Siri, what do you wear to a hail and farewell event?"
"Katie, I didn't find any events about 'do you wear to hail and farewell'"
"Siri, you're useless"
"I don't really like these arbitrary categories."

When did Siri get so touchy? Jeez. (That really happened. She really said that to me.)

Thankfully, I have plenty of military etiquette books and I am really good at googling things without Siri's attitude getting in my way. But nothing I read was helpful. Everything said "refer to the invitation, which will clearly state the required dress for the event". 

Z, who is a champion, had sent me every email he had received about the event and I read them through multiple times...surely this would clear things up. But no. No mention of dress. I knew the event was held at a local I was leaning towards more casual. Yet it was a "work event"...but what does that MEAN in military terms? Business attire? I don't know. These are the burdens of being an Army wife that no one tells you about. There are spoken and unspoken rules and codes for nearly EVERYTHING one invitation with dress-code ambiguity causes much internal suffering. At least it does for me.

Doesn't anyone understand how stressful it is for a woman to not know what to wear to an event?! It's hard enough when you know "category" of dress and have to pick out something suitable! But when you're going in blind, it's awful. Few things are more socially painful than showing up somewhere dressed inappropriately for an event. 

To make matters worse, it's not like I have my BFF Kristen to call up and say "ok, what are you wearing?" (like we have done for EVERY shared event, major or minor, for our entire lives. Wedding shower...what are you wearing? Dinner with friends...what are you wearing? Trip to Target...what are you wearing?) At least then we both would be dressed similarly. But no. I have no one to call; I have no idea what one wears to this. And Z, I'm sorry to say, is not a reliable source because he's not a girl. He would probably shrug it off if he was dressed differently from everyone else. Guys have it so easy.  

To top off my wardrobe anxiety, I don't know these people. It's not like I can show up dressed incorrectly and we can laugh it off. If I show up dressed in jeans and everyone else is in a dress, I want to sink through the floor. Social anxiety, wardrobe anxiety...all for a little 3 hour event. Ridiculous.

Finally, I had to admit defeat and ask Z for help. He graciously agreed to find out from the lady who was helping organize the event. 

Her response? "Business comfortable"

Um. What? That means nothing. In fact, I'm not even really sure it's a real thing.

FINALLY, the day before the event my salvation came in the form of an event reminder email with the glorious line "dress is casual". HALLELUJAH. Well, halfway hallelujah. Does casual mean I can wear jeans? What about shoes...flats or wedges? Zach, what are you wearing? 

I finally decided on an outfit and we get in the car to go. 
"Zach, if we get there and no one else is in jeans, we're leaving."

I was dead serious.

There was a mild moment of panic when we walked in to see some women in dresses and men in coats and ties. But the overwhelming majority had jeans on and I decided we could stay. Whew. One guy even brought his dog, so I'm pretty confident about the jeans decision. 

The best part of the whole night was the announcement that all unit events would be family-friendly and would always be very casual. Sigh of relief. 

Other than the 10 days of wardrobe angst leading up to the evening, it was quite enjoyable. Everyone was really friendly and it was nice to be able to meet the people Z works with on a daily basis. 

Truthfully, though, I'm exhausted. I hope we don't have any other "wardrobe ambiguous" events in the near future. I don't know if I can handle that.

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