I’ve been working a lot more hours at my book job recently. In the beginning I was lucky to get one 4-hour shift for a week, if I got any shifts at all. This week, I’m doing short shifts, but I’m working 5 days this week. Plus I have the 4 days I work at the booze job. Unfortunately, there is not 9+ days in a week, which means I’m not getting days off and have a few days of running between jobs.
Of course, this also means working more out of uniform. For my booze job I have to wear plain black pants and shoes with my uniform shirt. As long as I keep it all clean, I wear the same thing every single shift and no one cares. It’s not the same with the book job.
Dress code here is a little relaxed, but still professional. Some people show up in dress slacks and blouses, others in tights and tunics. Some wear nice jeans, some wear a different dress every day. Some have a very corporate vibe to them, some a bit edgier, some have a majestic hippy flare.
And then there’s me.
I like cardigans, pockets, and black. If I could, I’d wear combat boots or sneakers every day, with a cute dress (with pockets, of course) and a bandanna. I could change it up in the winter with tights and kilts. Adding tights to an outfit is the only difference between my summer wardrobe and my winter wardrobe. Sounds professional, eh?
I’m really not good at this “dressing like a professional grown-up” thing. Many many years ago, when I had my office job, it was so much easier. We sat behind desks in an office, and didn’t really care what we wore. There was no personality to it, no real effort. It was just dark dress pants, collared blouse, and heels. Sometimes I’d throw a knee-length skirt or some dressy boots into the mix, but it was all pretty basic.
But here, everyone has their own look, their own vibe. We’re working directly with the public, and are a different bunch of folk. We’re all very bookish, many of us are a bit artsy, there’s quite a few writers and researchers, and one woman who always seems to have pictures of bugs laying around for programs. Our CEO wears tights and shirt dresses, my manager wears pageboy hats and khakis, and we have quite a few visible piercings and tattoos in our break room. Basically, everyone is somewhat expected to show a little personality in their attire.
But I am a garbage human who can’t manage to combine “looking like myself” and “wearing something appropriate” into one look. Is a sundress and cardigan appropriate? What do I wear on my feet? Is rockabilly work appropriate? Are high heels ok to wear on the quiet floor? Are ankle bracelets professional, especially when they’re locally made and we push the “support local” movement? What’s the deal with bare legs? Or arms? Or face?
I’m just not good at this whole clothing thing. And it’s not just at work, either. I had to go to a friend’s bridal shower this weekend, and stared into my closet for a good 20 minutes before throwing on a long skirt and tank top. Of course once I get there, everyone is in jumpers: bridal party, friends, relatives of the couple, everyone. I was surprised the groom didn’t show up in a floral jumper at some point. I didn’t know jumpers were the thing to wear, and would have no clue how to wear one anyway.
While we’re on the topic of that shower, I am a total garbage human because I had no clue what to do for the shower. I knew enough to buy a gift off the registry, and had it shipped right to the bride’s house ahead of time like she had asked. The friends I went with did the same thing. But then when we showed up, they had presents. Like, they brought secondary presents to go with the presents they already sent. Like a present for the present!
The whole day was somewhat surreal for me. Woman were sitting around talking about families and careers, showing off pictures of kids and grandkids, talking about high school reunions and retirement parties. And there I am laughing in my head because a coworker sent me video of someone pooping in our parking lot that morning. Throw me in a bar, and I’m social. Carnival, totally social. Walking around downtown while checking on my homeless friends, extremely social. In a room full of women talking about regular, everyday things; awkward to the extreme.
I don’t know how to fully human.
I don’t get things like bridal showers, baby showers, gender reveal parties, engagement parties, housewarming parties, or basically anything else that celebrates milestones. When my brother graduated from University, we walked around for more than an hour taking pictures of him all over campus. When I graduated a few months later, I took back my robes and left. I didn’t even bother going to the graduation for my second degree, because what’s the point? I know it’s a big deal and all, but I just didn’t know how to make it feel like a big deal.
These events make me feel so awkward. I know I should be excited to be there, to be helping someone celebrate something in their life. But how? I basically sat around all day saying stupid crap like, “Wow, these potatoes are crisp”, “my what a moist chicken” and other nonsensical food related crap. I skipped the gender reveal party I was invited to right after that, because I can only handle so much awkwardness in one day. And to me nothing is more awkward than forced conversation with quasi-friends while a young couple smashes cupcakes in each other’s faces to reveal what their unborn spawn’s genitals will someday look like.
I know these are all like basic grown-up things that we humans do. We dress ourselves appropriately, we go to social events, and we celebrate milestones. This all seems so basic, and I still can’t wrap my head around it. Much like Jenna Marbles, I only have three looks: booze uniform, flannel-clad and disheveled with ripped jeans and old tank tops, and “what the hell am I supposed to wear, let’s close our eyes and pull things from the closet at random and hop it looks professional”. I have no real clue what I’m doing, whether it’s dressing the part or not being a socially awkward emu in a room full of majestic ostriches.
I’m just garbage at this.
But you know what? I kinda dig being trash. All of the people I’ve run into lately who seem to have it all together, all just seem so off. I’ve talked to people who are beautifully dressed, who have interesting lives and ideas, who do nothing but complain about every little thing. I complain about the things wrong with my life, joke about the dumpster fire it is right now, but I set about fixing things and enjoying the things I do have.
Instead of sitting around complaining the guy sitting at the corner on my walk is always there, and needs to get a life, and that if he took the $8 he made panhandling and put it towards rent he wouldn’t have to sit there, I freaking talked to him. He’s a sweet guy, limited income, who just like to sit and talk to people and has no one to talk to in his life.
Instead of ignoring my debts, pretending like they’re not there, and just hoping creditors will give up on ever collecting payment from me, I’m tackling things head-on. It’s as stressful as trying to bone quietly while your parents are reading in the next room and there’s no lock on your door. But it means I’m doing something about myself, I’m working on improving things, I’m working towards something, no matter how miserable it makes me at times. Would I like to bury my head in the sand and just forget all about this? Of course! But I’m not a majestic ostrich, just an awkward emu who is getting shit done.
Am I garbage? Hell yes! Am I awkward as hell? If you met me once you wouldn’t even have to ask that question, it’s a definite yes. But am I living life, working on me, trying to improve myself and my situation, and taking control of my life. Will I someday be able to navigate social gatherings? Maybe. Will I someday have the put-together wardrobe, the ability to walk in high heels, and hair that doesn’t remind small children of Ronald McDonald? It’s possible.
Just remember: if you’re a garbage human like me, if your life is a dumpster fire, if you are literal trash, things can always get better little bit by little bit if you put some work into it. It’s called a garbage CAN and not a garbage CANNOT for a reason.