Two Seemingly Unimportant Things Learned From Style Blogging, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:53am

Today we are taking a scientific approach. Because we can.

Hypothesis: If you do anything, anything at all, regularly for 4.5 years, you’re going to learn a thing or two. Even at midlife. No matter how obdurately you put your head in the sand.

Proof: A few experiences from writing this blog. (Probably not actually proof, but this is personal not public science)

Solve Lots Of Little Worries For A Big Bang & The Wrong People Always Apologize

1. Solve lots of little worries for a big bang. What I mean is things that bother you, individually trivial yet systemically burdensome, are worth fixing. For example, I’ve been dressing myself for at least 50 years, suffering angst in important social situations all the while. These feelings bubbled below the surface. Didn’t even register as a problem, much less a fixable problem. And then I started writing here. When you write about something you have to think about it. And, turns out, when you think about a problem long and carefully, you can often solve it. Or get pretty close.

The other day I was faced with a tricky situation. As usual, I took a minute to think about what to wear. I felt the lack of worry so palpably it was almost like a thing itself. I needed to consider, sure, but I could name my concerns. And in naming, address them. A whole category of life anxiety gone.

2. The wrong people always apologize. When last Saturday’s post kicked up a small kerfuffle, and I deleted several comments (including my own), some of you emailed to apologize. Guess what. Those who wrote were not the prime offenders. On the other hand, those who had made truly rude or hostile statements remained silent. So if you’re feeling the urge to apologize for something, go ahead. Just realize it’s highly likely you’re not the one at fault.

Perhaps you knew all of the above. You are, after all, a highly intelligent set. So if you’ve figured out anything brilliant, or even just useful, evidently I’m here to learn.

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  • Here’s my apology: I’m sorry I got to the post so late that I missed the comments. I can’t imagine what they would be (really)!

    Do love your blog. Seems as though you anticipate my questions, so they’re already answered for me!

    6:47 am
    Lisa said...

    It makes me so happy to be useful. Thank you.

  • 1. Oh YAY you! :)
    2. Wha’ hoppened last Saturday?
    3. Backpedaling, backpedaling…

  • Hello Lisa, I find your time frame of 4.5 years interesting, as that just excludes a prototypical 4-year college education. However, as the trend grows towards a fifth-year graduation, perhaps students are gaining more of a chance.
    –Road to Parnassus

    6:47 am
    Lisa said...

    Insightful. I didn’t even think about the college effect.

  • #1 ~ from your blogs on style, and some other blogs as well, it seems I’ve come a lot closer to solving this same problem (which I actually didn’t consciously know I had) until you bloggers got me thinking, so thanks.

    #2 ~ always true it seems, but I feel I’ve known this unfortunate fact forever.
    Thanks for continuing to put yourself out there and write. Don’t think I’d have the stomach for it.

  • I’ve found it much easier to learn in midlife as I’m much better at cutting through all the nonsense that doesn’t matter. I’m constantly amazed at how highly intelligent people (especially grown-ups who have been dealt a very good hand–and have played it well) allow themselves to be distressed over an unwelcome (or even rude) comment or fashion misstep. I do however give very high value to aspiring to achieve a style (be it thru fashion or some other form of expression) that presents oneself to their greatest and truest advantage. If you don’t always get it right or cause disagreement it just ain’t a big deal. Lisa, after reading thru the archives here you appear to be getting all the big things right..that CK wedding dress notwithstanding.

    3:05 pm
    gsl said...

    …as this is my debut comment and given recent controversies I should clarify that my ‘CK wedding dress’ comment was a playful jest.

    6:49 am
    Lisa said...

    Ha! Well, welcome. I like your distinction, between getting it right to present oneself rather than to avoid some nameless horror. And thanks for reading my archives. Because class and privilege are so complicated, I think it’s very hard to extract my intent from a single post. Or perhaps it’s hard because I get lazy sometimes. Or perhaps both:).

  • I read that post before the comments got snippy so I went back because I am noses that way. Let me congratulate you on your gracious addendum. I admire how you updated that with full acknowledgement of your own role (probably over apologising!) and returned the debate to an interesting analysis of a tv show and associated great recommendations. I wish we had Netflix here:(

    6:49 am
    Lisa said...

    I think that’s a good kind of nosy:).

  • When it comes to wealth, privilege, and the profound inequalities of the USA and other countries, there will always be readers with major biases that render them unable to read your blog without harboring a great contempt for you and high WASP culture. As someone who is both politically and socially concerned with economic injustices, I initially started reading your blog with a real weariness, bracing myself to loathe what you represent. Your writing (and responses in the comments) shattered every negative pre-conception I had.

    I must have not caught all of the comments that were deleted, because I recall most of the comments that dealt with class privilege, including your own, were either quite neutral or gracious in tone. Tone can be very difficult to discern in writing, which can lead to flare-ups and misunderstandings when there is a loaded social issue being discussed, such as wealth. As for the truly ugly comments, the point is not approve of such comments, and definitely not to excuse them, but to understand them, and hopefully find a way to engage with them in a constructive way.

    6:51 am
    Lisa said...

    That is incredibly comforting to hear. Thank you. Engaging constructively is my goal. Sometimes I’m just too tired to take the comments dispassionately, or to explain the long thread here once more.

  • 1. “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” -Flannery O’Connor

    2. “Given any human logjam in which I participate, I apologize early because perception hosts a zillion inaccurate frames.” -Peace seeking Ground Warrior

  • Dear Lisa,
    I enjoy reading your aptly named blog. I live in Queensland Australia and am 45 (soon to be 46 years old) and suffer from terrible social anxiety usually caused by the choice of an outfit before an occasion. It seriously has kept me awake at night in the lead up to events. And has cost a pretty penny or two in trying to ‘buy’ the right outfit for the right occasion. It seems appropriateness of dress style can be tricky. Then add in the weather (unknown) “Will I be too hot in this/and or freeze”; Body shape – can I find a dress for that occasion that will flatter; Budget – will I ever wear this piece again/can I afford it? ….throw in a smash of guilt at having spent so much; then pre-empt what others may/may not wear… and Voila! you have my insecurities wrapped up in a clutch bag. I am actually starting my own styling business for other women who suffer the same unfortunate affliction, because I have found great strength and confidence can come from a guiding voice who can think rationally in these situations. Sadly, I do not have that voice and so must find it within myself. Which I manage to do, but still the sleeplessness and fretting are now an established pattern..
    So I happily await the arrival of said confidence. Maybe it’s an age thing. Maybe I’m not quite there yet. Maybe once I reach a certain age I’ll just say ‘who gives a sh-t, this is what I’m wearing and everyone else be damned’. Maybe that’s the point I need to reach- and I think I’m almost there. I just want to be my authentic self, I want my choice of outer wear to reflect the complex interesting, sparky, funny, clever person that I know resides within me. I feel as though I am only now beginning to find a way to express that, and it has only come as I my economic situation is affording me to buy in a class of clothing that I have not had the benefits of before.
    Does this ring a bell for anyone else? I’d love some thoughts.
    Love your blog, and congrats on your daughter starting med school, proud moment for a mum. My own 20 year old is graduating from her first degree in 2 weeks time (bachelor of classical music, majoring in flute, first class honours). Oh yes and I’m currently ‘building’ my outfit for that day too. Beginning with a jacket that may interest you… it is a gold biker jacket! Yes, sounds awful, but in real life is quite a piece. I’ve never had anything like it before.. It’s the Command jacket. It is a pale pale gold, and it fits like a glove. I won’t be adding denim to the mix, instead a pair of neutral stone slim fit pants, neutral patent shoe and classic white tailored shirt underneath. Fingers crossed for looking like a stylish Mom who isn’t “Dead Yet” but not “Dressed as Lamb” ha ha.

    Cheers for now


    6:53 am
    Lisa said...

    I applaud your pale gold biker jacket. And all efforts to get past style anxiety.

  • Lisa –
    It seems to me that you are an insanely creative artist trapped in the body of a WASP businesswoman/mom. Your brilliant observational skills make you aware of the culture, of what everyone else is wearing or has worn, and what is “appropriate” for social situations.

    But I encourage you to break out! Watch “Bill Cunningham, New York” or go to NY Times online and look thru the year’s archive of his weekly style report “On The Street”. You’ll be blown away and inspired by the limitlessness of people’s imaginations. As he says, “I don’t believe in this stuff about Good Taste or Bad Taste” and that “Fashion is dead”… He’s all about personal art, “taste” in the sense of aesthetic awareness translating into fun expressions of beauty.

    From what I’ve seen after 2 years of reading your blog, I’m sure you shine and look perfectly appropriate in various social situations. Some time though, I’d love to hear about you trying something outside your cultural norm… being a little outrageous … and how THAT made you feel!

    6:54 am
    Lisa said...

    You are too kind. I think the most outrageous outfit I’ve posted to date was the moto boots, skater dress, and accidentally purple tights. But I agree, it would be an interesting experiment to dress even more outrageously and deconstruct the experience. Thanks for the idea.

  • I like your blog because you’re my age instead of being a 20 somthing. I see some parallels (WASP background) and vast differences (I grew up solidly middle class). I also like that you don’t just stick to fashion (bravo to you and your son!) yet when you do write about fashion, I find my horizons broadened (I live in a backwater, what can I say?). So, thanks!

  • I have to say that sometimes when I read you blog I think…this is the girl in high school that would have nothing to do with me… NOW as a 61 year old woman we might be friends. That is a good thing about age.

    6:56 am
    Lisa said...

    Aw, no, more likely you would have had nothing to do with me. I was terribly awkward, terribly skinny, prone to blurting, and then overwhelmed by boyfriend experiences the minute my braces came off and I gained a pound or two. Not at all one of the popular girls. Oh, and by the way, I had no real idea at that point about my family background. Professors do not proclaim wealth. We were the children of a professor, first and foremost.

  • I missed the kerfuffle because this is my first visit :D but glad to be here and glad to meet a fellow Northern Californian.

  • The thing to ask is: are you really interested in learning? People who value education are usually open to perspectives that challenge their own.

    Live up to the name of your blog. Explore class privilege, examine social identity, instead of treating it like a Fragonard painting.

    6:58 am
    Lisa said...

    Yes. I am interested in learning. I suppose I feel that the real way to look at privilege, given who I am and what I know and don’t know, lies somewhere between Munch and Fragonard. I am drawing the picture like a histogram, and I think the datapoint you hit was on a farther side of the spectrum.

    Thank you for the repeated comments, and the tone of this one. I did try to email you, but the address didn’t work.

  • Write what you want to write, Lisa. I must have missed the really negative comments. I too have a WASP background, but was not born privileged. Nevertheless, I was raised with some great-aunts who behaved as though we were. It was a somewhat confusing, but yet interesting way to grow up.

    This is for the writer in you and all of us who love to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard: “So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. ” ― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

    6:59 am
    Lisa said...

    And one of the things I want to write this week is a belated answer to the questions you sent me…

  • Ooh, a scandal….where was I? I do love a bit of Internet back and forth, but you’re right. The wrong people always end up apologising.

  • Seems like I missed a bit of drama over here at Privilege…oh well, I’m still loving the brain stimulating erudition after spending the last four weeks surrounded by an abundance of lovely and silly kids at art camp.
    Funny how such a post provoked any sort of negative response…made me want to get Netflix!
    xo J~

  • I admit to a bit of confusion. Is this about the OITNB post? I was reading thinking it was about the got-assaulted post. Good grief. Well, doesn’t matter. Dear Lisa, you offer some of the best blogtent (= blog content) out there. Please, please just continue to be your wonderful, special self, and know you’re not beholden to the trolls – even the well-dressed ones that can be harder to spot, if you know what I mean. Also, thank you for recommending OITNB – not sure it would have appeared on my radar otherwise. xo