Why Are You Wearing That Hideous Shirt and Other Questions Strangers Don’t Ask

I caught my reflection in the mirror at the department store. God. What a hideous shirt this is.

It’s a red yoga shirt which I bought for my second yoga class but never wore. Right away when I bought it I knew it was wrong. Red seemed inflammatory, incendiary, not right for the hushed, funereal tones of yoga.  A red shirt was a pronounced misstep, a rookie error. Red. Jesus.

But it didn’t matter. I knew within seconds that my first downward dog would be my last. I bought the shirt after the first class anyway, thinking as I often do, if I just have the right shirt, socks, running shoes, I will be an athlete.

I decided to skip going grocery shopping after the department store for fear someone I knew would see me in my hideous shirt and my khaki pants, did I mention the khaki pants? I looked like an on-call Target cashier. I’ve done this a bunch of times, unwittingly worn a red shirt and khaki pants. Last week, while I was studying shampoos at Target, somebody asked me where the dog food was. “Do you work here?” Me, huffy, “Do I look like I work here?”

I went for a walk instead.

I walked at a park along Lake Michigan which we used to call the landfill but we now call Veterans Park. It’s a lovely open place where the paths are right at the water’s edge; boats come so close you can hear people’s conversations, especially when they turn off their motors and let the wind fill their sails. It was sunny and warm, windy. Windy is so fine.

I walked for a while and then sat. I had more to think about than my red shirt. I watched birds I thought might be loons. They acted like loons but were too large. And out of the corner of my eye, I saw two women, one woman looking foreign, old country-like, in a floral skirt and sensible shoes, and another woman in a nun’s habit. It’s been years since I’ve seen a nun in a habit; I decided right then that she was old, old school. In my mind, I started wondering if she wished she could throw off her habit and then realized that even if God told her it was okay she would feel wrong and naked without her habit. Old people are so dear. They walked slow, a few steps a minute, stopping to talk, gesturing with their hands, like they were remembering grandma in the old country or a mass said thirty years ago.

I passed them walking and had to turn around to look. The woman in the nun’s habit was young. She had a beautiful high forehead with just tiny wisps of hair showing and her face was simple and unlined, washed clean, pure. She wasn’t beautiful except that she was for her being so perfectly singular. I wanted to ask her, why are you wearing this nun’s habit? Don’t you want to feel the wind? Swing your arms wide? Pin up your wild hair? Do you want to go boating? Do you swim? Who is your friend? Do you wish you were married? Is God enough for you?

But I didn’t ask. I just kept walking.


3 Comments on “Why Are You Wearing That Hideous Shirt and Other Questions Strangers Don’t Ask

  1. “I looked like an on-call Target cashier.” I laughed out loud at that one. And dare I tell you that a red polo and khaki shorts was the “uniform” for a day of my sorority’s rush in college? It could be worse–you could be mistaken for an aged sorority girl:). And I guess I am one . . . sheesh.

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