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Friday, March 1, 2013

Rockin’ the Yoga Pants: In Support of Frumps like Me

            The other night, I stumbled upon an episode of “What Not to Wear” where former child actor turned stay-at-home mom Tina Yothers was being made over by the hosts. They chastised her for her black yoga pants, hoodies, and sandals, and instead presented her with frilly blouses, chunky colorful jewelry, and wrap skirts. She stared with confusion at the ensembles and asked how she was supposed to assist with painting and crafts while volunteering at her daughter’s school in these expensive, fancy get-ups. The hosts, I’m assuming both non-parents, laughed off her serious question and told her that the first step of change is acknowledging discomfort.    

            I don’t normally watch this show, but I was myself in my at-home “modified” yoga pants nearing midnight on the couch, procrastinating cleaning up downstairs to join my husband, who was already fast asleep. I could sympathize with Tina’s serious look of confusion at these fancy clothes, and felt obligated to sit there and watch on, a silent alley for her under my fuzzy blanket. For, I too, was wondering the same – “what’s so wrong with yoga pants?” 

I used to have “nice” clothes when I was working – lots of pantyhose, lots of opaque tights under my black boots and short skirts, clean man-tailored shirts atop perfectly-fitting slacks. But when my maternity leave started, I literally couldn’t fit into anything other than the last two of my surviving maternity tank tops and my husband’s navy blue pajama pants with images of Homer Simpson splattered all over. I wore them every day while my legs swelled and while I waited for my son to be born. And when he was, I’m surprised my “wardrobe” consisted of anything more than shreds of tattered cloth, because that’s all that seemed reasonable during those crazed apocalyptic first weeks. After the shock of initial parenthood wore off and morphed  into a subtle acceptance of the fact that my life was never to be my own again, my wardrobe, sadly, consisted of sweatpants. Not “acceptable to the public” yoga pants, but plain old sweatpants, people. I threw my un-straightened “natural cavewoman look” hair into a low ponytail every day, and I never put on make-up or painted my nails, something that I have always loved to do. Around the time my son was 8 months old and turning into a walking toddler, I slapped myself into gear and started making it a priority to put on make-up every day. Straighten my hair. Paint my nails again. Baby steps. Then - a pair of jeans! Occasionally, a clickity-clackety heel. And eventually, I found my way into some sort of at-home casual, semi I-can-pull-off-looking-like-a-regular-person style. Yoga pants, sandals, plain tanks and cropped yoga pants in the summer – all the things What Not to Wear’s hosts were condemning Tina for, pretty much sum up my wardrobe. This stay-at-home look might be an easy target for this TV show and others to say that we are letting ourselves go, but my guess is that no one is taking time and money into consideration. Maybe I can shed some light.
just another pair of yoga pants....

Reason #1 why moms wear yoga pants: we don’t have time for anything else. It’s 30 minutes and counting until we have to leave for school on a typical morning, and my son and I head upstairs to get dressed. The idea of leaving Aidan alone to get dressed on his own while I pull together my look is a reasonable thought, but as I stand in my bedroom with my pajamas halfway off, I have to keep walking back into his room to assist. Things start off simple enough. “Mommy, can you button my pants?” “Mommy, it’s your turn to brush my teeth.” I perform the needed duties, underwear on, to-be-determined shirt still not-on, and head back into my room. Oh, I forget to brush my own teeth. “Mommy, my socks are in a ball and I can’t fix then.” Fixed. I make the beds. “Mommy, look at me!” my son smiles as he comes into my room with one sock on yet completely naked elsewhere, pajama shirt twisted around his head. “It’s Naked Man time!” Naked Man is my son’s superhero alter ego, who comes to our house at precisely the worst times ever and proves he doesn’t really have any superhero powers whatsoever. I utter the phrase “get dressed!” more times than I think humanly possible in five minutes and head back to my closet, again, half-dressed with a toothbrush in my mouth. In the closet, there are vestiges of my former self – long black skirts, button down tops with wide collars, pretty flowered springtime skirts. “Mommy, can I line up my Star Wars Fighter Pods on your dresser after I get dressed?” 

“Yes, if we have time, but why aren’t you dressed yet?!? ” I close the closet and run back into my son’s room for his jacket and backpack. Rinse the stubble out of the sink from my husband’s morning shave. “Mommy, can I play you a Disney love song with my guitar before we leave?” “Do I have time to draw a picture?” “I can’t find my Batman underwear.” I pick up my husband’s dirty t-shirt from the floor. I run downstairs as Aidan finally pulls on his pants to put the dirty breakfast dishes in the dishwasher, and head back upstairs, remembering I am still not dressed yet. I am sweating. I feel out of breath. Look at the clock. Ten minutes and counting. I am still not dressed. And I spend a good two minutes thinking about why I am sweating and out of breath just trying to get dressed. People have said that trying to get small children out of the house is like an Olympic sport. And I am finding that this doesn’t seem to change with an older, I can-pretty-much-get-dressed-on-my-own child. And I have one kid. The idea of trying to get multiple children dressed and ready and then myself is a feat so daunting I start sweating again just thinking about it. 

I open my dresser drawers. The black, worn, thinned out yoga pants are calling my name. I have them all in the bottom drawer, as if I am rationalizing to myself that they are infrequent items, deemed for the bottom, “lowest priority” corner of my stuff. But let’s face it. I frequent that drawer more often than any other. I find my most “acceptable out of the house” pair and put on my make-up. I chuckle a little at the dichotomy of my existence – how the thought of putting on a pair of jeans can be “dressing up” these days, but how I still like “putting my face on.” I think of my grandmother, who, to my knowledge, never wore a pair of pants in her entire life of 93 years. She would put on her heavy polyester skirts, pantyhose, fancy blouses, pearls, and heels just when she was sitting around the house or making scrambled eggs. My mother, an early Baby Boomer, used to spend three hours up-doing her hair in elaborate curls, a landscaper in her own right. I carry on as a homemaker myself, but the yoga pants are fancy enough for me. Luckily, times have changed. After a full day of chauffeuring Aidan, errands, vacuuming, cleaning the house, playing at the park, bike rides, wiping poop, shampooing hair, doing arts and crafts, reading, wiping more poop, cooking, and doing dishes, quite frankly, I don’t think anything other than the mighty yoga pants would survive.

Reason #2 why moms wear yoga pants: no one else really cares, especially the important people. “Throw your husband a bone!” the “What Not to Wear” hosts tease Tina. After our husbands spend their days in a starchy dress shirt and tie or a crisp uniform, shouldn’t we put a little more effort into how we look for them? Maybe that’s just a little bit of an outdated myth. My own husband, who is colorblind (really), cannot tell when I’ve had my hair cut several inches, when I have make-up on or not, or when I have dyed my graying brown hair a drastic bright shiny red. Sometimes I wonder if he would be able to tell if I got a new tattoo, magically grew three inches taller, or accidentally lost a finger. And I think most dudes are like that. I think they are just grateful for someone who can take care of their kids every day, feed them, and flop onto the couch at night to be their comrade after a long and stressful day of work. Sometimes I will apologize to my husband for the ridiculously fluffy set of jammies I sometimes wear to bed night after night in winter. He just stares at me. Guys don’t even listen to what their wives are chattering on about, so why would they pay attention to what kind of pants they are wearing?
Things haven't changed much. Rocking some cropped yoga pants. At least I'm comfortable.

Reason # 3 why moms wear yoga pants: We can’t afford the fancy stuff. There’s a reason I run into every other mom I know at Target – it fits our budget. I stand in the aisles of Kohl’s in my yoga pants holding my 30% coupon trying to figure out what the final price will be on the new pair of discounted yoga pants, and I’m OK with that. “What Not to Wear” gave Tina Yothers $5,000 for a shopping spree to de-frump herself as a mom. In the real world, that doesn’t happen. I wear underwear until the elastic is shot and socks until there are holes at the toes. My husband will ask if the five-year old sweater I’m wearing is new (again, he’s not good with the details) and my response is “yes.” And I honestly believe that that’s new. I still have items in my wardrobe that I wore on my first few dates with my husband over a decade ago. A lot of us moms wear our ratty black yoga pants because we can’t afford to replace them with expensive, nicer things. If we are the soldiers of scarcity, sacrifice, and thrift, then the yoga pant is our uniform. Instead of joking that we’ve become too complacent or lazy, or let ourselves go, maybe we can see ourselves in a new light – honoring the sacrifices we undergo, the great job we do with such a small budget, and the struggles we try to manage with how tight money can be on one income. But, I don't mean to be too martyrish though. After all, today I actually DID make it to yoga. In my new yoga pants ;)