Facing the fashion critics at home

Although I love being the center of attention, I feel that there is nothing more nerve-racking than talking before a large group.

Therefore, when I’m asked to speak to a crowd, I generally begin preparations weeks in advance. I start with a lack of sleep, feelings of impending doom, and as often as possible, I like to chew my fingernails down to the nub.

By the time the day of the big event arrives, my hair is standing on end, my skin is dry and I stutter when I utter. Simply put, I’m a nervous wreck.

Things were going pretty well as I prepared for a speaking engagement just last week, at least until I walked into my closet. A woman’s closet is never what it’s cracked up to be, especially on fat days, warm days, or days when the barometric pressure isn’t just right. I tried on this and I tried on that. I pulled out capris, opted for skirts, and when push came to shove, I went with a simple outfit and convinced myself that I looked stylish.

"You look good," I said out loud. "You look trendy and you’ll do just great." Then I made a final check in the mirror, and realized that I looked more dumpy than trendy and headed back to the closet.

I finally gave up all creativity and went with brown. Brown earrings, brown blouse, brown jacket, brown socks, slacks, shoes, and a belt. I knew that I wouldn’t be making any fashion statements, but at least I would be coordinated.

I spritzed on some perfume, applied some lipstick and decided to stay away from the mirrors. I had anxiety beyond belief, but at least my clothes made me feel confident. I said a quick prayer, took a deep breath and joined my boys in the kitchen.

My boys are a rough riding group if ever there was one. They’re all about energy, dirt and anything that involves a bucket of sweat and a game ball. The eldest was sporting baggy pants and a dirty T-shirt. The middle two were dressed for a day on the driveway and the youngest was wearing a winter shirt with a pair of gym shorts.

They all stopped their bickering and eating when I walked into the room. The room was silent as they looked me up and down and took in my ensemble. Who knew that facing group of adolescent boys could be like strolling before a group of fashion critics?

"What’s with the brown?" inquired Huey, my all-knowing 13-year-old.

"What do you mean ‘what’s with the brown?’" said little Charlie in my defense. "I think Mom looks good."

"I don’t know, it’s just so…..brown," responded Huey. "And who goes all brown in April?"

You’d have thought the kid had been chosen to assist Mr. Blackwell with his Worst Dressed List.

"All brown can be done anytime of the year," said Lawrence as he wiped his hands on his shirt. "Especially when making presentations."

"I don’t think so," continued Huey as he filled his mouth with milk and then squirted in chocolate syrup straight from the bottle. He then shook his head to mix it and swallowed before he added, "I think that all brown can be a fashion faux pas when one overdoes."

"You don’t even know what a faux pas is," said Vernon, my eldest and wise-cracking child. Then he turned and looked at me, patted me on the back and added, "although, I’d recommend you re-think the outfit."

Four days later, for another speaking engagement, I started looking at my closet hours in advance. Again I pulled out shirts, skirts, capris, and finery. I tried on nice dresses, fashionable slacks and eventually went with the safe color of black. Remembering the brown fiasco that occurred only a few days before, I decided to make a statement by opting for a bright colored jacket.

I then took a deep breath and braced myself for the walk before my critics.

"Wow!" exclaimed Vernon as I walked into the room. "Now that’s a pink jacket!"

With that, all of the other boys took their place in the judging line. Huey was bouncing a basketball, Lawrence was filling his mouth with chips and little Charlie was wiping his nose on his shirt.

"What’s wrong with a pink jacket?" said Lawrence. "Don’t you know that pink is the new black?"

"Pink is not the new black," corrected Huey. "Orange is the new pink and brown is the new black. Don’t you know anything?"

I wonder if Mr. Blackwell’s mother went through this much grief.