Thursday, November 15, 2012

Jean Day ...

This morning I assessed my costume in the mirror and deemed it: "Jean Day for Catholic School Girls."   In recent months, I've taken to naming the look I'm taking into the world. Though I was using cues from an outfit I saw on a fashion blog, this one smacked of something I would have put together in a mid-1980s winter on the most festive of Catholic School occasions: Jean Day.

For most of the school year, we were confined to a green plaid skirt or jumper with a solid-colored collared shirt. There were a lot of footnotes to this uniform. During colder months we could wear blue or black pants beneath our skirt or jumper and in later years, we could forgo the jumper altogether. (In warmer months, of course, we wore Jams underneath and really got away with something big if an inch strip of Hawaiian colors was visible). And in junior high we were finally relieved of the primary color palate. We could wear any color of collared shirt, even pink. Here we went off-the-rails by trying to wear mock turtlenecks, which were officially a dress code violation. In high school we tried to get away with hoods and leggings. Catholic School is, it seems, just a way to practice testing boundaries in the most dangerous way.

One of the Top 5 holidays at St. Pius X was Jean Day. On this day rare day every few months we were allowed to strut our Wranglers or Lees with, maybe, a two-toned baseball style t-shirt with the glittery words "Totally Awesome" ironed on the front. This vacation from dress code was electric. Like Tilt A'Whirl's covered in Lick 'em Aid while you're listening to "Beat It."

On Jean Day I always had the wherewithal to wonder how the public school kids ever got anything done when EVERY DAY WAS JEAN DAY.

The other Top 4 holidays would have been, in no specific order:

1. California Achievement Test days: The usual daily grind was interrupted in favor of No. 2 pencils AND we were allowed to eat candy during the tests. I was pretty into Jolly Ranchers and Lemonheads in those days, though eventually I learned about Nerds and whoa.

2. Marathon Awards day: Our annual fundraiser was a short walk-bike event and in the weeks beforehand, we all went door-to-door asking our neighbors to pledge money toward our goal of walking two miles or biking 12 miles or whatever. Prizes for the big earners sat on a table outside of the office, things ranging from Boom Boxes and TVs to Frisbees and Gift Certificates for Pizza. The principal started at the biggest winner, who selected a prize first, and went down the list until the goods were gone. This took an entire afternoon and even if you were in 30th place, it still felt like a minor bit of celebrity to hear your name called over the loud speaker, to stand up from your desk, walk out the door and down the hall to the prize table.

3. Christmas Program Practice: These ran for at least a month. We would all file into the church with our school boxes, 64-packs of Crayons and unicorn trapper keepers. We would sit on the kneelers and use the pews for a writing surface as we waited to rehearse our part of the program. I now understand that we were simply making a pretty tedious 3-hour long production starring a doll in the roll of the birthday boy. Don't get me started on the time that we waited our whole lives to find out who of us, come eighth grade, would get to be Mary, only to learn that the music teacher (I have some thoughts on her) PICKED A NEW GIRL WHO NEVER COULD HAVE UNDERSTOOD THIS HONOR.

4. The St. Pius Skate at Skate Country: This much-anticipated event was bursting with romantic potential. At some point in a two-hour night of roller skating, there would be a couple skate and you would get to wobble around an oval holding hands with Tom or Adam or Brian or whoever you were in 10-year-old love with for the length of a song by Peter Cetera. And a yard of Taffy only cost 50 cents.

How to make your own Jean Day for Catholic School Days outfit: A pair of jeans with some strategic rattiness to them with a wide cuff at the ankle and a pair of high heel Mary Janes; Collared shirt; Shorter sweater over the collared shirt. Glasses.

I'm not into fashion, per se. I'm not, like, reading labels and frowning my way through Vogue. But I am trying to wear things that I don't plan to sleep in later. I also can't wrap my head around dress pants or the color taupe or handbags or the weird fabrics one associates with adulthood. So I'm building a wardrobe of costumes and each costume has its own little secret identity:

Victorian Kindergarten Teacher
Secret Ballerina
Electric KoolAde Eccentric Aunt
Punk Rock Bowling
Your Handsy Scottish Uncle
Emo Teen Manga Fan
Jean Day for Catholic School Girls


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