Last weekend i had an interesting encounter with two women just a tad bit older than me.
I was at the fabric store looking through the pattern books for a specific design. Now, if you have never looked thru a pattern catalogue, or haven’t looked in one recently, pretty much every company now has a few designers dedicated to the more “modern” creative. They have patterns for retro looks, funky punk looks, and even cos-play. The models for these patterns are selected as people who would likely be wanting them. (Makes sense, you don’t want a size 6 modeling a plus-sized pattern, so why would you have a supermodel aesthete modeling a 50s pin-up or Superhero look?) It is actually a very cool thing, in my opinion, because these new pattern makers are bringing a new generation and breed to the sewing circle.
Sitting across from me at the pattern table were two women. I vaguely recognized one of them as working at the same hospital i do. Both women have maybe 5 years on me. Both were dressed like more typical 50-60 somethings. Pedal pushers, sensible shoes, and shoulder-length hair dyed the color it was in their 30s. I was wearing a linen dress that i had designed and made myself, metallic sandals, and some kickass holographic lipgloss that i was told complimented the white in my hair. The table is the width of 2 school desks, so tho i was not intentionally listening to my tablemates’ conversation, i could hear every word.
“Would you look at that?” One points to a picture in the pattern book of a raven-haired, crimson-lipped woman dressed in a jumpsuit with a Rosie the Riveter vibe. “What is she gonna look like when she is our age? She is going to look ridiculous. Like an old peeling billboard. Why would she think that is attractive? She looks trashy!” … As she points to the (beautifully done) tattoos on the arm that is poised in a power move.
I didn’t mean to laugh out loud. It just happened.
They look up at me and turn the pattern book so i can see what they are talking about.
I reach out to hold the page up, showing off my wrist tattoo.
They went parchment white.
“Bbbbuuut, yours is pretty. And it is small. I mean, hers covers her whole arm. She’d never get a professional job.”
I reach out with my other arm, the one with the rat, Algernon, on it, and lift the book to look closer.
I don’t want to make them feel badly, because i am an adult and i don’t pick unnecessary fights. But i also don’t want to let them off the hook because, well, because i’m me and i often do things before i think them thru.
“It’s ok. I know they aren’t for everyone. But i actually have a few others, some very large, and i do have a professional job. In fact, i work for the same hospital you do.”
I didn’t think it was possible, but they got whiter.
“I am sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you. I just don’t understand the whole tattoo / piercing / giant hole in the ears thing. I didn’t mean that you were… ” She drifts off here, i think because she wasn’t sure what, exactly, she had been trying to imply.
“It’s ok. Really. I understand that many people don’t get the appeal, ” And then i showed her the one that i got to cover a giant spider vein on my leg.
“Oh! That is pretty! I have a bad vein too, and i had been thinking about getting a treatment on it, but it is so expensive! I never thought to cover it that way!” And we start to talk about how all hospital workers end up with spider and varicose veins, and how much it sucks to be on your feet all day, and how so many don’t realize exactly how hard our jobs are, and on and on. A right proper hospital-sisters bitch session. Before you know it, they are asking my opinion on a dress pattern they are looking for that would be suitable for the older of the two to be married in (No… We were quickly approaching lunchtime, so there weren’t enough hours for me to discuss my thoughts on marriage. Or my many failures in them.) I tried to convince them that the Delores Umbridge look wasn’t celebratory enough for a wedding (Not in those words, because i’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have had a clue what they meant), but they didn’t care for any of the patterns i liked because they had this aversion to their Hi-Helens (Or bat wings, if you prefer) flying free in all their glorious, aged splendor. To each their own, i guess.
By the time we went our separate ways, we were laughing.
I am certain i didn’t change their minds on body ink. Nor did they change my mind on the appropriate dress for a woman our age. But maybe they learned that their viewpoint isn’t a given with women our age. Or maybe they learned that inked people aren’t what they expected. Or maybe they just learned to look before they speak. For my part, i got to practice how to confront behavior without being harsh, and how to handle differing opinions with tact (Confrontation in general isn’t my strong suit.) (Neither is tact.) I learned that i don’t always have to suck it up. And maybe i even made a work connection with someone very different who shares the same love of designing.
In any of those cases, it beats not saying anything and allowing myself to feel stomped. It beats getting angry and causing others to feel attacked or shamed. I’m pretty proud of us and how we handled it. And since practice makes perfect, maybe someday i will grow to be that resolved and tactful all the time.
But i wouldn’t hold my breath if i were you. I’m still me.