Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Getting Caught With Your Pants Down, and Other ADHD Fashion "Don'ts"

A few days ago, my son was talking with me and my husband about bullying.  "Mom, were you ever bullied in school?" my boy asked.  "Well, I can remember one girl who used to pick on me sometimes, but I wouldn't say I was 'bullied' really."  Then my husband chimed in with, "Your mom was the bully."  He was joking, of course, but with his dead-pan affect, sometimes it's hard to tell, especially for our 10-year-old son.  So now I had to convince Josh that I was not, in fact, a bully.  "I was a nice kid; I never bullied anyone."  I assured my son.

And that was essentially true.  But this conversation got me thinking about my childhood, trying to remember if there were any times that I was particularly mean to anyone.  Honestly, I couldn't remember any such times.  Sure, I gossipped and sometimes made comments to my friends about other kids.  But I never had any desire to intentionally hurt anyone.  I could think of only one occasion when I directly caused a classmate some embarrassment, but it wasn't mean-spirited, for whatever that was worth.

It was in the fourth grade.  My class was preparing to go to gym.  The protocol was that we all lined up and walked to the restrooms and went into the gender-appropriate one to change into our gym clothes.  Once we were done changing, we lined up in the hall again, and walked single-file to the gym.  On this particular occasion, I had finished changing and was standing in line with a small group of other kids, waiting for the rest of the kids to finish changing.  I happened to be facing the boys' restroom door when one of my classmates, Stevie, walked out of the restroom and headed toward our line.

I was the only one who noticed that Stevie had apparently taken his pants off, but forgot to put his shorts on.  He was walking toward the line with his shorts in his hands, wearing a t-shirt and little-boy briefs. 

All I meant to do was to alert him to his situation, as he was clearly unaware.  I meant to be helpful.  But, of course, I had a bit of an impulse problem - plus, I was only 9 - so instead of discretely whispering to him that he had forgotten something, I abruptly pointed at him and loudly announced, "Oh, my god! You're not wearing any pants!" Stevie looked down, looked up, and made a funny "Mr. Bill" face that I will never forget.  Then he did an about-face and ran back into the restroom.

Of course, the kids all laughed.  Luckily, Stevie was a very good sport about the situation, and didn't seem too upset.  We were friends then, and continued to be friends.  But I know he was embarrassed, and I felt bad about it.  Over the years, I ribbed him a few times about that incident.  Several decades later, I sincerely hope that the damage I had done was minimal.

As I look back on that day now, the saying "There but for the grace of God go I" comes to mind.  Given my attention and organizational problems, and downright scatterbrainedness, it's nothing short of a miracle that I have never shown up to class or at the office pantsless.

On the other hand, I've gone many an entire workday with my shirt inside out.  I've given folks a couple of eye-fulls thanks to a few blouse buttons that I didn't know were undone.  I've given presentations while wearing awful blue polyester high-waters coupled with scuffed brown loafers.  And then there were the food stains.  More times than I care to remember, I'd come home from work, and discover that there was some large obvious stain on the front of my shirt, presumably from something I dropped at lunch without ever noticing. 

In short, I've been a mess.  Not always, but often enough to brutally shatter my dreams of ever winning the trophy in the category of "Best Dressed."

Like any girl - now woman - I've always wanted to be pretty.  If it would have been possible to have someone wave a magic wand over me and transform me into a well-put-together graceful fashionista, I would have welcomed that.  But alas, no fairy godmother has ever shown up to dress me for the ball.  And for whatever reason, the details of my personal appearance have often escaped me.  It wasn't that I didn't care so much, it's just that my ability to attend and focus has always been limited, and my brain has generally chosen to extend those resources outward. 

Low self-esteem probably played a role in that.  Generally speaking, I've always found it more important to take care of others before I take care of myself.  If we were both on a plane and the cabin pressure suddenly dropped, you would want me sitting next to you.  But I'm not altruistic.  It's true that I care deeply for my friends and family, but I think the bigger issue was that I have always been overwhelmed by all the things that require my attention; and somewhere along the line - probably a long, long time ago, for reasons I will soon begin exploring with Dr. R. - I decided that I was less deserving of attention than others, especially when attention was in short supply, like in my own brain.

As a busy working mom with limited financial resources, I've been able to rationalize my inattention to appearance quite nicely.  I'm too busy.  I don't have money to waste on "foolishness" (like clothes from this century).  I'm not - I repeat - NOT "superficial" like other people ("other people," as in people who don't go to work looking like hobos).  Yep, I've worked it out quite satisfactorily in my own mind.

My husband is probably the ONLY man in the world who has to order his wife to go out and buy clothes.  It drives him crazy.  I'd never enjoyed browsing the way so many women do.  If I were to ever commit a violent crime and the judge wanted to throw the book at me and make me really pay for what I've done, she would sentence me to a week-long museum bus tour.  Walking around just looking at stuff has always been torture for me.

I recognize now that my disinterest in shopping, and the like, was entirely ADHD-related.  Browsing and shopping in a clothes store involve attention to detail, focus, self-regulation, and decision making.  And if you happen to be a hyperactive sort who races through life, you don't really have time for such nonsense, when you know you have to get back to the important business of mindless staring and fidgeting.

Happily, as with many of my ADHD-related quirks, medication seems to be helping.  Without really meaning to, I find myself taking  more time getting dressed, making sure that everything that is supposed to be fastened is.  I'm noticing more when clothing items have spots on them, or when they should be loaded aboard a time machine and swiftly sent back to 1987.  I recently went through my closet and either threw out or gave away about 70% of my clothes, making my closet much neater, and reducing the hideousness of my wardrobe by at least 47%. 

But the absolute best part is that I've noticed that I'm starting to actually enjoy the simple pleasure of looking at beautiful things.  Sitting at home with my hubby, browsing for discounted designer clothes on the Internet is actually quite nice.  I'm noticing that I have tastes and subtle preferences.  I pick up on small details that influence whether or not I would consider something pretty.  I'm more willing to take a risk and choose a clothing item that is unconventional, at least for me, just because it's fun!  I'm starting to pay a little attention to myself; yet the world, surprisingly enough, isn't collapsing around me because of it.

So as I reflect upon young Stevie in his little tidy whities, and whether or not I scarred him for life, I am once again full of gratitude.  I am thankful for my husband - a man with curiously good taste and an eye for detail - for not being a tight wad and for making me buy things for myself.  I am thankful for good friends for ever-so-gently pointing out to me the piece of lettuce caught in my hair, the toilet paper stuck to my shoe, and the eyelash-that's-not-actually-an-eyelash on my cheek. 

And I am eternally grateful that I have never experienced the humiliation of having someone in a boardroom stand up, point at me, and shout, "Oh my god!  Your skirt is shoved into the back of your panty hose!"  Thanks to the fine people at DuraMed Pharmaceuticals, the makers of Adderall XR, I hope I never will.

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