8.14.2007

Frosted Flake

Today I dressed in the sort of outfit that caused co-workers to ask if I am interviewing for another job or have an after-work engagement.

"No," I replied. "My dad is coming. I need to be well dressed for him."

Understandably, my work mates looked puzzled by the answer. I could almost see their thoughts: "She needs to be dressed up to see her own father? How messed up is that?"

But if my colleagues only knew dad, they'd understand.

My father grew up in an age and culture where women were expected to dress well for any sort of public viewing. Buying feed for the goats, visiting blind aunt Tula, shopping for olives, picking up cigarettes for the husband--it didn't matter what the occasion. If you were going to be seen by anyone other than your own mother, you had better look presentable, meaning make-up, hair, and a coordinated outfit at the very least. Like heavy, impractical baggage that should have been left at home, my father brought the standards of his culture on the long boat ride from Greece to Ellis Island, U.S.A..

The result? Being high maintenance was not only accepted, it was expected. Far from the perfectly acceptable granola-girl style of our American culture, my dad wanted his daughters to be Frosted Flakes, and the more frosting the better. I believe this was because Dad saw our day-to-day appearance as a public reflection of how well he provided for us. The other motivation could have been marriage. Dad wanted to be sure his girls were married off well before they were "too old"-- about twenty-five in Greek years.

Needless to say, this caused occasional stresses in the family. Far from caked-on makeup and frilly clothing, my sisters preferred a natural look and balked at my father's standards.

"Amy," my father would lament, "you look like a hobo in that get-up. How are you ever going to find a husband?"

Pointing at a pubescent pimple on her face, father asked the other sister, "What are these scabbies on your face, Christina? For god's sake, would you wear a little foundation?"

If they had been the types to care, Amy and Christy would have been given complexes by his comments. Determined to dress any way they pleased, however, my sisters ignored his counsel and laughed off his criticisms.

Fortunately for dad, I was eager to please, and even more eager to outshine my siblings. I spent years dressing to be judged favorably by my father. You would have thought I'd outgrown this need, but up until a few years ago, I wouldn’t leave the house without lipstick.

But oddly enough, I never found dressing up for my father burdensome. Truth be told, I like being his Frosted Flake. And today, when I picked out the sparkling top and white flouncy skirt, I did so because it would make my father proud and me happy.

True to form, as soon as I arrived home from work, dad’s compliments came quickly.

"My daughter looks like a movie star," he beamed. I could only bask in his approval.

Some things never change.

7 comments:

LZ Blogger said...

Well... I have a feeling I would be more in line with your dad than your work friends... but I am sure dad loved the effort. At least I know I would have! ~ jb///

JR's Thumbprints said...

I'm afraid I could never really dress up at work. Something about being strangled by my own necktie scares the hell out of me. Also, my folks know I'm a convict teacher. Can't impress too many people with that.

kenju said...

It's nice that you make the exytra effort for your dad. Mine was complimentary no matter what I wore, and he couldn't have cared less whether I was dressed up or not. My mom, on the other hand.....

utenzi said...

I dunno, Diane. I cycled around the Greece back in the early 80s, mostly in rural areas on the Peloponnese and Crete, and I don't remember a lot of nice clothing. Of course he left Greece quite a while before that...

Diane Mandy said...

Yeah? I don't know, U. Just recently my father asked for a photograph of me and Max to send to his sister, who still lives in in Greece. I offered a picture from our recent honeymoon, but Dad chose one where we are in formal attire, saying it would be considered inappropriate to send a photo where Max and I were dressed too casually. Might be the difference between city and country living?

mrsmogul said...

I think it;s nice to dress up. MY parents always dress spiffy when we go out to dinner. My mom wears all her gold jewelry, rings, nail polish make up everything when socializing.

JustJunebug said...

You know what I miss?

People who use to "dress" to travel. Seriously is it THAT tough to put on a decent outfit to travel in?

I use to "dress" for my dad too and he always loved it.

However in your scenario I have that same situation with my mother. Always critisizing. I know I spelled that wrong but whatever. :)

I am sure gonna miss you when you're gone. Can you blog from Egypt?