I walked all over the place recently wearing a shirt inside out.
I’m willing to admit that dressing myself is my own responsibility, but I’m disappointed that not one person approached me to point out my mistake.
Not that I go around correcting other people’s sartorial errors. If I did, I’d probably focus on seasonal complaints: “Why are you wearing shorts during a snowstorm?” “Why did you decide a raincoat was appropriate on a hot August morning?”
I realize these questions would only get people’s backs up, and once people’s backs are up, they’re likely to criticize what I’m wearing: “And you think 1992 jeans are stylish?” “Honey, fleece vests went out with ‘ALF.’ ”
Lest my every trip to buy bananas and cabbage turn into a confrontation involving the police, I move along quietly, judging only the condition of the blueberries and the melons and paying no mind to anything else.
I suppose I must acknowledge that people who noticed my exposed seams and tags probably shrugged and figured I’d accepted a dare, or had taken casual dress to the point of carelessness, or I was looking for attention.
Still, if just one person had stepped up to say, “Um, I’m probably wrong, but from here your shirt looks inside out,” I could have corrected the situation immediately. Since the shirt was in fact a tunic over another shirt, I could have whipped it over my head, turned it right-side out and pulled it on again right there among the juices and salad dressings.
But no one spoke. At least, no one spoke until I arrived home and busily was putting away the groceries. Then I caught my husband looking at me.
“I hate to tell you this,” he said.
“Tell me what?” I said, dealing raisins, walnuts and dates into the cupboard like a casino worker.
“I mean I really hate to tell you,” he said, “but your shirt is inside out.”
I glanced down and then resumed my work. “Nah, that’s just the way it looks,” I said, “and the tag always wants to stick up in back.” I lifted my arms to feel for the collar tag and caught a glimpse of the shirt’s seam, which had a little flap of laundry instructions sewn to it.
“My shirt’s inside out,” I said, as one making a discovery.
I was reminded of the day, years ago, when I looked at my feet as they made their way left-right-left-right across the parking lot to my office and saw that my shoes were two different colors.
Not only that, they were two different shoes. The same heel, of course – I’m pretty sure I’d have noticed sooner if I’d seemed to be walking on two levels – but other than that, the shoes had nothing in common. One pointy, one round-toed. One with fringe, one as smooth as an egg. My face was hot before I reached the building’s entrance, and I spent the day working studiously, my feet hidden under my desk.
I was at the same office the afternoon I left work to find my car’s rearview mirror on the console. This was a new one on me – I hadn’t known mirrors could just drop off the windshield – but I coped admirably, I thought, by holding the mirror up with my right hand whenever I needed to see behind me as I drove.
I mention this incident because I believe the ability to react calmly in an emergency served me well when I walked around town wearing my shirt inside out. I didn’t waste time playing back the movie of the morning. I didn’t clutch my head, imagining the view I presented from the back. I didn’t wonder if children all over the store – and the library! I also went to the library! – were whispering to parents, who shook their heads and put a finger to their lips. I didn’t waste time on regrets.
Oh, who am I kidding – of course, I did all of those things. I thought about taking out a newspaper ad to apologize. I’m still thinking about it. “I don’t make this a habit,” the ad would say.
I only hope the ad would be right.
Write to Margo Bartlett at firstname.lastname@example.org.