By: Wendy Castellanos-Wolf
In season 6 of “Mad Men,” Julia Ormond reprises her role of Marie Calvet, Megan Draper’s hot French Canadian mother visiting New York. In this episode Marie gives Megan advice on how to get her fake TV husband, (otherwise known as the ever dreamy John Hamm, or my real life TV star boyfriend), to do what she desires. Marie turns to her daughter and says, “Don’t dress like his wife.”
As a married woman in her thirties, these five words of advice have stayed with me, so much so that they now haunt me. I think about these words every time I get home from a long day of work and all I want to do is step out of my day clothes and into something more comfortable. And you know, I really mean comfortable. In other words, not lingerie but the total opposite of what “stepping into something more comfortable” has come to mean. Comfortable meaning a t-shirt, lose fitting shorts or pants and flip flops. I want to wash off the make-up, put my hair in a ponytail and not care about what I look like but instead, more often than not, I think to myself, “Don’t dress like his wife.”
This advice is wrong on so many levels yet I cannot help but let it dictate some of my actions. My comfort seeking intentions deterred, I freshen up my make-up, brush my hair and change into something that, while more comfortable than my day clothes, still takes some effort to put on in that it is thoughtfully put together. My outfit is clean, the colors match, it is form fitting and could possibly be considered sexy by my husband.
S is an awesome husband, but I doubt that any similar thought has ever crossed his mind. It is a socially accepted norm that as a man, he is truly able to and encouraged to be as comfortable as he cares to be even if that means sweaty or dirty. (S, in case you are reading, I’m not saying you are sweaty or dirty. Love you…) He does not have me in mind when he dresses to hang around the house, nor is he haunted by advice that resonates in married women’s ears whether they acknowledge it or not.
“Don’t dress like his wife,” is just one way of saying “Don’t let yourself go,” “Men become more distinguished with age, while women just get old,” “A man doesn’t want to come home to a frumpy wife,” and so many other words of “wisdom” we have been battered over the head with, received since we were little girls encouraged to play house and mother with our baby dolls.
“Don’t dress like his wife” also propagates the belief that being a wife and dressing like a married woman, (whatever that is), is not considered sexy. When I got married last year, I found myself doing something I had never done before, asking my new husband if what I was wearing was okay. My intentions for asking were not based on my inability to decide which outfit was more flattering but rather, to make sure that what I was wearing was appropriate and represented me as a respectable wife. I know what this sounds like and I can’t believe I wrote it, but the truth is that I felt different as a newly married woman. I still do. I feel a sense of responsibility to present myself in a manner that makes me feel good, makes my husband proud to be with me, but doesn’t call too much unwanted male attention. I guess what I am admitting is that I consciously try to dress like a wife when we go to certain events as a couple and I am also consciously trying to not dress like his wife when we are home. If it wasn’t already complicated and confusing and contradictory enough to be a woman, now I add “wife in public, minx in private” to the identity mix.
*For all the feminist that are cringing at this blog post, I am cringing with you. I never thought that I would be like this and this is not an excuse, but something happened to me as a woman in her thirties. I began to show signs of turning into my mother and with that all of the inherited cultural norms that come with being a traditional Latin woman. I’m constantly fighting with myself… But I guess all of this will be better served in a future blog post.