Monday, February 25, 2013

Nature vs. Nurture: Is There a "Chic" Gene?


One of my sisters once said to our mother:  "No matter how much money you may have you will never look rich."

My mother has lived in the same state all her life.  She was a child during the depression.  She never learned to be sophisticated.  She wasn't the type of woman to wear furs and diamonds.  She did make all of our clothes and they were beautiful and perfectly tailored.  For herself, she bought her own coats at the thrift store.


I grew up in the American Midwest.  Down to earth and practical, those were our values.  My dad was an authentic Geek.  He was a scientist and an engineer, complete with pocket protector and slide rule.

In my family, "geek" was more valued than "chic".  My sisters and I proved ourselves by studying hard and getting good grades.  Fashion, style and brand names were not on our radar.


I was first exposed to chic when I was in junior high.  My best friend's family had an elderly aunt living with them.  She had been a fashionable woman early in life, and had lived and worked in New York City.  My friend and I were fascinated with her closet.  She had beautiful clothes, hats and furs from another era.  I had never seen such clothing.  I got a small glimpse of another way of life.

When I was in college, I worked one summer at a private club in the Adirondacks.  All the guests at the club were from the East Coast.  Most of the college kids working there were from the East Coast, too.  My background as a "midwestern" girl was obvious.  They were all so much more worldly and sophisticated than I was.  They dressed differently and spoke differently.  Their slang was foreign to me.

Later in life, I moved to Philadelphia.  For the first time in my life I didn't live in the midwest.  I loved it!  People were interesting and cultured.  I made friends with a whole new type of woman.  They went to nice stores.  They got manicures and pedicures.  Their mothers had been chic, and had taught them how to be chic.  Not only that, but they were also NICE.  They accepted me and welcomed me into their circle.

Believe it or not, I was in my thirties before I ever had a manicure or pedicure.  My husband and I went to Boca Raton on a company trip.  Another wife with the group took me to the beauty salon in the Boca Raton Club, and suggested a French manicure.  I had never even heard of that before, but I loved it.

My women friends in Philadelphia get bi-weekly manicures and pedicures.  It's an established habit with them.  I go months between manicures, and only get pedicures when I'm going to the beach.  I just don't think about it that often.  I didn't grow up "chic" and I guess I will never develop it.  My mother thinks I am sophisticated, but my level of sophistication is only relative to hers.  I guess you can take the girl out of the midwest but you can never take the midwest out of the girl.

6 comments:

Bearette said...

I grew up in New England, and have never had a manicure :) Never had a pedicure till my thirties, and haven't had one since Zoe was born. So you're not alone :)

Pam said...

Enjoyed your post.
I think I'm too much of a gardener to enjoy the manicure and pedicures. Rather than shop for 'chic' I'd rather spend the time reading - but I do like to observe others lifestyles and choices - and I do like a bit of fashion flair in others.
As a teenager,I used to be envious of others who's parents indulged their desire to be trendy. My mum would always say," I could run that up on the machine for half the price", but she never got around to it! -in those days I couldn't sew to save my life. Mum probably could have taught me if I was in the least bit interested, but home made was never as good as the trend shops to a teenager.

rachel said...

Some people just have it, don't they! Not me - although I'm sure I could be sophisticated if I wasn't short and round..... well, maybe not.....

judy in ky said...

Bearette, I'm glad I have company. It's just never been a part of my world. Plus, I hate spending money on something that doesn't last long.

Pam, I'm with you. I think we are both too practical to worry about such things. I don't remember being that interested in being trendy when I was a teen. I lived in a simper era, I guess.

Rachel, I agree. Some people just "have it". I tend to be shorter and rounder too.

the veg artist said...

This post has been preying on my mind. Perhaps it's guilt, through being rather scruffy most of the time, although I'm told I can scrub up quite well!

judy in ky said...

Dear Artist, I'm pretty scruffy a lot of the time, too. That's why I wrote about it.