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.