There are some occasions that most sensible people know that they are supposed to get dressed up for. Weddings, baptisms, an office Christmas party held someplace fancy. There are other times when it just kind of seems like the right thing to do. There really is no reason for me to wear a button down shirt at a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner held in my own home with people that I see all the time, yet I still do. It’s probably from watching too many Frank Sinatra movies, but I still think that at a minimum a collared golf shirt should be worn to a casino. The same is true for any restaurant that isn’t part of a national chain.
Other times our reasons make a little less sense. At 1:00 PM last Tuesday I was sitting on the couch playing a new game that I had picked up for the Playstation. My jeans had a small rip in one knee, but were clean. My shirt was light blue, with an image of Darth Vader superimposed over the Death Star. An hour later the jeans had been replaced with an intact pair and the T shirt hidden under a new sweater, understated but stylish, obviously bought for me by my wife.
The reason for my afternoon attire change? Kindergarten parent teacher conferences. I’m not a single parent out on the prowl or offering any Ms Gump style favors to try and further my child’s education, so what was the point? Why make an effort to impress an exhausted teacher just trying to find something different to say to each of the parade of parents cycling through her classroom every fifteen minutes?
I’m afraid that the answer might be that I’m a bit of an asshole. In a school system where not every child is, I want her teacher to know that my daughter comes from a stable home environment and that there are no obstacles to her achieving anything that she desires, no limits to her potential. I wanted my appearance to project that.
Its a terribly arrogant attitude, gravely insulting to teachers everywhere, and quite frankly not something that any reasonable person should ever admit to. Yet here we are.
Class sizes are increasing, resources scarce. I’m in no way implying or expecting that my daughter deserves more time or attention than any other child and know that my outfit will in no way influence either of these things.
I also know that as a parent this will not be the last time that I do something, consciously or not, that is absolutely ridiculous if there is even the slightest perceived benefit to my child from it. My town’s cumulative four year drop out rate of 16.5% was recently revealed to be the fourth highest in the entire state. Other than work with her on developing a positive attitude towards school and an appreciation of learning, there is very little that I can do at this point to ensure that she continues to succeed.
That doesn’t mean that I won’t be paying attention to how I look the next time around though.