I think in most homes when you’re growing up, there are certain words or phrases repeated by parents that always drove us crazy. Even the most loving families have them. That one certain little word repeated over and over and over again from birth to menopause, or thereabouts, that would just make you grimace when you heard it. That word, for me, was “sensible.”
It was unbelievable to me how many categories of my life were controlled by whether or not they were sensible. My shoes needed to be a sensible brown that would go with everything, because I would only have one pair. My clothing needed to be a color of brown or muted blue that would not stand out in any way, for that would not be sensible. My hair could never be grown past my shoulders; it needed to be a more sensible length. As a teenager, makeup was never allowed. Sensible girls didn’t wear it. And books? It was OK to read school books, but there was no time for other reading when there was work to be done. It just wasn’t sensible.
Conforming to sensibility quietly has never been my strength. My early years would have gone much more smoothly if it had. I was not a sensible child. It was probably a godsend that our television was black and white so I could not see all the colors of the world, for I would have surely wanted them all.
The brightest colors in my life were from the quilts on my bed, made by my mom and grandmother. A Flower Garden quilt with predominantly green colors was always on it. Green was my mom’s favorite color, therefore, it was sensible. And because green was so sensible to my mom, she even painted the oak woodwork of our house green. I began to loathe the color green as much as brown, sensible as they both were.
When the air began to turn chilly in the fall, I had to wear a sensible cardigan, when I really would have preferred a jacket. Corduroy slacks were the more sensible autumn choice, when I would have preferred blue jeans. And my hair was generally chopped off by my mother at home because it was much more sensible than having it done by someone who actually knew how to cut hair at the beauty shop.
I became so tired of being sensible. I wanted to wear something red under a black leather jacket! I wanted to wear lipstick and faded denim and grow long hair that would flow in the breeze! I yearned for bright red fingernails and toes and a purple dress that did not hide in a crowd! I wanted to be a rebel!
Eventually, as years passed and I was out on my own, making my own money, I would occasionally purchase something very insensible. And yet, I still couldn’t buy that red sweater or blouse because my mother’s voice was always inside my head telling me it wasn’t sensible. And my dad’s voice telling me only Trollops wore red. Well, I certainly didn’t want to be a Trollop. It just wouldn’t be sensible.
Whether or not to be sensible has haunted me my entire life. I wanted so much to rebel, wear mini skirts and high heels and fishnet stockings. And oh my gosh, I wanted a pair of red shoes. That would have been the ultimate rebellion. But always, my mother’s voice was inside my head telling me how that would not be sensible.
Years have gone by, decades really. Mother’s voice has faded, just a little. I bought a red sweater this fall. And yes, I do feel a bit of a Trollop when I wear it. Brown shoes no longer go on my feet and have been replaced with black, because black is more sensible to me. But I’ve still never bought the red shoes. I guess there will always be just a little bit of sensibility in me.
Did your parents encourage you to be sensible?
Do you remember the corduroy jumpers?