One great perk to living in our mo-partment is the weekly housekeeping that is part of the arrangement. Coming from someone who didn’t know where our vacuum was stored for the first several years of our marriage, this is quite a boon! Each Friday I am treated to beautifully folded white towels, a tightly made king-sized bed and all the dusting that is possible in 600 square feet. This is all fabulous, and I don’t want to be one to look my government-supplied gift horse in the mouth, but I have yet to become comfortable with the actual process.
In theory, someone else doing my chores is superb, but the reality is just awkward. While I tended to fake my way through any assigned chores as a child, knowing if I did a semi-terrible job they would be reassigned to my much more capable older sister, I still had a list for which I had to at least pretend responsibility. Having someone else, usually a woman not much younger than my own mother, come and clean for me has been a tad bit disconcerting. For this reason, I spend my Fridays trying to outwit the maid and her schedule and be conspicuously absent when she arrives. The challenge comes in that I am pretty sure the housekeeping services department throws the key of each scheduled apartment into a bag and then randomly draws the order in which they will be cleaned. Since we’ve been here, housekeeping has shown up anywhere between 8:30AM and 4:00PM. The unreliable schedule means finding an all day, out-of-the-house activity to occupy my Friday hours.
Today’s planned field trip was to Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. At first thought, this seems like a terrible place to visit while Thad is slogging his way through hours of Chinese class, as it is one of his favorite places to visit. In reality though, going without him was a necessity. Rather than slowing walking around the Gunboat Philadelphia, reading each and every placard in full, I was able to scurry right to the heart of what I wanted to see- the exhibit based upon America’s First Ladies.
Originally, this ongoing exhibit was based on the personal fashion and household style of the women who stood behind their elected official husbands, but as the role of women has evolved, so has the role of the first lady. Now, the exhibit includes not only the dresses and jewelry of these fashion icons,but there is also a large portion dedicated to the causes embraced and espoused by these powerful unelected, yet highly visible leaders. The public service agendas put forth by these women are important and note-worthy, but let’s tell it like it is: I want to see the dresses!
Michelle Obama’s beautiful one-shoulder white inaugural gown was the centerpiece of the showroom, complete with her jewelry and Jimmy Choo shoes worn during the festivities surrounding a new president in Washington. Mamie Eisenhower gets props for her fabulous rose-colored ball gown that has withstood the test of time in terms of keeping its timeless fashion. The shoes and purse she paired with the dress would look extraordinary on any red-carpet event three quarters of a century later.
While I loved looking at the details on each and every dress, I do have to say that fashion is definitely a personal thing and several of these ladies and I are not on the same page! There were three women in front of me throughout the majority of the exhibit who just couldn’t stop gushing about Rosalynn Carter’s chiffon evening gown, which I thought looked like a gold bedazzled housecoat. One woman drawled in a thick southern accent, “Well, I am sure Georgia never saw such a gown before Ms. Carter showed up in that!” I’d have to agree, but probably not with the same connotation. While I give Mrs. Carter credit for her economical ways for wearing the same gown she wore when her husband became governor of Georgia, the dress was just not worthy of one, let alone two high level events; with less money spend on gold beading, she could have gone with a second look!
Having sufficiently held up the line of tourists at each new outfit and gotten an eye full of handmade shoes, hand-painted silk dresses and handcrafted jewelry, it was time to go people watch on the National Mall. Talk about a U-turn in the fashion world! I went from designer gowns and cocktail rings to mom-jeans and joggers.
Joggers. They are a dime a dozen in the DC area. We hadn’t been living here a week before I noticed this baffling dichotomy: joggers are everywhere all the time and there is always a Dunkin’ Donuts store within two hundred yards of any given location. What is the correlation? Is the jogging because of the donuts or are the donuts in spite of the jogging? These are the questions that occupy my mind during semi-temporary retirement.
Back to the joggers. It was nearly noon, 90 degrees outside and a relatively uncomfortable amount of humidity, and yet, there they were. I can’t help but ask myself about who these people are. Are they recently unemployed congressional pages? Who else has time to go jogging in the middle of a work day? As I whiled away more time on that bench nearly smack in the middle of the Capitol and the Washington Monument, avoiding the possibility of an awkward run-in with the housekeeping services women, I was treated to a myriad of runners. There were a few middle-aged/older gentlemen that while obviously in good shape, should refrain from sharing their man-boobs with visitors from other nations. This is not the image we want our foreign friends to take home with them. At some point, boobs sag. This is a fact of life. Men, embrace it! When you reach the point where you feel jiggling when you jog, it is time to wear keep your shirt on. Most runners were solitary in their late-morning pursuit of fitness, but there were a few pairs and trios running together, either providing mutual encouragement or as in one case I overheard, mocking their companions in a rather frat-boy manner. I guess as long as your pulse rate is up, it counts as exercise!
Feeling like it might be safe to return to my newly cleaned Crystal City apartment, I made my way across the Mall towards the Smithsonian Metro station, dodging the occasional Segway Tour (helmets required, buckling them optional), the ubiquitous family photo-ops and the massive crowd just spewed forth from the subway stop congregating around the visitors’ map/information signs. A day in the heart of the capital left me thinking I should have gone into the fashion industry or at least that I should stop and buy the latest copy of Vogue.