I Wore the Wrong Thing to a Funeral

As someone who often wears black, I felt pretty set in the apparel department when I made plans to attend an upcoming funeral. At the very least, I figured, I wouldn’t have to worry about what to wear. This isn’t a feeling I’m accustomed to.

I’m usually the person who refuses to go to a tiki-themed party because I have neither tiki clothing nor a tiki body, or who worries an all-black ensemble including boots will be wrong for a summertime lunch in a botanical garden, or who freaks out before a barbecue because I know people will constantly ask me if I’m hot in my sweater and jeans. Yes, I am, by the way.

Also, I’m the person who’s constantly being told I should mix it up and add some color to my wardrobe and, “Why black all the time?” and “Are you Goth?” I’m not Goth. I just feel confident in black.

The one arena where you really can’t wear black all the time is on screen. I do have my collection of oncamera clothing, including an orange shirt which I wore once on television and then threw out because it made me look like a peach with a head. For real life, I stick to dark colors with the occasional grey, blue or purple for pizzazz.

But back to the funeral. As I leafed through my black garments, I wanted to make sure I was dressed appropriately which meant not too casual.

Something slightly dressy seemed right. I didn’t want to spend too much time worrying about how I looked though. Vanity in the face of death also seemed inappropriate.

I spied my white summer jacket, a new and completely out-of-character purchase I’d recently made. What if I wore that, I imagined. Then not only would I be wearing white after Labor Day, but I’d be wearing white to a funeral.

I imagined wearing the most inappropriate brightly colored outfit, essentially thumbing my nose in the face of death. I wondered what everyone would think if I did that. Imagine being that person, I thought.

I drove to the funeral, which was a little over an hour away, and only spent 59 minutes of the drive worrying that I’d be, according to my GPS, 4 minutes late. Who’s that jerk arriving late to a funeral? Is it the same person who wears the absolute wrong thing, not mistakenly, but because they can’t be bothered to care?

I was relieved to see people still milling toward the chapel as I pulled up. I walked in and saw the son of the deceased. He was wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Then I noticed that most of the men were wearing Hawaiian shirts. Many of the women were in sundresses. It was Jimmy Buffett concertwear as far as the eye could see: Hawaiian prints, flowing linens, canvas footwear, tropical flowers. A picture of the deceased, wearing a Hawaiian shirt, sat near the front of the chapel. A lei was hung around the picture.

A coconut bra and grass skirt would have blended in better than the Grim Reaper getup I had on. I was pretty much the only one at this funeralinside-a-Tommy Bahama whose outfit screamed, “Hi, I’m mourning.”

I found my mother three pews from the front and slid in next to her. “Was there some kind of dress code for this funeral?” I asked.

“Yes, he loved Hawaii so everyone was supposed to wear Hawaiian shirts. I’m so sorry I forgot to tell you.”

It was a lovely service, with moments of deep sadness and levity, too, and I don’t know that anyone really minded how I was dressed since they probably figure I’m Goth. !

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