What is she thinking?! Does she know what she looks like in that?

So far, it’s just raining a little, but we are only a block outside of the evacuation zone and building management keeps sending these ominous messages that include the phrase “STAY AWAY FROM ALL WINDOWS.” It feels vaguely apocalyptic around here. The subway has shut down, and the buses, and I find myself watching a lone leaf, spiraling helplessly up and up, over the raised heads of the buildings, caught in a long finger of wind. It’s all very poetic and dire. Bear is staying home from work, and we’re waiting for the storm together. We were able to buy some coconut milk from Trader Joe’s and some canned clams, before desperate, scrabbling New Yorkers pulled everything off the shelves. We were trying for almond milk and tuna. Our bathroom ceiling has been creaking all night, I think from the weight of a full bath on the next floor up. Our neighbors must be preparing for a power outage, and I am very careful on the way to the toilet, in case the ceiling should cave in. So that’s the news here, and I’m glad I have this guest post to share with you, from the consistently provocative, thoughtful Bethany, who recently sent it to me. I’ve also published a piece of hers about a little girl who thought she was too fat, and one about being average-sized. She sometimes writes things that make me think, “Why the hell haven’t I written about that?” So then I publish them. And now I’m going to return to looking out the window while absentmindedly eating all of the canned clams. Stay safe, people in Hurricane Sandy’s path! And everyone else, of course! There are other things– wild fires, earthquakes, brimstone? those determined-looking cyclists who go right through the red light on the bike path in central park– they’re going to kill someone one day, seriously.  – Kate


“What was she thinking?!”


Have you ever caught yourself wondering that, either aloud or to yourself? Maybe you saw a girl wearing fishnets and crocs. Maybe you saw a very heavy woman wearing booty shorts.  Maybe your coworker wore a pair of pants that were just a bit too snug and gave her a serious muffin top.

I’ll admit that I catch myself thinking it a lot.  And sometimes I say it out loud and sneak second and third peeks at the offender in question.  I’ve seen just about everything:  dangerously short skirts, outrageous dye jobs and haircuts, incredibly heavy makeup, and all kinds of bodies in all kinds of revealing clothing.  Sometimes, it’s hard not to gawk.

But I want to be a better person.  I want to be a person who doesn’t judge so much.  I want to be someone who knows and remembers that clothing, haircuts and shoes don’t make a person.  And I also want very badly to stop being part of the problem that women struggle with today.  My eyes don’t need to be another pair that is looking for flaws and shortcomings.

So I decided that when I catch myself thinking or saying “What was she thinking?” that I might just go ahead and try and answer that question.


And, once I got started, I realized that there are a lot of different possibilities…

Maybe she’s lost weight and those are the skinny jeans she’s been dying to fit back into.  I know I’ve been there.  I’ve definitely squeezed myself into a pair of pants (or two) that were a bit too tight just because it felt nice to know that I could.  It was actually pretty motivating while I was losing weight; it made me feel like the prize was within my reach.

Maybe she has a really limited wardrobe.  For me, this is reality.  Clothes are expensive.  Sometimes I feel a bit like Doug Funnie because I wear so many of the same outfits over and over again.  And yes, some of them are bargain pieces that might not be the most flattering or the best cut, but they keep me from being naked and I figure that’s the most important objective.  Not everyone can afford designer or even new clothes.  And we don’t all have money to drop on tailoring, either.  For some of us, we’re looking at jeans from Goodwill and sweaters from Wal-Mart and there’s not a thing wrong with that.

Maybe, just maybe, that is her favorite outfit and it makes her feel awesome.  I feel awesome when I wear dresses.  When I pull a dress over my head, I feel like a girl and a pretty one.  Sure, I want it to fit and flatter, but it almost doesn’t matter because I just feel so feminine and cute.  I like the way I feel in a dress.  To the rest of the world, I might look ridiculous and hideous, but inside I feel awesome and that’s what counts the most.


Maybe she wanted to try something new.  One of the reasons I haven’t shaved my head or worn overall shorts in public is because I’m so scared of what other people would think.  And that’s kind of stupid.  I’m beginning to really admire women who are willing to experiment and try different things with their hair and their clothes.  It sure looks like a lot more fun than wearing khakis and sweater sets every day.

Maybe she just doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks.  And how awesome is that?  How liberating and empowering it must be to get up in the morning, throw on whatever the hell you feel like wearing and going out and living your life right in the faces of people who probably wish you’d wear something sexier or more stylish or color coordinated.  I think if we’re being honest, most of us would have to admit that our fashion choices are rather heavily influenced by the perceptions of those around us.  It’s the reason I’ve never worn hot pink hot pants (that has a ring to it, doesn’t it?) or purple shoes with green pants.  Actually, I’ve never even owned green pants because that sounds like an article of clothing that would get a person made fun of.  Maybe one day, when I’m tired of caring what other people think of me, I’ll be brave enough to buy some green pants.  And wear them with purple shoes.


Most of us get up every morning and have to get dressed.  There are a lot of choices and factors involved in getting dressed and we all handle it differently.  Some people have huge closets and others might only have a single dresser drawer to themselves.  Some people like to wear corsets to the bank and others might decide to rock a cocktail dress at a picnic.

At the end of the day, who cares?  If you do, I think you should ask yourself why.

*   *   *

Bethany’s Bio: I’m a happily single, full time working mom from Tennessee.  I have one awesome eight year old boy, a cat named Chubbles, and I’m planning on going back to school to become a speech therapist very soon!  I love to write, cook, eat mayonnaise from the jar and I get really emotionally involved in Super Mario Bros.

Thank you so much for this, Bethany! And here’s to green pants! I actually have a pair that I never wear out, because they’re so green. Do you catch yourself judging other women for how they dress? 

Unroast: Today I love the way I feel when I’m wearing something ridiculous that I feel like I’m totally pulling off. It happens. 



Kate on October 29th 2012 in body, guest post

23 Responses to “What is she thinking?! Does she know what she looks like in that?”

  1. meg responded on 29 Oct 2012 at 11:30 am #

    I think this a lot, though I have started to catch myself and give myself a little slap on the wrist when thoughts that are critical and unnecessary go through my mind. I guess it’s a woman thing. I don’t know many guys that think “what was he THINKING” when they see a guy wearing something really weird.

    I have a pair of green pants. I LOVE them. Gap had a bunch of pants this spring in various bright, over-the-top colors and I couldn’t not get a pair. I wear them often and my only regret is that I didn’t get a couple of other pairs in different shades. I really want a pair of purple ones.

  2. Amy responded on 29 Oct 2012 at 11:38 am #

    Been reading about the “colored pants trend”. At least I feel very sure I’ve at least seen colored pants/denim and the word “trend” together. And Part of me really wants a pair of bright green pants, and red. I want a cool pair of red jeans. Because I think it would be fun and weird and punk. But I hestitate to buy or wear a pair because I think I’m too fat. And why would I want to draw attention to my bottom half by wearing bright red pants? So…I don’t and then I get sad.

  3. Erin responded on 29 Oct 2012 at 12:33 pm #

    Amy, I know that feeling, and because I also know that feeling I want you to know that I love you and think you’re fabulous, colored jeans or no.

  4. Suzie responded on 29 Oct 2012 at 12:43 pm #

    I usually find myself doing this when someone is wearing something really revealing. I guess it’s because that is so not my taste and I really don’t ever do that. I’m not confident about my body and I never have been, so I guess it’s probably jealousy a little bit. I’m sure those women feel like they have the body so they should show it off, and that is totally their right. The person in the funky weird clothes is probably me. If I want something and think its cool I buy it and wear it. Sometimes I feel a bit weird but mostly it just makes me feel awesome. I love seeing girls wearing funky things, if I see someone wearing something really daring I’m usually like “dang, I wish that was me.” I think people should wear what they want, it’s all about what makes you feel happy and like an individual. Get your “green pants” of the world ladies! It’s an amazing feeling.

  5. Janet T responded on 29 Oct 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    I find myself inspired from the Humans of New York website- the creativity and flare, the daring just to go there. Most of the time rather than think, “what was she thinking?”, I think…” I wish I was strong enough to dress that way”. (you’ll notice I say most of the time, because hey I’m human)

  6. lik_11 responded on 29 Oct 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    My husband and I saw a 50-ish year old punk rock hippie (is that a real thing? That’s how I would describe her style…) and he made some smart ass comment, like, “Who wears clothes like that?!?”. I turned to him- and responded “that’s the kind of person I thought I would grow up to be.” He sort of gawked at me and asked if I was sad that I didn’t… I had to admit “absolutely”. I have conformed over the years- to almost qualify as normal… and it makes me sad. Here’s to the women getting away with wearing whatever makes them feel pretty!!!

  7. Amanda responded on 29 Oct 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    Oh yes, I’ve caught myself and had to do a “whoa, girl, back up the trailer” moment. We can be so judgmental of each other. Awesome post, Bethany :)

    And be careful, Kate! My sister, brother-in-law and small niece are in Brooklyn, so all you folks are on my mind.

  8. Melanie responded on 29 Oct 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    I am so with you on this! I, too, in trying to be a better person have tried to stop it. If someone loves wearing something than they should. Period.

  9. Paulette responded on 29 Oct 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    Thank you…this sooooo rocks….

  10. corinne Oak schecter responded on 29 Oct 2012 at 1:54 pm #

    I am going to try to think of all those other reasons folks may wear what they do….it does take guts…I’m such a wimp with clothes. Although, I am lucky (and you will too someday Bethany) because I am a speech therapist working with toddlers…and they DO NOT judge…they just state the obvious!
    Keep safe on the coast! My thoughts are with you all!

  11. Susan responded on 29 Oct 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    I think this a lot too, but until I read your post, I had never really thought about the fact that I never think it about men and their clothing choices. ever.

    So it’s great to have a moment to think about my foggy spot there, and to do some meaningful self-care by self-correcting.

    Along the same lines, I think it is important not to force ourselves to wear things we don’t like just because we have them. I recently decided that I am not going to wear turtleneck sweaters anymore. I don’t like them, and don’t think they flatter me, and make me feel like I have a huge chest (which I do, but they somehow make it feel less okay) and I basically just wear them because I have a closet full of them. So I am getting rid of them! (giving them away to a nice charity). They are mostly in really good condition and will be happier with someone who will wear them. And I feel so good about making this decision. Thanks for reminding us not to judge others and in turn, to take care of ourselves!

  12. Lorie responded on 29 Oct 2012 at 3:05 pm #

    I really wanted a pair of red jeans but worried that I would look like a 50 year old tomato. Instead, I got a purple pair and a forest green pair (Not Your Daughter’s Jeans) and LOVE them! I got several tops to wear with both. The purple ones especially put a smile on my face when I wear them.

  13. morgaine responded on 29 Oct 2012 at 7:11 pm #

    You nailed it. (I wrote a pretty similar thing a while back. https://colormebrazen.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/minimize-all-deviations/, if you’re interested.)

  14. Patricia responded on 30 Oct 2012 at 1:34 am #

    I am pretty sure I am one of ‘those’ women, the ones that others are wondering ‘what the heck was she thinking?’ I wear what is comfortable, stuff that appeals to my eclectic sense of style( another way of saying no sense of style lol) so lots of jeans, but usually not just plain ones, I have a pair with a huge brightly coloured dragon up one leg, and a pair with gold fringe around the hem, and a pair with silver stitching on the back pockets. I own a closet full of t shirts, brightly coloured ones, lots with funny sayings, lots from camps that I lead at. And hoodies, lots and lots of hoodies! A few of my favorites: a tie dyed one, a pink John Deere one, and my new favorite, a New York Yankees one, black with the NY logo in different colours all over it. I also have Xmas pants that I wear on my days off in December. I have several pairs and will insist to anyone that mentions it That I am wearing Xmas Pants not pajamas lol
    I do have some nice clothes and do dress up occasionally, but it’s not really me, and I am always glad to get back into my comfy stuff!

  15. Heavy responded on 31 Oct 2012 at 1:07 pm #

    YES! YES! YES! I lived in Korea last year and people there are mostly impeccably dressed. However it can also be very generic. Everyone looks nice but very much the same. I was talking to a North American friend who lived in Korea as well and responded with how much people here at home just look so dumpy and like they don’t care and he sees heavier women wearing leggings and it’s just awful…and I really wanted to tear him a new one. Who was he to judge what everyone else wears as either appropriate or not? I’m sure there are things I have mustered up the courage to wear and do with my hair that other people think of as terrible, but overall, I get far more compliments about my looks now, when I take more risks, than I did when I was busy hiding as much as possible. So go for it. Wear that tight shirt, wear those insane pants, do your hair that way. I’m not perfect and I do think sometimes “what was he/she thinking” but I try to remember that it’s none of my damn business and pick out something I think is beautiful about that person and move on.

  16. Mara responded on 01 Nov 2012 at 10:43 am #

    You should check out Humans of New York. You can follow them on Facebook, and these awesome pictures of awesome people, complete with awesome (and positive) commentary, will brighten your newsfeed every day. Also, it’s helped me a lot with not being judgemental of other people’s fashion choices, a negative little habit that I got from my mom. She asks the “what were they thinking” question a lot.

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  18. Nat responded on 15 Nov 2012 at 2:19 am #

    I’m definitely one of those people look at wondering “what the hell was she thinking” – when they actually see I’m a girl.

    I wear baggy, ripped clothes, military pants, punk jackets, combat boots. My head is shaved. My shoes are dirty. My pants are old. I feel pretty this way, even if you can identify my gender (and maybe because of that, since I’m trans* genderqueer). I feel comfortable and perfectly happy the way I am and the way I dress, even though people are always commenting on how pretty I would look if I let my hair grow or how thinner would I look if wore fitting clothes. I’ve been laughed at, I’ve been called many things. My parents say I look horrible or bizarre.

    Sometimes it hurts.

    But sometimes it makes me feel stronger. Because no matter what they say, the choice is still mine, and I’m wearing what I want to proudly. And knowing I’m being brave makes me feel better when people point at me and try to shame me because I’m not girly enough, because I don’t wear make up or heels, because I prefer to be comfortable than pretty, because I look myself better this way.

    It’s not easy to walk with your hear held high in a bus when EVERYONE is staring at you, judging you. But when you go out after facing it proud enough of yourself, you kinda feel like you could do anything. It’s the best feeling, facing a world that doesn’t understand you and winning by not letting yourself be shamed. It’s a long fight though. Maybe I’m getting too old to keep doing this, or that’s what people tell me; that I should grow out of it already and start dressing better or no one would take me seriously.

    I guess I will take my chances. I cannot be anything else but myself.

  19. Nat responded on 15 Nov 2012 at 2:20 am #

    can’t identify my gender*

  20. Nat responded on 15 Nov 2012 at 2:21 am #

    like myself better this way*

    So many typos.

  21. Nat responded on 15 Nov 2012 at 2:25 am #

    The most upsetting thing about how you dress, how you do your hair etc is that everyone seems to think you’re dressing up to THEM, not to yourself. So you MUST fit their ideal of what’s pretty and adequate or else you’re stupid.

  22. Alice responded on 25 Dec 2012 at 9:51 pm #

    I’m a little late commenting here, but I’m one of the girls people look at and ask “What were they thinking?!” The underside of my hair and my bangs have been bleached and dyed strips of red, purple, and blue. I wear colorful and decorated skinny jeans. I wear battered black leather boots with buckles on them. I have a chain of voodoo dolls hanging off my favorite jacket. I can go from wearing neon clothes to all black.
    I pick out my clothes on the basis of “Am I going to feel happy wearing this? Does this shirt/pair of pants make me smile? Do I feel good in this?” If I answer ‘no’ to all those questions, I pick something else. I’m sure some of the clothes I wear aren’t very flattering, and some of them may be *ahem* /too/ flattering, but why should it matter if I’m happy? It shouldn’t and it doesn’t.
    I should hope that the answer to “What were they thinking?!” when in regards to the way people dress will always be something along the lines of “I wanted to”

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