Today I am wrestling vanity as I contemplate a return to working in-person. Some of us who have worked primarily from home during the past year foresee a return to public presence if the pandemic numbers keep going down and immunization numbers keep going up. I wonder if a year or so later, my colleagues will think to themselves, oh she has aged so much!

In order to make the best presentation possible, I will need to pick up some former personal practices in getting back to normal life. I may be a dinosaur in education years, but I can at least try to be a nice-looking one (and one that does not bite). So, I am evaluating all the steps to getting back my office image.

My feet will be shocked to feel work shoes other than my easy old athletic shoes. In Zoom meetings no one saw my feet all year, allowing me that private comfort. A friend said she taught barefoot during her virtual classes, but I doubt that would work for me. If I shed my shoes, my brain might go into beach mode. I might start humming something by The Drifters and craving funnel cakes.

Most of my jewelry has taken a rest the past few months, especially my earrings. I wear headphones for better audio during the virtual meetings, which makes wearing earrings a painful thing when they are pressed against my head. Leaving off the ear ornaments is the least I can do for my ears after all the service they have rendered during the pandemic.

These ear flaps have provided a place to hang my mask loops on trips out of the house. They also housed my hearing aids, and as if those roles were not enough, they allowed my eyeglasses a place to rest their arms. With all that going on I could not bring myself to ask them to take on the earrings too. Neither have I put pencils behind my ears during this time!

Makeup has been low-priority in my home world, but for a recent DMV trip for license renewal, I decided to paint up to avoid looking so ghostly for my license picture. I wasted my time. At 8 in the morning after a sleep-deprived night, not even makeup could fix that face! The DMV officer was efficient, but not in a friendly sort of way, and I found it hard to give a happy smile for the camera. The picture he handed me looked like one of those unflattering mugshots that are put on the arrest report in the newspaper, a look between a meth arrest and a DWI.

I think it’s all a matter of perspective in matters of looks and aging. Several years ago, in my early senior-citizenhood, I attended a meeting with our youngest son. The woman addressing the group looked 50-ish to me and well-preserved, with tinted hair and a Merle Norman look with her makeup. I thought she looked nice. My son turned to me and confided, “It’s sad when old women try to look younger than they are.” Now, I had at least 10 years on that woman and my own attempts to defy the inevitable, so I just shrugged and used an old 1960s phrase: different strokes for different folks.

So, preparing for in-person work, I will need to pull myself together and get back into the saddle for one more year. Ever in my mind is that common saying: beauty is only skin deep. More important than my shoes or jewelry or makeup is the condition of my heart. All the beauty spas in the world cannot fix an ugly spirit, and those tend to bleed through.

My hope is for what the Bible calls “the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God” (I Peter 3:3-4). By the grace of God that is possible. Even so, I think a dinosaur roar every now and then is permissible!