Recently, in class, I did a good deed. A classmate was sniffling, and, being the always-prepared bus-commuter that I am, I had tissues in my giant Messenger Bag of Doom (my yoga teacher saw it and asked, “is that luggage?”), and I gave her one. After class, thanking me, she asked me my name. When I said, “Sarah,” she said, “I just knew you were a Sarah! You look so wholesome!” After I mentioned this incident on Twitter, somewhat baffled and indignant that I have such an apparently wholesome image, a friend suggested I should be grateful she didn’t say something like, “I just knew you were a Sarah, because you’re so plain and tall!” True. The book Sarah Plain and Tall made my adolescent years somewhat less bearable thanks to the ready taunts available with the title.
I told my husband about the whole wholesome thing, and he didn’t get why it so baffled me. “But you ARE wholesome!” he said. I mean, I guess if you look at one collection of facts, the ones like the fact that I married my first and only boyfriend at age 21, that I’m basically Martha Stewart in the kitchen, or that I grew up in church, graduated cotillion, and was a debutante, well, then, I look pretty darn wholesome. But on the other hand, I’m a feminist environmentalist equality-supporting emergent-theology-loving near-socialist, and to a lot of people, that’s not very wholesome. Focus on the Family would probably not find me very wholesome.
My boss, on the other hand, thinks this whole “wholesome” thing is hilarious. We already had a bit of a ribbing rapport, and he’s now taken to introducing me to people like, “This is Sarah, she’s very wholesome.” Then he can barely contain his chuckles. This morning he told me that my cardigan is very wholesome, but wondered if perhaps, earrings are not wholesome. I said earrings can be wholesome provided one takes Coco Chanel’s famous advice to look in the mirror and remove one accessory before leaving the house. He asked me if I followed that advice, and I thought about it for a second before admitting that while I didn’t take off any accessories this morning, I did swap out a bolder necklace for a more subdued choice. He chuckled and remarked that perhaps I’m not so wholesome after all.