I was in a conversation with a friend the other day. You know, one of those engrossing, life-altering exchanges about -
er... fashion. But I happened upon the realization of something that resonated with me and led me right back to a moment when I was 12 years old.
You see, I have what I described as fashion paralysis. I love looking at clothes. I love every single women's magazine on the checkstands. Hell, I used to subscribe to all of them (but then I stopped to save on $$). I limit myself to the occasional rag if I'm going to be doing something particularly boring that involves waiting for a long period of time. And I still get Glamour because somehow I'm subscribed to that thing until 2014. But I digress.
When I shop for me, I buy the same things. Very simple. I don't experiment with clothes, I don't particularly accessorize with jewelry or a fancy hat or insane gladiator sandals. But I want to be one of those girls. You know, the one who can wear a denim vest. The one who can rock a beret. The one who has 11 perfectly mismatched bracelets on that somehow come together in this glorious symphony of wrist accoutrement. But I don't wear vintage men's blazers. Or high waisted trousers. Or orange.
I'm in a rut of sorts because I am nearly always in jeans, flip flops, and something in varying shades of gray. White. Black. Grey. And I question why I do not have the capacity to put things together like all of my fashion-forward friends. I mean, I read all the magazines. I enjoy the window-shopping. But when it comes down to it, I'm just not able to make fashion-forward choices for my wardrobe. I'm paralyzed in fear of drifting from my staples. I just can't/don't. And then I realize that I just don't have the confidence to do it.
That's where 7th grade comes in. I remember this moment so vividly, it's like it happened this morning. I had just begun my first year of junior high at public school. I had come from a 6th grade graduating class of 16 from my private Christian elementary school. The change was traumatic to say the least. I knew no one in the whole school, and spent the entire lunch period that first week walking. From one end of the ampitheater, through the cafeteria, through the quad, and around and around again. Why? Because I was impossibly self-conscious and didn't want to be laughed at for sitting all alone. In hindsight I'm sure I just looked nutty doing laps around school, but at the time I reasoned that if I was seen walking, it looked as though I was at least en route to see friends. Then I wasn't some loser who had no one to sit with. I was this really really cool girl that was hauling ass to get to her massive gathering of friends somewhere. My adolescent logic slays me.
So I was rather nonplussed after the first day of school. I had anticipated making 214 friends that day and had clearly come up short handed, so I stood there in my closet that afternoon preparing myself for the following day at school. I knew I had to look stylin'. So I put together this outfit that I thought I totally rocked in. Yes, if you're thinking it was a plaid flannel romper dress, you are correct. Paired smartly with hiking boots no less. Yes, like these!
I thought my outfit was brilliant. I went to school the next day with pep in my step, determined to in the very least make a friend, or, truly in the very least to not get outed for my lunchtime 5k. I was going to have friends. I was wearing an awesome plaid dress. With a long sleeved cream shirt underneath (um it was September in Los Angeles. I'm sure the high that day was 128. Or at least in the 90s). With boots! Just like out of a magazine I'd seen! (hey, it was 1996, after all).
Right before 3rd period P.E. (that's physical education for those of you who managed somehow to escape this educational phenomenon, though I'm sure you didn't) I head over towards the gym. The doors were still locked so my fellow classmates were congregating out front. I stood there, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible, though I was clearly without a pal, in the midst of gaggles of cliques chatting away. I'm facing the locked gym door, when I loudly hear the sneer from one of those girls - you know, the ones who had 592 friends who had to be greeted before school, at snack time, and at lunch with a hug.
That was it. I wanted to crawl into a dumpster out back and never get out. Those stupid motherfucking godawful boots. Why did I have to wear them?! Why did I have to think I was so "stylish"?! I felt my whole face and neck turn red. Tears stung at my eyes but I managed to keep them at bay. This was the biggest disaster of my life to date. (Granted I did go on to have many, many disasters, many much bigger than this one)
At that one moment, in my very most impressionable formative years, I became a loser. That moment (sadly) probably dictated my self-worth for a decade. It became my modus operandi to look as inconspicuous as possible. I wanted nothing to draw attention to myself. I never again wanted to be singled out in front of all those "cool kids" for being lame. I just wanted to fit in. And to this very day I oh-so-badly just want to fit in.
So yep, I became consumed with what other people thought about me. So by keeping my outfits simple, people couldn't make a negative decision about me, right? This revelation is really blowing my mind, because it puts so much into perspective for me. To this day I have anxiety over getting dressed for any occasion. I agonize over what to wear because I have this fear in the back of my mind. You know, this totally logical fear that you won't like me if I wear a scarf with my outfit. So I hardly ever accessorize. I wear mostly solid colors. My shoes are unmentionable.
Because I'm scared you won't like me.
Like what, a 27 year old chick's going to corner me in the bathroom at work and say "Nice scarf!"??
I've got to break myself of this habit. Because it's no fun being a wimp, and I want to raise a girl who is full of self-confidence and happiness. The only real way to do that is by setting a good example, right? Yes! I am now all about self-empowerment (today).
So now where can I find construction boots in my size?
*I do want to note, lest you imagine that I remained a total "loser" that I did go on to make friends. My first friend spoke no English, so that didn't really work out, but it was a start. My attempts to be affable were not completely in vain as I progressed through the public school system. In fact, by high school they let me be a cheerleader and talk to people!