“…another thing I distinctly remember about being a child is that awareness of oneself inside one’s clothes. Pinching shoes, a prickling slip, a dress that is tight across the shoulders or around the wrists, ankle socks bunching in the heels of my shoes. Mommy and Daddy never complained of their clothes, but mine seemed a constant torment.” (page 278)
I remember abhorring tights, because they itched. Forty minutes-a-week for dance class was almost more than I could bear. When I would stand out at the bus stop in the dead of winter, my neighbors’ grandmother would poke her head out of their front door and holler, “Aren’t your legs cold?” I always answered, “No,” even if I was shivering. Being cold for ten minutes was far preferable to wearing clingy, itchy tights under my jumper all day long.
I did not start wearing jeans until at least fourth grade. Before then, I generally had not had to worry about what others thought of my fashion sense, since I attended Catholic gradeschools. However, fourth grade is about the time when kids start having their birthday parties at public places. Public places mean being Seen in Public, and so everyone begins to regard their own appearance critically. When kids start being self-critical, they start criticizing others—how else can they come out on top? In effect, I knew I had to conform or else be rejected from society as I knew it. So I wore the jeans.
The same can be said today: conform or face rejection. Throughout high school, I continued to prize comfort over what most people would consider “fashion,” substituting sweatpants for the skintight jeans or dangerously short skirts that seemed to be required of every girl who was anyone. If you wanted to be looked at, you dressed nicely. Period.
I could claim that I simply didn’t want to be looked at, but I don’t think this is true. I didn’t find the payoff worth the cost, that’s all. Sure, I wanted boys to be interested in me. I just didn’t want them to be interested in hooking up with me. I felt confident that if they were truly interested in me for Me, then they wouldn’t care what I was wearing. I successfully found one guy who fit that description; we became very good friends.
I have always upheld the opinion that as people get to know one another better and grow to like each other more, they become more attractive to one another. This is not to say that they physically change, but their subjective opinions of one another’s appearance become more positive in spite of any initial aesthetic perceptions. My “close high school friend” Ben completely disagreed with me. Four years after knowing me, he revised his opinion. Now, he will only admit to one exception to his rule that if you’re not initially attracted to someone, you never will be. One is enough for me.
Ben liked me in my sweatpants. And while no one else has, I’m certain someone else eventually will. In the meantime, I’ll dress “appropriately,” when I must, to appease the masses. Otherwise, look for the sweatpants.