Remember when High School was partially about developing your identity and style in a safe environment? I don’t think it’s like that anymore. Now you have to come in with a fully formed identity, complete with matching friends, hobbies, and school transcripts. The infamous Chef from South Park used to say, “There’s a time and a place for everything, and it’s called college.” Now it seems more like it’s supposed to be 8th grade, when you still have an largely underdeveloped frontal lobe and it’s still possible to have any criminal records expunged.
I would never tell you that I loved my high school years. As a matter of fact, I wanted them to be horrible so that nostalgia would be nearly impossible. Sure, I was involved: band, choir, trips, honors classes, prom… all that stuff. But to me they were just a stepping stone to college, where I could really learn how to do what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Now that I’m not doing that thing specifically, I wonder what I could have done differently. Should I have studied Archaeology, like I wanted to in 8th grade, or medicine like I wanted as a child? Should I have gone into Marketing? If there was some way to go back and do it differently, all while keeping the parts of my history that I do love (read: the Hubs and the kidlets, as well as my spiritual journey), I’d do it in a heartbeat.
I will tell you what I liked about my (public) high school experience: I was free to be me, and so were those around me. There was a girl at my school who had the most outlandish clothes and hair– she was punk, through and through. Sure, other people might have stared for a moment, but we all went about our own lives and (as far as I know) she was never taunted or hurt. She even went to the Prom with another girl: they weren’t romantically involved, but it was the principle of the thing. No one minded– it was kind of the ‘thing’ in the late ’90s.
As for me, I would wear a different style every day of the week: grunge, preppy, bohemian… whatever struck me that day. I’ll be honest, though: as a heavy-set, well-endowed girl, there were some items I should not have been wearing. But that’s what high school is for*– learning the social boundaries safely.
(*= I know that’s not all it’s for! It’s for learning what you need for the real world, and I wholeheartedly believe people should be able to be successful in the real world with a HS diploma. The fact that this is no longer the case is for another time.)
College was important because I was not only learning how to perform tasks in a professional career, I was learning to dress for the occasion, as well as many other occasions. Joining a sorority helped a lot: it was not about forcing me into wearing a certain style, but rather about being a reflection of something greater than myself. I really learned how to do make-up in college, a habit I’m reviving for the sake of my daughter. I’m wearing my sorority letters on a T-shirt as I type this now, and I feel well put-together, albeit not particularly fancy. Being involved in Campus Ministry, I also reflected a lot on modesty (definitely not as much as I should have, but hey, it’s a process). I know people get very hung up on what the purpose of modesty of dress is, and I could probably go on for another essay about it, but what it means to me is that I have a goal of feeling confident about myself and if that takes more (or less) fabric than it does for others, that’s how it is.
While I was teaching, I felt a need to be sort of frumpy for the sake of professionalism. As Stacy and Clinton from “What Not to Wear” would tell you, this is ultimately not necessary. I was young and dumb, what can I say? But then came the whirlwind that is life: In the past 10 years, I got married and had 4 kids and 4 teaching jobs. Now that I’ve landed, I look at my closet and I see that I did neglect myself that entire time, despite the mani/pedis, the spa treatments, the haircuts, the diets, and all the living: I neglected my style.
Sadly, “What Not to Wear” no longer exists, although I follow Clinton Kelly and Stacy London on Twitter (and Clinton follows me back! It’s so very exciting!) and know that they offer fashion advice in other outlets. And I did audition for a maternity special when I was pregnant with Toughie. I choose to take it as a good sign that I was not chosen because that ought to mean I didn’t need it that badly.
So now, as I sit in the quiet of my living room, I ponder my apparent lack of personal style, as well as my parenting style. I find the two closely related: you can tell the professional working mom from the sporty mom from the “just don’t give a crap” mom. (I saw a lot of moms at a school dance the other day– these and many others were on display!)
I’m still trying to figure it out, and I do hope I’m not alone in the “trial-and-error” phase. So I’m looking for a little help:
1) This Facebook page. If anyone were ever inclined to buy me something, they might want to consult this page. The shoes, the purses, the jackets. Nearly everything posted there makes me happy in a shallow, fun way. And I am totally ok with that.
2) Another Facebook page for Young Moms (sorry, folks– private group! No linkage!). I know a couple of the other members personally and feel we agree on a lot. That’s comforting. (I used to live on Cafemom.com, but it’s like an online version of “Mean Girls.” No, thank you.)
(Gee, thanks Buzzfeed! I knew I liked you!)
Here’s to developing a real sense of style.