As I paid for the dress I ran over the reasons in my head why I'd probably never buy the dress I really liked: it was too short; it was too young; it was too sparkly; I'd have no place to wear it; I wasn't Wonder Woman; it was too expensive. Etc.
But, if in some strange universe where I didn't have all those excuses and inhibitions, I'd buy that dress, and I'd wear it with gold pumps dammit. And red lipstick and red nail polish. And I'd dye my hair blond, just to see what it looked like. I've always wanted to know...
I wondered, as I walked away with my black wool dress what, exactly, I was afraid of, and why it was so difficult to admit to liking the things I really liked.
The next day, in a different store, my three-year old son unhesitatingly pointed to a pack of pink My Little Pony stickers, lined up next to Transformers, monster trucks and aliens. "I want this one Mummy." He said decisively.
Unlike me and my hang-ups, he went right in and picked out exactly what he wanted. Never mind social ideals and gender stereotypes and peer pressures. His decision-making process consisted of one thought: whether or not he liked it. Unbelievable. I want to bottle this ability to be unimpeded by external pressures and keep it forever. Because when else in your life are you this free?
If a boy wants to wear a pink feather boa and run up and down the street roaring like a lion, well okay. If a girl wants to put on a Darth Veda outfit with a pink tutu and wave a light saber, so what? Not an eyelid is bat.
And as you get older, quirky isn't always funny or cute any more. Unless, of course, you're Lady Gaga or it's Halloween.
I have this theory, that when it comes to being who you really want to be, life goes in three cycles:
1. You start out as a young child, so far untouched by peer pressure and self-consciousness, free to explore and be whoever you want.
2. A few years go by and suddenly you become self-aware. You discover that things like fitting in and making friends and being accepted are important. And those luminous polka dot pants you thought were cool because your parents said so? Not cool. You begin to withdraw the eccentricities. You learn how to dress and act the right way.
3. At some point as you get older, you stop trying to fit in and start finding confidence in the person you really are. You realize all those years you spent worrying about what was socially acceptable was totally overrated and that, in fact, you should totally have bought that leopard print leotard and dyed your hair lime green twenty years ago. Because really, the world won't crumble around you and your friends won't desert you. (Warning: Your friends may desert you and the world may crumble if you dye your hair lime green.)
I think that's why some people become completely eccentric with old age and finally embrace the things they love, even if they are seemingly ridiculous and unsuitable. Because it's taken them a life time to figure it out. I, for one, totally plan on being an eccentric silver-haired pensioner with super fashionable clothes and shoes. And people will tell my grandkids how lucky they are to have such a cool grandma.
Photo from Advanced Style
I just hope it doesn't take me that long to figure it out...