Excerpt from my upcoming book "Aging Naked"]
I was an infant when we moved into our home in Eagle Rock and I don’t recall ever having to make friends. I just had them. They’d always been there. But at the age of 11 or 12, I was plunged into a school environment with kids who seemed far older than myself. One moment I was in sixth grade exchanging friendship rings with my best friend after pricking our index fingers with a needle and pressing them together to create a blood-sister bond, and the next moment I was sitting at a shared table in Algebra class listening to adult-like teens swap stories of smoking pot and making out.
Shortly after starting at my new school, a girl in one of my classes asked about my ring and I proudly shared the story of its meaning—of two friends who forged a relationship over a lifetime of playing with Barbies, pledging their eternal commitment to remaining soul sisters. Of course, I didn’t say it quite so eloquently, but I did mention something about it being a friendship ring, and I know I mentioned that my friend was a girl. And that was enough for my new classmate to spread rumors throughout the school that I was a lesbian. It was 1972 and I had no idea what that word meant, but I know now that it was meant as an insult.
I was also consistently ridiculed for my choice of clothing, which weren’t really choices at all. Shortly after our move my mother lost all interest in mothering. She did the basics most of the time—cooking, enforcing curfews and making us do our chores, but other than that, we were pretty much on our own. I experienced a chronic shortage of clothing throughout my youth, including never having enough underwear or socks.
We weren’t short on money, so this type of deprivation was confusing to me. Here we were, in a new large house in an expensive neighborhood, and yet I felt chronically poor because my mother’s fears also manifested concretely, so she refused to spend money on herself or her children in any significant way. It got so bad at times that getting ready for school sparked intense anxiety in me, as I realized I had almost nothing to wear. I became more introverted, more shy around my peers, because I was so afraid of being mocked for my few outdated outfits that I repeated far too often.
These early experiences left me feeling as though I didn’t have enough, there was never enough. And living in a community with such abundance left me feeling out of place and alone. Clothing fashion to me was just a tool of the social stratifiers of my world and to this day, I’m uncomfortable with clothing trends and styles.
I don’t perceive fashion as fun or as an outlet for creativity. I perceive fashion as a burden and a source of shame. If I could wear black every day, I would. Actually, what am I saying. I do wear black every day. Black leggings in the winter with a black tank top, a long black sweater and a pair of black boots.
And in the summer I opt for a uniform black maxi tank dress (I have several) and a jean jacket. The only color I ever really wear is on my feet. I gave up heels long ago and now opt for Converse Chuck Taylors in an array of interesting colors. If I’m feeling particularly stylish, I may even match my Chucks to my Apple watchband. But that’s about it for me in the clothing fashion department.
This is a blog for middle-aged women, like me, who want to live a life of increased authenticity, and greater well-being, with fewer façades, less role-playing and a lot more fun. I chose a photo with myself and my son because he is my heart.
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