When I was twelve, which was 1986, punk was the rage as was those jelly bracelets, jelly shoes, hell, jelly anything. Big hair, bright blush, suits for women, if you had those, you were hip.
I was not hip.
It was at this age that I went into a rummage shop with my mum and discovered the dress of all dresses. (I should mention that at this time I had a huge obsession with Little House on the Prairie and the stylings of Mary and Laura. I thought those girl’s rocked.) This dress was something you would find on the prairie and, unless it was 1895, you’d most likely want to leave it there.
I, however, wanted it more than anything.
Trying it on it was a perfect fit. I can’t tell you how beautiful I felt in this dress that was mostly a smock type thing that went down just past my knees in a straight, flowy fashion. I rushed over to my mum, begging her to buy it for me.
A fashionable Danish woman, she looked at me with rolled eyes. She knew I was a strange dresser but this beat all. This could cause problems.
“If you wear this,” she told me, “People will make fun of you.”
“I don’t care,” I replied.
“I need you to understand that if you wear it, you’re going to get comments, and laughs and teased. And I don’t want you running home crying if that happens. People are going to see this dress on you a lot differently than you see it on you. Do you understand?”
I did and wore the dress home.
Wearing it out, I did get teased – a lot. Not just from children but from teachers, adults and anyone who knew a good prairie joke, which surprisingly there are a lot of.
When I tell you that none of those comments bothered me one bit, I am telling you the truth. Even as an awkward, strange twelve year old, being made fun of for being different had no effect. In fact, most of the time I never even noticed the teasing because I felt beautiful with that dress on and nothing else mattered.
What should it matter, I used to think, what others thought? Who are they to say I can’t feel beautiful or be happy or change my name to Laura? Who says they are it and get to define who I am. It wasn’t that I thought I was better or more beautiful than they were, on the contrary, it’s just that I was OK with liking what I liked. I knew I was here to live my life and not the imagined one of others. Wearing that strange dress gave me joy more than conforming ever did.
Looking back at a photograph I see how much I stood out amongst my peers and really, how sad I looked in that shabby little thing. But it didn’t matter; all that mattered was that I liked it.
I share this because people are so afraid of what other people will think all the time. What people will think of their careers, their partners, their home, their dresses that there is very little enjoyment to any of these things. Worry of others overtakes us and robes us of the pleasure that we are so entitled to. Even if it’s in a pitiful little dress.