Be yourself. Everyone always preaches that. Be unique! Don’t be like others! Embrace your weirdness! We’re told that from a young age but I’m kind of realizing lately that no one means it.
Let me explain to you my clothing style: it’s casual. Skate shoes, jeans, a shirt or sweater, occasionally some simple jewellery. No layers, no frills. I’m always put together but not fancy.
Fancyness doesn’t suit me at this point in my life. I don’t need to be dressed up to go to class or to sit at home and watch TV. Even when I do hang out with friends or go to a club or something, what I own and like is perfectly acceptable. And while I don’t hate skirts and dresses, I rarely choose to wear them because I find them constricting and really don’t like worrying about how I’m sitting/standing or wind.
Unlike where I worked for the past two summers, there is a bit of a dress code at my current summer job, as there is at most workplaces. I understand that dress codes are in place so people don’t go around wearing anything inappropriate. There is an image to maintain. I can handle this and I respect this. I know to not wear my paint-splattered shorts and my flip-flops, but who decided that jeans were inappropriate? And I don’t mean ripped, bedazzled, lowrise jeans. I mean normal, fitted jeans. But I digress.
My mom hates my style. She hates that I prefer rubber dollar-store flip-flops to fancy, flowered sandals, or that I prefer a plain tank top to some frilly crop top. For years she’s begged me to expand my wardrobe, but here I sit, wearing the same shorts she wanted me to throw out three years ago and a STAR Labs t-shirt that is a size too big. And while my mom just wants me to look cuter, my father is the one more worried about my reputation. That’s even worse because now I feel guilty, like I’m purposely sabotaging my own career by not wearing flats to work like most of the other ladies I work with. I know my parents want the best for me, but it’s kind of hard to be my best self while wearing something I’m not comfortable in.
But it goes beyond clothes. Do you know how many times I’ve said something like “I think blue garage doors are nice,” and have my parents roll their eyes and say something along the lines of “No, they’re ugly. Wait until you have a place of your own.” I can’t wait to have a place of my own. So then I can decorate it with dragons and fun colours and funky lamps. My parents don’t want me to be myself even in my house.
So okay, my parents are weirdly formal and my brother straight up said he doesn’t want to be seen in public with me. Whatever. This issue expands farther than my family. High schools, workplaces, church…one’s ability to perform well is not dependant on if they’re wearing heels or running shoes or flats or flip flops or crocs. I went to a high school with a uniform and if you think that having that allowed us to all appear appropriate, you are very mistaken. Some girls had those kilts rolled up far too high, and some boys had no shame showing everyone their boxers as they were low-riding.
This issue also expands past gender and social norms. Being yourself means boys wearing skirts if they want. It’s girls cutting their hair short if they want. It’s teenagers getting tattoos if they want. It’s people wearing as much or as little makeup as they want. And guess what?!?! None of these things makes you an unproductive member of society. Being yourself means being able to do these things, or whatever else you want and knowing that some people won’t like it, but who cares? Personally, I think a lot of tattoos are unattractive. But do I have friends with tattoos? Yep. I also don’t like the style of wearing leggings as pants. But do I have a mom who does that? Sure do. People have different opinions, and really, I hate that so much of our society is based on only one conservative opinion. If people want to wear dumb things or do dumb things, they can, as it’s a reflection of themselves.
I’m going to continue fighting for myself. I’m going to continue doing everything I can do be presentable and comfortable. I’m going to continue being myself, even if that does mean more screaming matches with my parents. And if later on in life something negative happens because of this, then I’ll deal with it, because it’s my life and my choices.
And I’m not anti-dress code or anti-rules. I’m just against the fact that ‘being yourself’ seems to wear off once you turn 16 and enter The Real World. I don’t care if every actor ever in their award acceptance speeches have said to ‘stay true to yourself’ because they’re not the ones hiring me or influencing my daily life. I want parents and teachers and bosses and everyone telling someone else to ‘be themselves’ to really consider if they mean it. Because I do.
Be yourself, kids.
P.S. Shoutout to that one red-headed lawyer on The Good Wife (which my mom was watching) who wears fun, colourful suits and carries funky bags and is very smiley and is always 100% herself on top of being a great lawyer. I thought about her a lot when writing this post.