When I was in grade school, around grade 6 or 7, my father consented to let me buy this long skirt at some store somewhere (Giant Tiger? Or was it Shadowfax? Not sure…). I think it surprised him I wanted one, usually preferring jeans and those terrible “duck boots” that were all the rage (I had red ones). Besides, how on earth would I get on a horse with a skirt? Not very practical.
But, I loved it, and it came home with us.
It was varying shades of blue fabric (my favorite colour), sewn together across the length in wide bands, and was full-on swishy. I loved it. I put it on, and would feel the fabric float around my legs, luxurious and feminine. In my mind, I could hear ankle chimes and mandolin music (Even at that age, I was becoming a romantic, it seemed). I was not a girl who liked dresses, but puberty was hitting, and I wanted to dress more… Well, more like a girl, since I wanted boys to notice that indeed, I was one. I didn’t have boobs, so other things had to take their place. Heh.
I remember wearing it to school the next day, with a slouchy chenille sweater that I thought looked stylish. I felt fashionable and pretty, and happy. I’ll never forget that feeling, it was the first time I had felt that way, both carefree and self-conscious, aware I was wearing something entirely different for me, and loving how buoyant that change made me.
I don’t remember who it was, but a boy in my class made a remark that I was too short to wear such a long skirt. He then added that I shouldn’t wear that kind of stuff, because I wasn’t pretty enough, it was really cheap clothing, I should stop trying to dress like I had money.
Even though I can’t remember who it was, I can remember his words stinging like a slap to my face. The insult had intended to cut deeply, and it did. I did not wear skirts for a long time after that, and never wore that skirt to school again.
Kids can be &%*$ing cruel.
I don’t bring this up to rehash wounded tween moments, or lament at my horrific bullying memories… But to explain what happened yesterday on my way home from work.
I was walking through the mall to my bus stop, and poked into a store that is closing in the Rideau Centre. Right now, they are selling off sun dresses, shoes, and skimpy summer stuff. Riotous sundresses in rainbow hues were everywhere. I had to hold back (since I look terrible in horizontal stripes), from buying a rainbow-slashed print simply for how it looked.
Out of the corner of my eye, while perusing, I spotted a splash of aquamarine blue. I turned, and saw it.
I was immediately transported back in time, to that moment when I saw my gypsy skirt for the first time. The sensation hit me in my stomach, that queer sentiment that spills over you when you see something that you automatically love. It wasn’t quite the same, the fabric dyed in that fashionable “ombre” that is all the rage, instead of sewn panels. It looked like imitation linen, full and floaty, begging for sandals and a big, floppy beach hat. I walked to it, picked up the hem, feeling the fabric between my fingers.
Then I remembered the insults, and my 36-year-old self teared up. Literally, I was reliving what happened to me in the late 80’s, that boy’s voice echoing though my mind, in the middle of a clothing store! Ridiculous, but there I was. I told myself to stop being so s-t-u-p-i-d, it was a long time ago. I dropped the skirt’s hem, and walked away to break the hold. I was tired, a bit hungry, and somewhat hormonal. Not a good combination to seek out triggers, right?
But as I circled the store again, my eyes kept darting back to it, drawn in to the vivid colours. I stopped in front of it, and stared. It was beautiful (to me), and the colours sang to my heart (yes, perhaps a trifle dramatic for a piece of clothing, work with me here). I was conflicted. Would buying this skirt remind me constantly of that horrible time, and the influence it had for years afterwards? Would I let that memory be a negative needle every time I put it on? I want to wear more skirts, have been trying to be more feminine, knowing my daughter will need direction in that aspect of her life as she gets older. I am trying to celebrate the body I have, so I can be less negative about how I look in my mirror, to help her have a positive body image when she looks in hers.
So I stood there, for I don’t know how long, missing my bus, warring in my mind. Do I? Don’t I? Can I really let it go for good, shrug the negative memory away like sand into a windstorm?
I’m sure the staff at the store thought I was loony, as I picked it up, then put it back, then picked it up again. Finally, I decided.
I’m going to try. ♥