Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I'm wearing leggings tomorrow, and you can't stop me.

It seems there comes a time in every child's life where some element of "cool" becomes desirable, nay, even vital. Normally I save the "big life lesson" for the end, but here is is now: cool is utterly irrelevant to quality, and is so subjective that it seriously couldn't matter less. If you are cool now, that will matter about as much to you when you're thirty as it matters now what brand your underwear were when you were seven. Now, it only matters to me how cool I was in fifth grade because I am bothering to think and write about it, but it only "matters" because realizing that I wasn't was such a liberation.

There was a particularly uncomfortable moment sometime when I was in fifth grade when I realized - sharply, suddenly, and with all the weight of a piano plopped on my noggin - that the stretchy leggings, sweatpants, second-hand t-shirts, and fluorescent headbands (hey, it was the early 90's) were thoroughly uncool. I needed blue jeans. I needed to either blend in or stand out as a trendsetter, because standing out as "that kid who shows up wearing brightly colored pants that clash with her baggy, brightly colored shirt and oh god why is she wearing light-up sneakers again?" was just not okay.

I went on a very classic shopping trip with my Bubbe and procured for myself the ultimate in cool: blue jeans and some generically bland shirts. Prancing down the stairs at her house to show off to my parents was massively exciting: there I was, the essence of cool. My butt looked like a butt, not the back portion of a ten-year-old, and my shirt neither stopped traffic nor even drew a second glance. It was almost like being normal! I was certain that my social status would immediately skyrocket, and that every boy in the class would think I was, y'know, pretty or something.

The next week of school was absolute torture. I was a kind of pudgy kid (read: the fat kid) in elementary school (and middle school, and some of high school), so squashing my lower half into unyielding denim was not unlike time spent with a Play Dough Fun Factory...only with a lot less stuff spewing out in colorful squiggles, and much more shame. I had previously worn stretchy leggings not because of my weight, but because I just liked them. Jeans didn't come in lime green with pink lightning bolts all over them: leggings did. Leggings offered stretchy, comfy, flexible coverage with no possibility of ever being too tight: jeans did not. I did enjoy having pockets in my pants, but not being able to roll around freely on the floor, sit without a stiff waistband sawing me in half, or stand up without needing to readjust every single time all wore thin rapidly.

The straw that broke my back came that Friday. I was thrilled for the coming weekend, and the opportunity not to wear that veritable iron maiden of a garment for two days. The bland shirts were doing a great job of being bland and inoffensive, although I missed my fun ones. That Friday, my class's token ridiculously rich, spoiled girl noted that the style of jeans I was wearing was "so 1980's." What the hell, spoiled girl? It took me until 1995 to even wear these damn things; how could I be expected to get it right the first time? Her snarky comment got a few giggles from a bunch of girls who all grew up to be lower to middle management (and that's what you get if you tell everyone you're going to be an actress for seventeen years despite having no talent or desire to work, bee-yotch!), and I decided it was worse to do something cool wrong than to just do something wrong.

I gave up on the jeans until about 1998, primarily out of protest, but also because I entirely gave up on even trying to be cool in high school, and found that jeans fit better once I'd developed a waistline. Ironically, were I to dress today the way I did when I was ten, I would be super cool. Batman, don't cave in just to be cool, especially when comfort is at stake.

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