I’ve had a few fashion issues lately. I can hear the snickers in the crowd (I mean this as if there was actually a crowd reading this) from friends I’ve known for my lifetime. “Lately?” they’d smile with raised brows, neatly plucked. These friends have not forgotten my years of serious fashion faux pas, their favorite memorable event being the time I wore hiking shoes down to the pool during our Mexican vacation—hiking shoes and a bikini.
Keeping up with fashion has never been a high priority for me. I’ve made some vague attempts but mainly I tend toward plain, practical, comfortable, cheap, or whatever is available. I wear no jewelry and have no tattoos; not even my ears are pierced. There was a time when make-up and hairspray ruled my world, but these were only attempts to fit in to what I believed were the rules. In fact, my fashion “issues” of late probably stem from these early-held beliefs that there were some rules I should follow. Rules? Now there’s another blog topic altogether. In the meantime, I’m going to offer up a three part series on my current fashion confusion. There’s not a lot of HIP in these posts, pun intended. They are mainly self-indulgent. Along the lines of eating chocolate cake, tallking about myself just feels good.
I took part in Canada’s anti-bullying week in February. It’s a week of heightened awareness which includes a day where everyone is invited to wear a pink shirt to take a stand against bullying. For one hour I remained consciously alert to my physical and emotional reactions while participating in a fashion “statement”.
One. Challenging authority, bucking the system. I didn’t ask permission from my employer to wear a pink t-shirt rather than my regular staff uniform. I feel justified. It’s a public event. It’s for a good cause. I am powerful. I am an activist.
Two. Confusion and compassion. On my way to the office, I question the “statement” of the event. Is my decision to wear a pink shirt reminding people not to bully or am I part of a mass effort to bully the bullies? I hope the kids who did the bullying which resulted in this “movement” have received counseling. I hope they have moved to a good place in their development and are not just hiding at home once a year on the day when everyone wears pink.
Three. Anxiety and panic. When I arrive at work, I do not see any other co-workers in pink. I am the only one. I spend long minutes wondering how I might be judged. Conflicting thoughts race through my mind keeping time with the irregular beat of my heart. I’m doing the right thing. Am I doing the right thing? What will this person or that person think? Who cares what they think? Do I care what they think? Will I be in trouble? How will I defend myself? Should I walk around the office strutting my stuff…since my tight t-shirt actually shows I have a little stuff that my uniform never reveals? Should I stay in my own space and avoid eye contact with others? I am sweating.
Four. Relief and acceptance. I find a few other pink shirts in the building and people speak positively about my choice. I receive compliments and hear people disappointed that they had meant, but forgotten, to wear pink. My supervisors smile at me. I joke and laugh with others and relax into my work.
Five. Disbelief. That the choice to wear a pink shirt to work could affect my entire health and well-being astounds me. Wondering where that came from. Thinking of my own relationship with childhood bullying, societal pressure to do things others are doing, pressure to conform conflicting with desire to be my own unique self, I examine how negative physical symptoms took over when I felt anxious about being different and how positively delighted I felt throughout my whole body when I received acceptance. I suppose this is a reflection of my own self-esteem which is about a thousand times higher than it was 30 years ago but I see that those long-forgotten experiences still have some effect on me.
More on this in Part 2. Until then, bullying is bad and you can choose a different path. Feel free to wear any colour.