Ugh. I don’t know what’s happening lately. Something’s not right. I’m not depressed, per se. More like… I have no glow. My shine is gone.
I’m checking myself in front of the mirror. Looking deeeep into my own eyes. I’m a grown-ass woman and my mojo is off. I’m a published author. I regularly speak in front of crowds. I’ve been positioned as an expert in my field. But something’s off. I’m not connecting with my crowd. I feel like a fake, which is totally not my way.
When my juju is wonky, my therapy tends to be a purge of shit-I-don’t-need.
I open my closet. I’m looking at these nice clothes. And I’m thinking, I don’t wear half this shit. Why is that?
I start trying them on and it hits me like bolt of freaking lightning: I look fucking matronly.
These nice clothes are just that. Nice. Not offensive, ‘cause you can’t offend your crowd. I’m a “parenting expert,” by the way. That means I have to appeal to a wide variety of parents. So, somewhere along the way, I became Beige. You know? Blend-in-able.
I know you don’t know me but I am a badass unicorn. Beige is certain death for me.
Even in the world of don’t-offend parenting, I got as far as I did because I tell the fucking truth. I might have the only parenting book to regularly drop the f-bomb. My entire brand is built on being not-blend-in-able.
In a somewhat crazed state, I hit these matronly clothes with my scissors. The first one to go is this great lace dress. I love the material. I thought I loved the dress, and yet I don’t wear it much. I cut into into the silky underdress, shred it, go all-out punk rock.
IT LOOKS AWESOME.
I immediately want to wear it all the time. I throw on my black stomper boots and head to the skate park with my kid. Now, I wouldn’t call myself a cougar, but let’s just say there’s a certain amount of eye candy there — and these guys define punk rock. Dudes throw me appreciative glances. I look rad. I don’t usually need approval, but a skater punk half-smile and nod hits my sweet spot.
I’m back. I feel real again. Powerful. In my element. And my crazy world hits homeostasis.
So what the hell just happened? The next few days are a crazy flashback to high school. I get hit with snippets of memories, pelting my consciousness like fucking nerf bullets. They don’t hurt, but annoyingly grab my attention.
Back to the first time I found my power: 1983. Sophomore in high school. Parents divorced, dad was a douchebag, we were poor.
For a few years, really, really poor.
Jordache jeans. Nike sneakers. Bermuda bags. These are what made you a Cool Kid in my weird, alternate reality known as high school.
I couldn’t compete. I tried. With knock offs, and hanging with the “in crowd.” But I was a fraud and I knew it. Everything about me screamed this. I was timid, waiting to be caught and called out. High school became a haze of white noise in my head — trying to keep up, trying to fit in, trying not to be noticed.
Mean girls and bullshit brought daily devastation. Home was wrought with emotional trauma. I was a sitting duck for sexual predators. I started cutting my own skin, trying to get out of it. This was way before cutting was cool; it was unheard of. I was a freak. My nights became longer and longer as plans for how to die took over. While I can’t say I ever made an honest effort at killing myself, I started taking careless amounts of OTC drugs with shots of blackberry brandy. I put myself in precarious sexual situations. I just didn’t fucking care anymore.
Then “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” was released. She’s So Unusual. Cyndi Lauper’s debut album.
Who is this woman? With her crazy hair? Her psychotic facial expressions? Her messed-up, second-hand clothes? Her excessive costume jewelry?
Cyndi Lauper was my first glimpse of Giving Zero Fucks. And having a grand time doing it.
And… Being the cat’s pajamas, to boot.
Thrift stores weren’t a thing in my world yet. But for Cyndi and me, they were THE thing. There was Sally’s and Goodwill and vintage stores. Actual vintage, which in the ‘80s was the ‘40s-to-the-’60s. Rad shit available.
I started combing them, looking to emulate her. I cut clothes and safety pinned them back together. Shredded neck lines and hems. For one whole year, I wouldn’t wear anything that wasn’t from the ‘40s — including a wedding dress. I became adept at pairing classic vintage with second-hand crap. I crafted my look.
I ditched being A Cool Kid to be a Whack Job Artist Type. I became this, saw that I didn’t have to fit in. I could be myself, and I could be broke-ass but have my own style. That allowed me freedom and expression. I didn’t need to worry about what anyone thought of me. Because it takes balls to be the Whack Job Artist Type, and those balls scare most people; they can’t imagine a way that’s not on the pre-carved path.
And the best part? Given the vehicle of designing the right wardrobe, I actually became an artist. I actually began to give exactly zero fucks. The snotty girls, the mean ones with designer jeans and expensive purses, they didn’t affect me anymore. I didn’t have money but I did own a style and a look — and for the first time in my life, a lot of mojo and confidence.
Looking in the mirror now, with my shredded lace dress, I feel badass and powerful. Again. I can be an expert in my field and be a Whack Job Artist Type.
Cyndi Lauper gave me this gift. I can smell that album. She’s So Unusual. It smells like vintage and thrift.
It keeps me honest. In my soul. The only place that really counts.