Thursday, July 19, 2012
Bullies and the Power of Vintage
When I was in elementary and middle school, I was often the subject of ridicule. I was called "ugly," "freckle face," "nerd," "loser." You know, the usual stuff. On a couple occasions, I was even physically attacked. Now, I could have handled the assault better (emotionally) had the perpetrators been girls but they were boys.
For some damn reason, two asshats in my 7th grade class made it their mission to make my life a living hell. One day, they waited for me to walk by (during recess) and they tripped me up and as a result, I fell on my knee hard and ripped my new jeans. I was in pain, I was bleeding, and I was mortified. I went to my teacher who told me, "I am sorry. I didn't see what happened so I can't help you." I was told to go to the bathroom to clean up and instructed to return to my seat. I refused and I went to the nurse's office. There I was bandaged up and I called my dad (he was at work). Let me just say this, when my parents found out about what happened, they were beyond mad. They also paid a visit to my prinicpal's office.
Until that attack, I was quite meek and I just put up with the bullying. But in that moment of me walking out of that classroom, something in me changed. I realized I wanted to be in control of my life and no one was going to make me a victim again. Instead of enduring the name-calling and sly glances from catty girls, I stood firm and in the process, discovered my wit. For example, when a popular girl sat at my lunch table and said, "You know, you'll never be popular with red hair and freckles." I replied, "I can change my hair or wear a wig or something but no matter what you do, you'll always be a bitch!" Her mouth agape, she said, "You can't say that!" I responded, "I just did." She walked away and never talked to me again.
As the school years went on, a smattering of bitchy girls and a few jerk-off guys gave me trouble but I always handled it. One guy (some mullet-clad, redneck in a heavy metal t-shirt) had the audacity to flip me off in 10th grade English class. He thought he was being cool and tough and I said (loud enough for everyone to hear), "Oh look! It can do tricks! Aw, did you learn that all by yourself? How precious!" He turned away, embarrassed.
In the last two years of high school, I began wearing vintage clothing. My sister, who worked at a consignment store, often gave me boiled wool cardigans, Pendleton sweaters, 50s pencil skirts, and cotton playsuits. Instead of shopping for the latest mall fashions, I looked for shoes and clothes that looked vintage. (I had a pair of 40s-style black suede platforms that I wore to death!) When I wore vintage clothes, I felt a confidence I can't put into words. Sure, some kids looked at me like I was odd and I may have gotten a whisper and a laugh, but I didn't care. I knew they were just too afraid to be themselves. They needed to fit in. Oh well.
For a time, I stopped wearing vintage (starting in my sophomore year of college. Instead of wearing a 50s skirt and cardigan, I opted for a pair of Gap denim overalls. Yes, I did. Yuck. I strolled to class in my Gap and Esprit duds and it was during this era that I began to lose my once unbridled perseverance. I gave up and I don't know why. I stopped being me and I just went with the crowd.
When I turned 30 in 2005, I had a new awakening, a "Saturn Return" if you will. I not only did I lose 33 pounds by the year's end, I had this amazing opportunity to rediscover my vintage self. None of my clothes fit and I figured, what the hell, I am going for it. I am going to rebuild my wardrobe and be the Tara I truly am. I started my vintage collection with repro clothes like Stop Staring, Heartbreaker Fashion, and Rock Steady and eventually I added vintage pieces. (Nowadays, vintage makes up approximately 80-90% of my clothes).
I know that clothing does not make or break me (like the saying goes) but vintage to me is more than clothes, it's a mindset that reflects my most happy and true self. Sure, I often get stares from people when I am out and about but I do not pay them any mind. Why should I let the gawk of a total stranger influence my choice of lifestyle/dress? If I adapt and change based on societal pressure, I would be miserable.
No one bullies me anymore but I have received the odd snicker and whisper (usually women I see in stores and restaurants). I usually smile at them and say, "Hi there! How are you?" They realize they were busted and turn away. Just like when I was younger, no one is going to get me down or make me 'feel less than.' I am convinced bullies attack and ridicule because they are weak and it gives them a sense of power. I also suspect they bully because they feel they can get away with it. When I stood up to my bullies (usually armed with my wit), they usually stopped.
Vintage not only represents my personal style, it reflects my determination and fortitude. Life is too short and I am going to live it to the fullest and in my way.