When I was little I can remember standing in my mother's closet in a wondrous stupor. Hanger after hanger of flower dresses, cuffed slacks, and pleated skirts longer than my own body shimmied as I walked under each one, imagining myself as a woman.
My little girl feet pushed down into my mom's glossy high heels. I loved the way the straps felt. Even loose around my ankles, I could feel their promise: You can be a beautiful woman one day too, just like your momma.
It wasn't long before I gave up pretending her sweaters were dresses or pulling her skirts around me as gowns. I parted ways with my frilly self and embraced the opposite world. I favored my brother's clothing over her girly stuff - Adidas shirts and high top sneakers won me over just in time for middle school.
Just in time for puberty, new curves, mean girls and hormonal boyfriends.
It didn't help that I chopped off every wisp of my inky long hair right before 7th grade. It was when the Demi cut was big and lots of girls were donning asymmetrical short cuts. I wanted that too but made the grave mistake of looking into a Hair Cuttery to seek out a brand new Hollywood style.
I am still growing that sh*t out.
Most of middle school, I looked more like a dude than my brother. He was gorgeously metro with his long rocker hair and ripped up jeans. Girls flocked to him. Boys asked me to go dirt bike riding with them.
Even my beautiful grandmother favored Jackie O. Her closet was the tiny version (not even feet tall) of my mom's: stylish long skirts and delicate blouses. Not a day went by without me watching her apply her coral Avon lipstick with golden leaf clip-on earrings wondering how she figured out her winning recipe.
I was surrounded by fashion models.
My family tried to help me. My sweet grandfather even offered up his closet when it became clear to everyone that I had zero fashion sense and defaulted to the same tragic baggy pink and white checkered sweatshirt; hiding whatever young lady was happening underneath.
My grandmother and mom would stage hair interventions. They put hot curlers in my hair, twisted them tight, sprayed them down like hornets, and watched with tears in their eyes as my hair fell flat and listless the minute they unrolled each one.
I was the tomboy who would not quit.
High school came and somehow I managed to pull things together well enough to remain neither fashionable nor a complete train wreck. Thanks be to GOD for big hair where I could mousse up my lackluster waves and poof up the bangs to look like every other girl in 1992. And I'm pretty sure I traded my baggy checkered sweatshirt for an oversized checkered blazer I wore once a week with leggings. That blazer (and $%*! Algebra) is all I think of when I think of the 11th grade.
College was when I finally bloomed. States away from home and anyone who knew me helped me to discern what I felt good in vs. what other people were wearing. Long buttoned down skirts and fitted T-shirts were my new norm when the mountain air didn't call for flannels and boots. I even added a few scarves and oversized batwing shirts with leggings in the mix before I confirmed with the public that it was stylish. I was finally finding my own rhythm.
Those were the best 4 point 5 years of my life. If only college lasted forever.
Years later, after teacher clothes, newly married vacation Ts and post baby workout gear, I am once again struggling to find a style that works for me.
It wasn't so bad, floundering about in what I assumed to be a private limbo of Fashionless Land, until Abby piped up recently.
"Mommy. I want you to be beautiful."
"Don't you want to be beautiful?" she asks with all the innocence of a girl who loves glittery Princesses.
Yes, actually, that does sound nice.
"Here, I will find you a new style in this book. You can look like HER!" she points to a Macy's model at maybe 18 with come hither smokey eyes.
No, baby, no I can't. That's disturbing.
"You can put on pretty make ups, nice pants, and borrow my Ariel wig!"
And give up my REI capri pants?
"You will look beautiful, Mommy!"
I'm trying not to die of self loathing here girlfriend, can you please throw me a bone?
"Abby? Is there any part of Mommy that you DO think is beautiful?"
(thinking hard, squinting her eyes, looking me up and down)
"Yes, your purple toes!"
Oh no she didn't just say my feet are the only beautiful thing about me. Touchee, Princess. This tomboy is about to rock your little Ariel world. Watch out, Diva.
I may need to borrow that Ariel wig after all.