I’m thinking back to the non-uniform day our school had when we were fifteen. You always hated non-uniform days, didn’t you? A day intended for self-expression, but one which really ran rampant with judgement and critique. I remember you spent days agonising over what to wear, what would make you stand out just enough to blend in. Our parents told you not to wear that outfit as you went out the door: a tight skirt which rode up too high, and a sheer top revealing your ill-fitting bra. At the time, you couldn’t have been more annoyed (parents just don’t get fashion, do they). In hindsight, they were right. The skirt continued to ride up throughout the day, leaving you unable to think about anything but your exposed thigh. Dressing conventionally “feminine” doesn’t get much easier, I’m afraid.
Do you remember when we wore our first skirt to school? It was one you’d taken from your mum’s wardrobe. It was an over the knee number, but you’d pulled it up to your chest and secured it with a belt, so it would sit mid-thigh. Everyone made such a fuss of you that day, having only seen you in trousers borrowed from your brother. However, it wasn’t the fuss of approval but rather the patronising sort of fuss. You didn’t really understand that at the time. You were too focussed on making sure it didn’t ride down.
For years you were so concerned with what other people thought of you… I hate to break it to you, but that’s something we haven’t quite shaken yet. We’re getting there, though. I wonder if I told you that now, dressing up is our way of self-expression. I know you wanted to follow the path many had trod before you, for it was the way you felt safe. But now, we dress however we want. We wear colours: the brighter the better. What if I told you that people have stopped us in the street to compliment our outfits. What if I told you, the girl who researched detailed instructions on how to get a boyfriend, that today you’ve been in a loving relationship for almost two years. I don’t know if you’ll believe me.
What I’m trying to tell you is that things do get better. You will become sure of yourself. You will learn what it is you like, and what it is you don’t, without letting others’ opinions sway you. Your differences, back then, felt like a target on your forehead. A clear indication of your vulnerability. So, you did everything you could to hide them, to escape the barrage of harsh words and pitying stares. But now, you wear your differences with pride, for they make you the interesting, dynamic, unpredictable person you are. One day you will genuinely feel grateful for your eccentricities, because who really wants to fit in anymore?
So have faith, teenage me. You will find the strength to be your own person. It’ll be tough, I’m not denying it, but when you finally find the place where you feel you belong… the journey will have been so, so worth it.