As we grow older, life is often a series of personal examinations; usually pondered against our own will. We pick apart our appearance, our social standing. We even compare the way things are to the way they used to be; or worse, to the success of our counterparts.
Other examinations carry smaller, more invisible marks. As a child attending parochial school, I had the misfortune of being the third girl in my neighborhood circle to wear my two-piece blue and gray uniform. That translated to wearing a skirt, longer than the other girls, and a uniform whose plaid was faded in color, while my classmates sported the newest brightest issue available.
Being a pre-teen, fashionably out of place in one’s social circle takes its toll. While some things have changed, the way young girls treat each other when someone doesn’t fit in, hasn’t. I can still recall the taunts, and jokes, the slights, and innuendos aimed at my appearance.
Years later in my twenties, I remember the day a fellow student thought popularity was only one insult away. One insult aimed at me, to be precise. For the first time, I stood up for myself, stunning the young lady lobbing the insult, and myself even more. The strangest effect of that day and the experiences that preceded it, were that for many years I took my own appearance too seriously.
Even now, I hate to admit that I sometimes have a hard time taking a compliment. There’s that momentary hesitation where my first response is to play down the issue at hand; to explain that the dress was an inexpensive acquisition, or that a lucky purchase resulted in a good hair day, or good complexion. I still find myself feeling like that skinny girl in the borrowed school uniform, trying so desperately to not be noticed.
It’s a daily battle and constant effort to remind myself that I am more than those past experiences. Even after all of these years, I’m still learning how to smile, and simply say, thank you.