lest you mistake me for someone brave

I recently got a few comments to the tune of “you’re so brave! I could never wear something like that!” Now, I’ve never been entirely comfortable hearing that. Compliments predicated on self-deprecation feel so weird. The onus then shifts to you, the complimented, to half-assedly assure them how wrong they are, even if they’re right. Eventually you just take the well wishes and run, leaving your assailants utterly high and dry for validation. Lately, though, I’ve put my finger on yet another dubious angle. This is going to be a talky post, so if you’re too sleepy, distracted, and/or high as balls to take it in – you’ve been warned.

Earlier this week, my friend Holly and I hit up Goodwill in pursuit of costumes for a redneck-themed party she’s throwing. Flannel, cheetah, and ill-fitting jeans galore. I grew up in the middle of the woods, so I’ve certainly internalized a thing or two. And y’all know I love costuming and character creation. But when I stepped out of the dressing room in my camo tank and hideous denim shorts, I actually felt – perish the thought – self-friggin-conscious.

I know damn well it’s just a costume. I fully intend to rock it like I rock everything else I create. (Modesty, how does it work?) But redneck culture, despite my upbringing on its fringes, has never drawn me in the way speakeasies and sorceresses do. It’s not at all my domain. It’s certainly Holly’s. She wears the moniker proudly, and I’m glad to share in it at her party. But it’s not something I would have chosen for myself, and because I’m human, that makes me nervous.

There’s no bravery here. I might present louder and more garish than most of you, but that’s as much my comfort zone as jeans and t-shirts can be for many others. My style looks fearless to those whose tastes run more demure. But I feel just as lost out of my sequins and vintage dresses as someone else might feel in them. It’s superficially different, but the impetus is the same.

How often do you see me wear pants? All of a motherfucking never. I currently own one pair, a red plaid set that I wear around the house and sometimes to burlesque. I tried to wear them to work once. I ended up going home at lunch and changing because I felt too profoundly awkward to concentrate on a damn thing. Bravery would be wearing them anyway. I didn’t do that. I put on a swingy skirt and a pair of bright tights and felt exponentially better. It would seem, on the surface, easy to tell which outfit was the more courageous one: I probably looked kookier in those tights than I ever would in the pants. But kooky is home. Flappers, pinups, and seething sorceresses pave my merry way, and all I have to do is saunter down. The ordinary is a much harder row to hoe.

It’s imprecise and overbright, but I do have a formula. I know what works for me, and I get as cranky about deviating from it as Jane Q. Average might. So while I’d never tell you not to consider me an inspiration, you deserve to know exactly what you’re looking up to. I can’t dish out any magic missile to make you that much more eccentric. This is not a rags-to-riches “I dragged myself from my comfort zone and look at me now!” tale. This is my comfort zone. It might look different from yours, but it sure as hell feels the same. The only style I’m advertising is “be your goddamn self”.

brave II

brave III brave I

Truly the faces of a woman who wouldn’t be happy any other way.

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