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Posts Tagged ‘tribal costumes’

You heard me, Good Girl!  We, the good girls of the nation, must band together with greenish locks of striking tresses!

Green, blue, pink, whatever, so long as it does not come “natural”.  And I will tell you why.  I was raised to be extremely judgmental.  I was raised to see only a very narrow path of “Okay”.  In fact, I almost never invited my friends home because then I would have not been allowed to enjoy their raucous funness; I would have been forced to frown upon their giggles.

My second boyfriend, I actually gave him a list of topics that were okay to talk about, and had to explain to him in no uncertain terms that, really, it would be better if he didn’t say anything at all.  Because anything he did or said or breathed or smiled would reflect (poorly) on me.

I almost always went over to my friends’ houses to play, even when I was very young.  There was  different vibe there.

Not to say that my folks are tyrants.  But narrow?  Yeah.  Last year my papa actually said, “Gee, I don’t know what I would have done if you girls had turned out like your cousin; I know I couldn’t have handled it if you hadn’t been good.”  My cousin, by the way, is a misguided fool and only had a couple of kids out of wedlock.  And, if the Fool reads this, all I have to say is, Dude, if you ever brag about drinking and driving around me again, I will be forced to kill you myself to save the rest of the world.

My hair currently has emerald streaks.  My favorite was moat monster green.  I don’t use permanent dye, mostly because I tried it, and it didn’t work.  My hair hates things like perms and dye.  But I can, and do, stain it with Kool-Aid.

And you would think that after three years, my mother wouldn’t freak every time she sees a change in tinting.

I even offered to let her choose a color.

When I was younger, I freaked out about this sort of thing myself.  I was well-trained for most of my life.  A friend got a tattoo?  Gasp!  Dyed their hair blonde?  Horrors!  Wore something other than jeans and a t-shirt?  You’re just asking for awful things to happen to you!

Right before I graduated college, I bought a poodle skirt.  I don’t know why.  And I wore it.  Not on Halloween.  I was HORRIFIED.  I was terrified.  I really was.  And you know what?  That was the first day I actually felt like myself.

In elementary school, I loved dresses.  I always wore shorts under them because I was obsessed with hanging upside down on the monkey bars, but I loved dresses.  I played football in dresses.  And I was constantly lectured by my mother that, “No one wears dresses; you need to wear jeans!”  Once I finally outgrew those dresses, she wouldn’t buy me more.  She bought me jeans.  And by junior high, I found the joy (??) of blending into the background.  It was a new school with really bitchy cliques of army brats, so honestly, this was the safest thing to do.  I came up with reasons why a good girl would always wear jeans, never wasting money on “in” clothes, never trying to look “pretty” (’cause in junior high that was the equivalent of being a slut).  I helped them brainwash me into this until by high school, I was Grunge, with the army boots and the oversized t-shirts and the flannel shirts.  I was rebelling against Donna Reed and Marilyn Monroe forty years too late.

So why would wearing a poodle skirt snap me back out of this self-brainwashing?  It was a costume.  And apparently, that’s how I dress myself best.  I wear costumes that make me feel like me.  And honestly, isn’t that what clothing is?  It is the outward trapping of your tribe.  My mother spent her entire adult life wearing business suits with shoulder pads, in order to get respect in a business run by men.  That was her costume.

I built up my “costume” wardrobe.  It’s gotten to the point where, if I wear jeans because it’s freezing out, it becomes a sign of the apocalypse to my co-workers.  Or, if the owner of our company writes a note demanding everyone “dress appropriately to work at the warehouse for Black Friday”, you know that I’m the only one she’s really writing that email to because everyone else dresses in jeans and t-shirts every day, which is Modern Man’s Costume.

But it’s when you dye your hair green that you really find out who people are.  I worked for a university when I started, and oddly, no one had any problem with the color of my hair.  Academic types are apparently rather open-minded.  My boss was the first one to suggest I dye it.  He wanted it blue.  Which may or may not have been creepy (the jury is very wishy-washy on this).  My hair doesn’t do blue; there’s too much blonde and cherry blonde that turns blue into green.  The people who did have problems were all at least somewhat obsessed with conformity, and each of them goes out of their way daily to present a certain Face to the world, they spend a lot on hairstylists, they “do” their nails.  All of these alterations of appearance, including face painting, are okay.  They are culturally sanctioned.

It’s this sort of revelation that I want everyone to experience.  Dye your hair green, people!  Dye it, and free yourself!  Are you Really the invisible person hiding in jeans and a baggy t-shirt?  Or is there someone else inside of you who has just been too scared not to try desperately to fit in?

I know that a big part of this is Where I live.  The Heartland is the Heart of Conformity.  People aren’t celebrated for being different or thinking up new ideas here.

In fact, a couple weeks ago, I read a parenting article in an actual newspaper by a supposedly respected expert that ordered parents to never, ever let their children/teens dress down.  Choosing how they dress, to this expert, is a sign of disrespect if it does not conform to the standards of the suburban society around the family.  In fact, if parents are lax in dress code, that is the first slippery slope to degeneracy, in-fighting, and disrespect.  How dare a teenager dress like their peers?  Teens should dress as their parents want them to.

The writer’s proof is that, supposedly, there are no delinquents in third world countries, and that, until a century ago, there was no such thing a malcontent among teens.  (Forgetting, of course, that in many of those third world countries–in South America, Africa, Asia, etc–gangs are groups of militia with child soldiers.  Additionally, it’s only been in the last hundred years that child labor laws and laws about mandatory schooling have prolonged “childhood” itself and pushed far back the age when children/teens are allowed to become contributing members of society.  There really is nothing to compare.)

And me with my freshly emerald hair, me, a fully respectable grown-up who looks back on all the hiding and shame of my younger years when I was forced to never express my own self, I just stared at the newsprint, flabbergasted.  Because when I look back at my childhood/teenage friends, especially the ones who did something with their lives, they were the ones who chose their own clothes, and maybe it was Ska style with a wallet chain and a newsboys cap before that was stereotyped, but these were the kids who grew up to be the most successful.  And yes, each of them probably has one tattoo, or more.  And the friends who most upheld the Facade of Decency, who paid lip service to the grown-ups, who played the part, well, they were the ones who chickened out on following their dreams or who got arrested for embezzlement at age 18.

I grew up with only two distinctions.  Things were either Good or Bad.  Every book I read, my mother would stop me and demand to know if it was Bad.  Not because she wanted to have a conversation and find out if the book was any good, no, her question was always, “Is that BAD?”  Because she knew I was honest enough to tell her, and then she could confiscate it.  At which point, was the book actually BAD, or was I just worried that it wouldn’t meet her high standards?  People fell into these same categories.  I was expected to judge them with high standards, and avoid being friends with BAD children.

But now that my hair is emerald green… and I myself am BAD… it’s very freeing.

night,

dawn

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