Monday, 9 May 2016

Unlearning 'Cool'

I've been clearing out the attic of my childhood home lately, in preparation for my backpacking trip and the massive level of downsizing that our post-trip plan of living in a camper van is obviously going to entail. So I've been spending a lot of time sorting through old photos, and I happened to noticed that in my early teens I can almost watch self-consciousness beginning to creep in.

Not to blow my own trumpet, but I was kind of an awesome kid, in a dorky kind of way. I miss that childlike state of uninhibited-ness before I learned that there was supposedly a 'wrong' way to dress - when clothes were for a) covering nakedness and b) turning into a knight, rock star, princess, woodland spirit, pirate or werewolf (depending on what library books I was borrowing at the time). Comfort, practicality and fun were my watchwords, before puberty hit and all of a sudden I was trying to meet boys (aargh!), look trendy (double aargh!) and impress other people.

(Maybe the title of this post is a touch misleading. Despite best efforts, I don't know that 'cool' was something I ever successfully achieved. Once a My Little Pony-obsessed, happy little dork, always a My Little Pony-obsessed, happy little dork - or something like that.)

Fear not, I don't intend to revive my previous wardrobe of socks with sandals, dodgy leggings and paper armour (painstakingly made by my mother. I think she drew a pterodactyl on the shield). Well, maybe the socks and sandals combo - bite me, it was comfortable! But I'm trying to focus more and more on dressing for myself, and currently hearkening back to a time before it even occurred to me that other people might have even a sniff of an opinion on what I was wearing:


  • Accepting my geekiness. It is time to stop worrying about being liked. No, somehow I don't think I would have survived better in secondary school if I had joined the art club, the reading group and the Lord of the Rings gaming team, but I might have stood more of a chance of enjoying myself doing my own thing, rather than aiming for a level of social acceptability determined by 'popular' kids.
  • I'm trying to channel how I shopped as a kid, changing back from 'does this go with my overarching style concept? Does it express every nuance of my soul? Will it be flattering?' to a far more basic, 'I like this colour/picture/style/fabric,' with a side order of 'hey, I can actually move in this'. Not that I don't think about what looks good(ish), just not making other people's potential opinions my first priority.
  • Get curious; play more. And stop being afraid of looking odd! Well, more odd. Since I have begun trying to embrace my inner child (I'd love to find a less cringey way of expressing that sentiment), I've watched an artist painting in the grounds of a cathedral, found a street art display, bought a carved wooden charm from a homeless man, spent a day writing in the woods and played table football in a Jack Wills shop. It takes some time to stop worrying about whether or not people are watching when you lie on the ground for the perfect photo, but it's been worth it so far. (I have found that having blue hair actually helps with this. People seem to assume you are a quirky artist type and smile at you sort-of-fondly when you do something a bit strange.)
Appropriately dorky picture from Christmastime
  • Embrace nostalgia. I grew up in the 90s so I'm having a big 90s trip right now - watching Buffy, putting stickers on things, digging out old magazines and lists of birthday presents from friends, from primary school when gifts included glitter hair clips and hand-drawn pictures of dogs. 
  • Resisting selfie culture. Don't get me wrong, selfies are great and they do have their place, but for me, I find it less than helpful to live every experience through social media; trying to fit each outfit and event into a tidy frame. This may be the cheesiest thing I've ever typed, but at the moment I'm trying to live #nofilter.

8 comments:

  1. I really miss the days when I didn't worry about what people thought. I didn't even think about it. Still, I make an effort to dress for myself these days. Hope it goes well for you!

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    1. Thanks! Amazing how much 'normality' I'm finding I need to unlearn - we're taught that fitting in will make us well-adjusted, happy little people but it doesn't always work that way.

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  2. Focus on having fun and it should all sort itself out. ^^
    I'm also a 90's kid, and nostalgia is a huge part of my being as well. I think it's something most of us have in common, as I've seen us referred to as the "nostalgia generation". (for instance, a lot of us will agree that we didn't need more than 151 pokémons!! XD)

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    1. The nostalgia generation? Really? Oh god, we're going to be boring the next generation to tears with 'in my day...' - or are we doing that already? (heheh, my boyfriend still has all his Pokemon cards. And I still collect My Little Pony. You may have a point.)

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  3. I love your goals! Somehow I feel I'm closer to my inner child in terms of clothing and having fun than when I was a child and desperately wanted to impress my parents.

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    1. Thank you! I'm glad to hear that :) I look forward to achieving the actually-not-giving-a-crap stage. I'm not quite there yet, but close, I think, maybe.

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  4. I 've read so much about fashion, and it seems the supposed 'rules' are all contradictory. And I don't see why I can't make my own rules. I think it's time to set everything aside. If I wear it, I like it and I feel awesome I buy it!

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    1. Hear hear! Sounds like we're on the same page with this - who makes up the rules anyway? Oh yeah... the people trying to sell us stuff. How convenient!

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