From looking like an ageing matriarch to the complete opposite extreme…
Some of my friends and I had made plans to go out this weekend, but agreed nearer the time that we’d rather have a night in and be cheap. Part of the appeal was not have to bother getting dressed up, and somehow this morphed into the idea that we would try and look as bad as we possibly could. The antithesis of a girls’ night out on the town, we decided we’d try and recreate ourselves at our most awkward age.
A little bit of research into my own past led me to discover that I looked awful and awkward from the ages of 13 to roughly 24. A whole decade of different fashion trends to choose an awkward look from. What joy!
In my magic box of nostalgia, I found my old school shirt and tie.
In the absence of owning:
a tartan waistcoat
a pair of oversized check short dungarees
purple, patterned, much repaired leggings
an XL mens’ grey t-shirt with the word ‘non’ printed large all over it, and ‘insist on brutus’ in the corner…
I decided to wear my school uniform. I haven’t put on my school shirt since my last day at school. It’s written all over with messages from my school friends and teachers – some more legible than others. I could barely remember how to tie a tie. It’s been almost 20 years.
I wondered if the shirt would fit – be too bit or too small, but I didn’t think about how I’d feel putting on the clothes I’d worn daily when I was at an age where I spent most of my time trying to hide my body.
I put on the shirt and tie, and a navy skirt I dug out of my cupboard, scraped my hair back off the front of my make-up-less face and looked in the mirror.
Facing me was my 16 year old self. Right there. It was spooky.
Along with my 16 year old self, were all my 16 year old feelings, insecurities and anxieties. It’s like my shirt was covered with them instead, of all the goodwill messages scrawled in the bad handwriting.
I wasn’t the only one of my friends to reacquire my teen uncertainties by revisiting the costumes of our pasts. You don’t realise how many demons you had to deal with when you were a teenager until you properly revisit that time. I know most people would shudder at the thought of being a teenager again. The idea of all that searing self-doubt in combination with the soaring hormones and lack of clear identity is enough to make you vomit.
I thought all of that was long behind me. I like myself more now. I’m at ease in my own skin. There’s nothing I’d really change about my appearance. My body and I have made peace with one another. I thought this was because my body had changed into something I liked. But in my old school uniform I realised that my body was exactly the same as it has been since I was about 12 years old. I still looked as lumpy and shapeless and uncomfortable in my uniform as I did 17 years ago.
What’s changed is my perception of myself.
To cope with our rediscovered adolescent forms, we did what we couldn’t do as teenagers, and drank a LOT of wine. Then we did what were allowed to do as teenagers and played lots of the music we’d listened to at high volume, sang loudly, danced, and were grateful that we are older, happier, and have better dress sense.
Time can and clearly does make miracles happen.