Friday, August 22, 2014

Turn to the Left

As many of you know, my only kiddo - a/k/a The Boy - leaves this week for college.  He’s psyched for it, and somehow his excitement seems to have translated into a penchant for dressing like Hunter S. Thompson:
I love it.
I love it, but I try not to say too much about it.  Parental endorsement of fashion is presumably the last thing an 18 year old kid wants.
Still, between you, me and the blogosphere, I love it just as I love seeing kids with pink or blue or green hair - and I love that there seem to be so many of them now.  I love seeing teens with fearless fashion sense and a creative, offbeat outlook on life.  I love that, at least in some corners of the world, our culture seems to be shifting in a way that allows young people to have fun expressing who they are.
As a teenager, I wanted desperately to let my freak flag fly.  My mother bought me khakis and Keds.  I bought combat boots and lace tights.  Trying to leave the house in my preferred attire was like trying to convince Sarah Palin that Hillary should be our next President.
Mom, horrified:  “You can’t leave the house like that!  You look like that crazy Madonna person.  What will your teachers think?”
Dad, stern:  “You’re ruining your life.  Do you want to be a degenerate?”
I thought this was kind of funny coming from a guy who was a fan of David Bowie and Lou Reed, but clearly what was acceptable in rock star fashion was not acceptable in suburbia.  What I didn’t get was why.  I just wanted to wear combat boots and lace tights.  Maybe occasionally use makeup to turn my massive eyebrows into something deliberately severe, a la Siouxie and the Banshees.  What did any of that have to do with my teachers?  Did I ever say anything about their horrific fashion sense?  Those polyester pant suits and orthopedic shoes seemed to me far more likely to carry one down the road to ruin than the occasional blue streak in my hair.
But damn, folks love to fixate on the superficial.
If I had a nickel for every time I was told to do the very opposite of what I wanted to do - of what felt natural to me - well, I’d have a shitload of nickels.  And for what?  I spent my youth fearful of exploring, constantly told to zip my lip, change my clothes, fix my hair, be mindful of what my teachers, my grandparents, the neighbors might think.  That limiting mindset stuck with me for far too long.  I am 40 years old and just now beginning to live the life I’ve always imagined.
It makes me gleefully happy to see so many young people encouraged to have fewer hang-ups and secrets, and more awesome, life-building experiences.
My words of wisdom?
Wear what you want to wear.
Say what you want to say.
Stop worrying about the superficial stuff and go do fabulous things.
Because our world gets better every time we stop worrying about what the neighbors might think…and just get off our asses and make the neighborhood a better place.
Now give a listen to my new favorite groove: ‘Secrets’ by Mary Lambert.  If this earworm doesn’t make you smile, check your pulse.

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