I wore black when I was 13 because I was dark inside. I was a brain half-developed and a glass all-the-way-full, brimming over with thoughts of sitting alone with a pencil stuck in a notebook and my music so loud that I couldn’t hear my desperate parents banging on the locked door. It was a battlecry; I needed a stranger to be able to look at me and understand that I was strong. Instead, they looked at me like I was dangerous, like I was a contractable form of adolescent failure, set and ready to rub off on their pristine suburban middle class offspring. I had friends strong enough to be on my side, but not without whispers of worry and furled brows from concerned onlooking parents.
When I was 15 I wore “men’s pants.” I maintain that it was a misnomer. How could pants be “men’s” if they were owned and operated by a woman? Doesn’t that, directly by function, make them a woman’s pants? “Men’s pants” made me feel safe, able to hide the parts of myself that we are all unsure about at that age. Learning about my curves, and where my body hair grew, and how I would break out as puberty took over was scary for me, and I wasn’t the only one. I was one of few, however, who wasn’t afraid to stand out. People stared, to be sure, but I just kept on walking and paid them no mind. I lost that somewhere along the way, but I’m finding it again.
Sometimes I wouldn’t shower for a week at a time when I was 18, and it had nothing to do with access. I wore flannels and saggy jeans ripped at the knees, and every morning I woke up and tossed on whatever I pleased. This was a completely new place, and I’d found my way to make a statement of my apathy. In a world where the standard is a million paces from any person you would ever hope to be, it becomes necessary to constantly declare your rebellion. It was a war.
I wore black when I was 21 because I learned that if people are afraid of you, they stay out of your business. Unlike any other time in my life, I was a ball of white light, and masked in all black I covered it up just enough to blend. People rarely stared, because at first glance they’d think I was a man, and we don’t take our lice-combs through the choices of men. There was a calmness about it all, but I learned that I’m not comfortable in disguise, and I taught myself to start looking people in the eyes.
I wear whatever the fuck I want, now, and it’s a sport I quite enjoy. I carry stares around on my sleeve like purple hearts, and walk into places that feel dangerous just to show off my scars. My jeans are skinny and stick to my stick-thin legs. I wear street clothes and button-ups and thrift store tees, blatantly offending those who live between lines they’ve probably never tried to understand. I keep my weapons on hand, I’m no fool, but I’ve also got a pocket book of thank you’s that wake me up when all that hate starts to get heavy. I don’t aim to be a spectacle, but I won’t dim my light, and there are a lot of people comfortable in the dark, who go around claiming that change causes pain to their eyes.
In time and in experience I have carved the word authentic into each and every bone that became exposed in the brutal attacks of a judging gaze. Instead of bleeding, I turned my skin into mirrors, and the self worth I bred became a suit of arms, ready to defend me against the cold. Now every attempt to push me in line has become fuel to my “go fuck your standards” fire. I’m alive, maybe for the first time in my life, because prying eyes may take their shots, but they can’t change my mind.
November 22nd, 2014