Someone Else's Jeans
When I was fifteen, every morning was like preparing to step into a battlefield. In the icy darkness of Swedish mornings, I threw on on my second-hand clothes, knowing that whatever I wore, it would be mercilessly mocked. I pulled my hair back and defiantly omitted make-up - the last thing I wanted was to be like them. I read my books and listened to my music on the train in to school, like a gladiator suiting up for the arena.
It's 1998 and I am a bonafide outcast. Not one like today's famous kids who claim they were weird in school and actually were cool before their time. No, I am an authentic, true-life weirdo, complete with a high side ponytail, striped secondhand sweaters and glitter makeup. I have four friends in my class. The only thing we have in common is that we're all nobodies. None of us particularly likes the others - our togetherness is as glued on like my fake nails, and comes undone just as easily and unattractively.
One of my so-called friends is dying to be one of the popular kids. While I spend my days passionately hating the Marlboro-puffing "in" crowd, she's desperately looking for a way in. She laughs too loudly at their jokes, offers homework help and compliments their hair. Which, of course, makes them ridicule her even more - a sad fact she may not yet have realised today.
One afternoon she asks me to come back to her house after school. We eat biscuits and chat. She tells me about her dance class and I talk about how I want to move to Los Angeles after school. She starts digging around her closet and trying on clothes, twirling in front of the mirror, singing and posing like a Spice Girl. I flick through a magazine.
When I get up to pee, she jumps in front of me, wielding one of her sweaters. She puts it up in front of me and tilts her head to one side, as if imagining how it would look on me. "Try this on", she says.
I slip into the sweater. It feels big, warm and surprisingly masculine. My friend tosses a pair of her blueish gray jeans my way. "Here, wear these!". Although I fail to see how these are in any way superior to my lavender-pink pair, I obey. As I'm buttoning up this pair of jeans that feels so distinctly not mine, my friend pulls two strands of hair from my ponytail, one on each side of my forehead, and tucks them behind my ears.
"If you came to school wearing this tomorrow, you'd become popular straight away", she states.
"Seriously?" I glimpse into the mirror. I look like someone took the girls from class and ran them through a Xerox machine. A bad copy. Especially my hair looks exceptionally stupid, with the two strands hanging down from my forehead. "Totally!" she assures me. "Listen, you're not bad looking. You've got a flat tummy, nice legs and boobs. You just need to dress better."
Even if her comments are technically compliments, I feel a peculiar sting at her words. This person who is supposed to be my friend, my confidante in the cruel world that is high school, is saying that she wants me to change. That I should be something else.
"You have nice legs and boobs," I retort. "You have worn your hair this way three times this week. And these are all your clothes. Why aren't you more popular than me?"
Something flashes across her face and her eyes take on a darker hue. She is offended. "I am more popular than you. Thomas said hi to me last Monday."
Thomas is a scrawny, obnoxious skater kid from class. I try to imagine all the ways my life would be different if he said hi to me tomorrow. Not one thing comes to mind. "I want to change back into my own clothes," I say. She rolls her eyes and sips orange juice with a straw. "Sure, but, you know, if you keep dressing like that and...being like that, you might never fit in anywhere."
I leave her jeans on her bed and feel the familiar softness of my own lavender pair. On the train home, I listen to music and think about how, even if I hate myself most days, I'd rather embrace the fact that I was who I was and be okay with hating myself, than try to force myself into something that I didn't even want to be.
This week, while reading Lena Dunham's beautiful Not That Kind of Girl, I came across this:
"But that's also how I felt in high school, sure that my people were from elsewhere and going elsewhere and that they would recognize me when they saw me. They would like me enough that it wouldn't matter if I liked myself. They would see the good in me so that I could, too."
...and this is so true. I felt this way too, constantly, and aside from the fact that I was certain that my people was Leonardo DiCaprio, that all came true.
One by one, they all did arrive. I married one of them this summer, and when I did, 30 more of them were there to celebrate with us. I talk to so many of them every day. I have found them through this blog, through my magazine and by exploring my passions. And by always wearing the weirdest clothes possible.
Picture from Pinterest