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Mental Snapshots #1: Expectations of Cotton

September 15, 2010

*My brain has been filled with a plethora of random thoughts lately… and they’re the kind of thoughts that stick around until I ‘do something’ about them. Usually writing tends to get thoughts out of my head (and onto paper… or web pages) which is how I end up with blog posts on political theories, formative experiences, or potty training – Gabe’s, not mine. My label is perfect for blogs like this; cleaning out my mental closet indeed.*

I’ve come to realize that there are few burdens we carry that are heavier than the weight of expectation from the people around us. And this is a complicated thing to think about. I am, as a woman, as a wife, as a mother, as a sister, as a daughter and granddaughter, and as a friend, always somehow conforming and performing to the expectations of others. It’s inherent in the act of socializing, of belonging to social groups, and of being a part of society.

As I take stock of my life, I realize that so many of my decisions were made, not because they were what I wanted to do, but because they were what I felt was expected of me. And, while there are many examples that I could share here, they’re not the kind I feel like posting on a blog. The one example that is both share-able and on my mind involves my closet – the literal one.

I’ve got this funky taste in clothing. I love plaid, especially red plaid. I love shoes, as long as they’ve got interesting lines. High heels give feet this amazingly beautiful curve, and I love how I feel while wearing them. I love hats, especially Cary Grant-style fedoras. I love the elegant sophistication that comes with wearing a hat like that, and the daring, color-outside-the-lines feel that wearing a hat in a decidedly hat-free culture involves. I love leggings with boots, and I love draped scarves. I tend to go towards extremes in my taste: I’m inspired by the beautiful, timeless elegance of Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant, but I’m also fascinated with theater and drama, and using the body as a medium to explore, exploit and hide the various aspects that make us,.. us

But I’ve never once worn a fedora. I’ve spent years wearing flat shoes. My staple wardrobe has always been a uniform of sorts,.. modest t-shirts and jeans or skirts during my teenage years, then jeans and sweatshirts in college. I wear the clothes that other people think is appropriate for me, which is usually the same type of clothing they wear themselves. I’ve rarely worn the collection of clothes and high heels I’ve got tucked away in my closet. It’s almost been a form of addiction: I would fall in love with something, and buy it, but then be too ashamed to wear it. And eventually, I just stopped buying new clothes entirely.

I’ve spent most of my life wearing the kind of clothes others expected of me. And while there’s nothing wrong with a comfy pair of jeans and a baggy sweatshirt, there’s nothing wrong with a vintage 80’s inspired tunic paired with leggings either. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wearing a fedora, just like the one sitting on my closet shelf.

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