I was reading my bible the other day, and the scripture about not being of this world, or worldly, if you prefer, hit me like a ton of bricks. From very early on in my life, I have stood out, in pretty much every venue of my life. As a child, I would pack my green suitcase and travel the neighborhood, trolling for adults (not children, they pissed me off with their weird Barbie dolls and tea parties) who would dare to “come and play with me.” I can only imagine what they were thinking, when they answered the door and looked down upon the oddity standing in front of them. Chubby, red curls and not a shred of inhibition-I would prance into the home of unsuspecting, stay at home mothers , open my attaché, (full of odd pens, crayons and doll heads) and ask them to make me chocolate chip cookies. This worked about 85% of the time, and to be sure this was done to appease the weirdo and get her the hell out of dodge.)
I would go to the bar in Avalon, NJ with my father-when we could sneak away from mom-sit with dad, eating clams and drinking Shirley temples, playing Mr. Bojangles on the jukebox as many times as my stash of quarters allowed it. I was 5 years old. As I grew, my mother would go to these random thrift stores and buy the strangest outfit she could find, then proceed to argue with my until I finally caved and wore it to school. The stand out? A purple, velvet set of knickers with a poufy top and cameo at the neckline. The white lace boots up to my knees added to the hilarity…….but my peers at Upper Merion Junior H.S. didn’t get the joke. They gawked, pointed, and called me names until I cried. I believe my courage began developing way back then, in spite of the meanies, I grew weirder by the hour, and to this day I am thankful……….
I have never, ever followed the fashion scene, (I am dead serious when I say I am only now, at the age of 56, learning how to put on makeup) and my outfits have been raising eyebrows for decades. I care not what others think, never have, never will-and somewhere in the mix I suppose I owe my lack of inhibition to Mary Lou, my mother and fashionista extraordinaire. She went to a dress shop to design her own clothing, and I have to say that she was profoundly beautiful………but she was ahead of her time, she was ahead of my time for crying out loud.
Just the other day, while trying to avoid the dreaded tick bite, I put on my grey long underwear, hiking boots, camo shorts and gardening hat, then proceeded to the local grocery store where I turned heads and caused more than one shopper to slam her cart into the food displays. I walk blithely to the tune of my own accordion, immune to the whispers and laughter. I have been told by friends, and enemies alike, that “Only you could pull that off, Michele….” I never try to be a fashion success, yet my style impresses more people than it offends. And to this day, I don’t get it. I am 5 feet tall in stocking feet, have blonde hair down to my waist, and even on a good day, well….my husband usually has to carry me to the truck because my shoes are bought at the Humane Society Thrift Store-it has never been of any consequence to me how the shoes fit, as I am a size 5 1/2 and finding any footwear not of the girls’ department is a total coup.
Another quirk I have? If I pick something out of my closet (say a dress I’ve had since my freshmen year at Villanova, circa 1979) I am going to wear it whether it fits or not. Just last week, after purchasing last year’s Vera Wang at Kohl’s with my 30% off coupon, I stood there stumped and provoked, as I tried to figure out how the hell to put it on. It was a three-part debacle, copper and black sequins cascading down the front. I finally took my scissor to it, and voila-right over my head it went.
I have been known to garden, in a teddy and sweat pants; to hell with what anyone thinks. It’s my own yard, my own territory-if it doesn’t suit you, look away. My best friend will not walk with me in our neighborhood because of the attire I choose to exercise in. Last winter, and I kid you not, I wore a stunning pink Elmer Fud number to lunch in Lititz (where the snobs and starving artists mingle amongst stores only the very rich can patronize.) I was with my nieces, who love the fact that I am, well, unique to put it kindly. Men and women were walking right up to my face and laughing. Poor manners? Yes. Do I blame them? No.
I simply cannot be bothered with worrying about the Joneses. I’m too busy living in my own private Idaho…..where I am the queen of the outfit faux pas.