Today, I see myself as a strong and confident woman with only the same insecurities most women have. I use fashion as an art to create my identity and in my adult life have slowly grown into my own personality and building a spine one vertebrae at a time.
That was much different ten years ago. Ten years ago I struggled with who I was, my personality was hiding in a closet too scared to come out, and my self-image was twisted. Although I am not an “ugly” duckling I definitely could have been taught how to wear make-up properly without looking like a ghost, help picking out clothes that didn’t look like I was attracted to women, or even just be able to feel that it was okay to want to look like a girl. My mom grew up naturally gorgeous and didn’t really have much to worry about rather than pulling on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and most of her wardrobe consisted of the color of black, asking her for help shopping was like pulling teeth, she hated going anywhere that had any kind of crowd. Whenever I showed interest in wanting the frilly things and wanted to do my hair and makeup she would ask me how I was her daughter, “How did I have a daughter so different than me?” I would find myself going back and forth from wanting to wear skirts and dresses to trying to show off my tom boy skills to make her proud. Although she encouraged my academic pursuit it generally followed by how much of a nerd I was. That subject soon turned into a monster as I got smarter because somehow it was a personal attack on her, that I just wanted to be able to put her down when we talked. It would get so conflicting though as she pressured me to get nothing but A’s so that I wouldn’t be a bum like the rest of her family. Graduating at least was very important because I would be the first on her side to actually make it that far. Most of my cousins even were headed down the same road as their parents. DUI’s, drug use, pregnancy scares for the females, and jail time for the males. I didn’t want to be anything like them so I strived hard to make that name for us. That is why by the age of six, when most little girls want to be mommies or ballerinas I was standing front and center of my classmates mentioning how I wanted to be a writer or architect. I can say I at least had a lot of hopes and dreams as a child but the concerns on why I wanted to be these things were not so normal.
Oh how I dreaded this day. The ten year High School Reunion. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my High School compared to most. It was a large old brick building in a small town surrounded by trees and having Mt. Rainier in the background was wonderful to see. The small town had a lot less issues then the school I was going to which had lovely drug dealers on the outskirts of our playground, highway right outside the doors, or teachers that looked like they belonged in a black hat and cape to go with their witchy faces and attitudes. The class rooms were small and the teachers were funny and I had my few good friends but the typical cliques still did exist. I probably would have been better off though If I had lived there from the time of pre-school to our graduation because once you came into that school at any other point it was difficult to find your place. I started in fourth grade and if any of you know small towns that just doesn’t work. What doomed me from day one was the fact my last name started with the letters H.A.M. therefore, if you can imagine, I have heard every fat, pig, ham, miss piggy comment there ever possilbly was created to man. I was also short. These are not the greatest combinations. I laugh now because I have become quite talented with funny trash talk and that is my own defense mechanism but back then if someone said something mean to me all I had was, “ Well, you are a jerk” Ooooooo good one Nicole. Not.
I think the worst part was just not existing. Although somehow I was found by a few people who wanted to become my friend, I did go through most of my school days trying to be as invisible as possible. That was no one’s fault though. I did that to save myself even more embarrassment the minute I had to try and explain to the kid that, “ Im sorry my mom isnt having a good day so I cant have anyone over”. That wasn’t exactly understood by children who wanted to play. Therefore my friends were few. The only one really allowed over without too much of a fuss was my best and only friend at the time, Julie, she was my next door neighbor and I would escape to her place as often as I could. The first time she came over to my house my mom walked out in her George Carlin shirt that said, “ Go Fuck Yourself” on the back, very appropriate for a fellow fourth grader to see, thanks mom.
I found my sanctuary in music for the longest time, being given a flute for free I picked it up quickly and let it take me away. Especially when mom would have an episode and take it out on either the house or my father, if it wasn’t me she was seeking I would sneak off to my room and start playing. This only made things worse as I became your fellow band geek, I am totally okay with that but It just caused me to seclude myself that much more away from socializing as I found I would lock myself in my room for hours practicing. A lot of that was for nothing as well since over half of my concerts were missed by her because she wasn’t “feeling good” even though, to this day, she will tell you every missed event was because she was working. Not the case. So who was I playing for anymore? As much as I love playing for my own ears, I like to share that music.
So the day came, I had tried just like every other classmate to look my best. I didn’t lose a thousand pounds like I had hoped but I was definitely healthier looking then my senior year. Happy was more of the look I was going for and my man had definitely made sure that was evident. At first another good friend of mine had planned on going with but she flaked, fearing that an ex spouse would be there, an ex high school sweetheart spouse. As frustrated as I was with her bailing since I could of really used her support, I did understand the risk she didn’t want to take. So I went there with my man by my side and yes, my dog. You will hear more about my hound here and there, he is nine and such a character but he also has seperation anxiety so he goes where we go. When we first arrived I tried to leave the old hound in the car for just a moment to find out if where we would be sitting he could join us but he started howling profusely from the car, sounding like an injured seal that had washed up on the beach. I shook my head, had my hunny run and grab him before he really made a scene. As I walked up, no kid in tote, but an old hound instead all I could do was laugh, of course I would be the only one with a dog there. It was a flash back in time, the seating area was outdoors so at least we knew the dog was able to be there. I immediately went and saw my friend Julie who was there with her fiance but then I noticed, the tables were segretated into the same old cliques no different then walking into a high school cafeteria. This did not surprise me. I put on a big smile and I walked around anyway and found a seat. It took me a minute to losen up but I was proud that I was able to keep my head up, be nothing but all smiles and endgage in actual conversation. Let the socializing begin.
My main reason to go to this was make my apperance and show everyone I wasn’t the same shy, insecure girl I was back in high school. Yet I realized once I got there how quickly that girl can come back. I stuck to my old nerd crew and not for the reasons I had thought I would. I did because they were the ones that always treated me with respect. No one was mean but the invisibility still existed among the others. One of my fellow band mates that played tuba came to my side and started talking to me and we chatted, nothing out of the ordinary, your typical, “How’s it been going?” It was what he said as he walked away that made me realize I wasn’t the only one feeling nervous that day.
“ Thank you for actually talking to me.” He said with a great big nervous smile.
“OF COURSE!” I couldn’t believe my old friends were feeling the same way I was.
I didn’t leave that circle the rest of the night. With the guidence of my man we kept conversating with the others and whenever it started to get awkwardly silent we would start up another conversation. If someone started to walk up and looked like they weren’t noticed I would say their name and get them involved in the conversation. Everyone that was there that day deserved some normalcy and to feel like they belonged and were missed and someone was eager to hear their story, whether it was exciting or not. Whether it was who they hoped would ask or not.
Every now and then my fiance would do something goofy like feeding our hound dog like a child, the ice cream we were done with, making the airplane noises as he fed him with the spoon. Children from every which corner kept showing up to pet my hound, he eventually became the personal petting zoo. My man even started walking around saying hello to every table even though none of them knew who this guy was. He just made me smile the entire night, even as I secretly was trembling on the insde I didn’t show it on the outside and as silly as that may sound to most this was an accomplishemnt for me. WHOOHOO! I am going to enjoy this moment.
As the outer circles started to drink and get drunk. I stayed sober and enjoyed the conversation with my old band, honor society, and knoweldge bowl members. We didn’t talk about what was “hot” or what was “cool”, we discussed everything random under the sun which included that you can use the word “buffalo” as much as you want in a sentence and it will always be grammtically correct. You are welcome for that useless information. HAHA
The reunion didn’t turn out nearly how I had invisioned over the past ten years as I feared its coming. It was better. I didn’t stay to try and impress the people that didn’t care about me, I didn’t stress about where I was in life as I told my catch up story, I didn’t even care that I didn’t stay late and party. I did what I set out to accomplish. To see the ones that I cared about that always respected me. To hold my head high for the first time in front of all of them, happy with who I was no matter what my past was like.
I realized in the end it didn’t matter if you were 17, 27, or past your 30’s, we all want to feel like a diamond. We ARE all diamonds. If not to the world to at least one person that we know. So shine on my friends…. Shine on….