It took me a long time to get to this place.
When I was a little girl, my family atmosphere was fairly flooded with a heavy and toxic cloud of pain, that felt a lot to me like shame.
I never was sure what exactly we’d done wrong. But there sure did feel like something.
My father struggled with the clothing he wore to work. He dressed like…well, like someone who was born in Eastern Europe, had been raised by Hasidim and adopted a semi-American look.
He wears a very standard outfit of dark dress pants, white shirt and tie.
People used to joke “hey Alex, can’t you relax?” and the answer, pretty much, was no, never although I don’t recall him saying that out loud.
His closet is stacked neatly with white shirts, one on top of the other, dry-cleaned and ready to go at a moment’s notice.
My mother did not like to get dressed up.
For her, it was an aversion.
But she took great pride in me. She did.
And she took me constantly shopping.
When I was a little girl, my mother, my grandmothers, and my closest aunt took great interest in me.
They asked me how I felt all the time.
If I had any sort of “funny look” on my face, they wanted to know immediately what the problem was.
My clothing was a source of great concern.
And my weight. I remember when my aunt told me I was looking heavy.
The shame, already suffocating, fairly overwhelmed me and I immediately began starving myself — as best I could— for six long years, till high school graduation.
I was so obsessed with how I looked, because they were.
Always theatrical, I joined the local Y and began performing in plays. And at camp, too.
I loved it.
My father was constantly taking photos, he always had. It was an extremely intrusive experience.
But at the same time, I basked in the sunlight of the public glare.
Looking back on it now, I understand what happened to me.
I took the trauma of being turned inside out by those who were closest to me, and my natural propensity for attention-seeking and entertaining others, and embarked on a life-long journey to control and portray my own image to the world.
It’s been a lot of years since I was a kid. Decades since that starved-out photo of me at high school graduation.
In the intervening time, I definitely went through a long phase of “secondary shame,” a polite way of saying that I dressed awfully.
All of it just became too loaded a topic.
But then I took a job where everybody else was dressing really, really well.
No matter what their job level, you could see that they took great pride in getting dressed in the morning.
I think God sent me to that place for a lot of reasons.
But one of them was to confront the shame and the ghosts of the past.
To reclaim my natural inner love for looking good — not Barbie-doll good, but good in the sense of self-respect. Of caring for myself enough to enjoy the feel of buying and wearing clothing.
And yes, nice shoes.
Every day, not just on work days.
Every day, including today.
All opinions my own. Photo of me, by me. This post is available for reuse under Creative Commons license 3.0.
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