Winners’ Circle

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This look is anchored by what is my most enduring piece of clothing. I found it 10 years ago, the summer before I started my senior year of high school. Times long gone by…

High school was an awkward time for me. And that is putting it lightly. I was in a small town. I was often bullied due to my differences from my peers, a major one being what I cannot change–my skin color. It’s difficult belonging to two different ascribed racial categories, only looking like one, and wandering around day after day in a sea of nothing but white faces, craving some true mutual understanding, some kinship, but knowing you will never find it unless you leave.

In my frustration and rebelliousness, I decided to say “Fuck trying to make these people like me” and just did what I wanted. I kept several pairs of high heels in my locker (I particularly recall a pair of ’80s-era red leather pumps, and another pair covered in fuchsia glitter). I wore T-shirts with quotes about feminism written on them in black Sharpie marker. I read The Communist Manifesto. I wore fishnet tights, dresses over jeans, and oversize trench coats with serious shoulder pads. I cussed out everyone who had some shit to say to my face and escaped any consequences. What I didn’t realize until much later was my inherent strength, and that how I chose to cope with my hardships was a catalyst for something greater–I had built my own foundation for self-love.

In the midst of all this, you can imagine my girlish delight when one day that I remember as dawning clear and fine, I came across this sheer beauty of fine mesh, gold beads and sequins. Heavy on the shine, heavy on the drama, yet still outstandingly delicate and feminine. It was what I had yearned for; it proclaimed, “This is who I really am, world” without anyone else speaking for me. It was fitting that the first time I wore it was for my going-away party, surrounded by true-blue friends, college-bound, glowing with joy at getting the hell out of town.

Last week, I wandered into Stash, one of my favorite local haunts, for the first time in months. After a bit of browsing, I snatched up that gold silk tunic (I love the paisley print visible in the detail pic) and had an image flash into my head of precisely what I was going to do with it. That night, I slipped it on and then reverently did the same with my fairy-gossamer mesh and beads.

Well, look at me, I thought. A golden goddess.

 

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