Yeah. Planet pants. You see, a few weeks ago, I visited my family in my adorable/insufferable little hometown in Ohio. Along with the family time and dinners out and shopping with Mom, there always comes plenty of reminiscing when I am back in Madison. In going through my old closet I found an item of clothing stuffed into the very back, covered in crap, but so full of memories and emotions I just HAD to pull them out and bring them back home to New York with me. It’s funny how as time passes, the great difference between how you perceive yourself and how others actually see you, especially when you’re young, becomes clearer and clearer. Getting older has its perks, and clarity is one of them!
At 13 or so, I thought that all I wanted was to be accepted, to be ‘normal’ and ‘cool’, to look like the girls in Seventeen magazine all zitless and willowy and vanilla, to disappear into the crowd – until I quickly started to realize that I wasn’t ever going to have the ‘perfect’ Britney body, that I wasn’t ever going to be able to fit in with the hip crowd, and that my interests were about as far from cool as possible. I suddenly saw myself clearly, and realized ‘oh shit, I’m a loser!!!’, fully freaked out, and grieved the ‘cool Tara’ in my head’s untimely death for a little while before FINALLY giving up on all of that altogether and doing a 180. Screw being like everybody else, I thought! If I’ll never fit in, I’ll make my own box that I can fit into perfectly! If I can’t shop at Hollister and Express like everyone else, I’m going to dig through bins at the discount stores to get funky clothes no one else has! I’m not just going to be in the choir, I’m going to be the biggest show choir nerd ever! I’m going to do every musical in the tri-state area! I’m going to date every nerd I always thought was cute, but I thought people would judge me for dating! RAAAAAHR, I am weirdo, hear me roar!!! The people I met doing theater over the next few years accepted me for the oddball I was for what seemed like the first time, outside of my own family and a few great friends I’d had for years, and I couldn’t have been happier. My awesome nerd boyfriend and I went to see Phantom in Toronto (for the third time) my junior year, and on the way back, I begged to stop at this cool little shop where I immediately spotted an EPIC pair of pants. Black, some crazy stretchy poly blend, flared at the bottom (which was cool back then), and most importantly, had GIGANTIC planets, moons, stars – truly an entire galaxy all over them. They HAD TO BE MINE. Their rightful place in my closet beside my cherry print blazer, long black Morticia dresses, shiny hot pink polyester snap front collared shirt from Rave, bright blue cropped fuzzy angora sweater, and 70’s wooden platform black leather strappy sandals was clear to me, and I bought them with aplomb, heart pumping with the shopping high that only comes with finding a true one-of-a-kind, seemingly perfect piece. (Still one of my favorite feelings in the world.) ‘WIN!!!’, I thought, and hugged them all the way home as I dreamed up the epic, edgy, fabulous outfit I would rock on Monday that would SLAY all of the basic Madison bitches who shopped at Abercrombie and Crap and leave everyone slack-jawed and drooling in my oh-so-NYC-stylin’ wake. Monday morning, I slipped into my new friends, paired them with a cropped white tee (thanks but no thanks for the belly shirt trend, 90’s), a black cropped long sleeved sequined bolero on top of that, and 5 inch black wedges so hard to walk in my mom had to drive me to school, which was across the street. Mom has always questioned my sartorial choices (still does! love you Mom), so I shook off her skeptical sidelong glances in the 1.5 minute drive to the front door. ‘My best fashion statement YET!’, I thought, ‘I’ll show THEM how cool and individualistic and ahead of the curve I am’, and positively STOMPED through the front doors, through the glass ceiling in my head, and into the hallway. As everyone stared and whispered, my 17 year old confidence wavered, but recovered. ‘This must be how Naomi feels ALL OF THE TIME’, I thought, with a hair toss, and sashayed into my first class, where as I was walking to my desk a particularly judgy, I-dress-like-everyone-else Mudd jeans and AE hoodie wearing popular girl loudly asked me if I was wearing a superhero costume, and the whole. class. laughed. I realized then that this was going to be a less awesome day than I had originally imagined. Walking to my next class, there was laughing. And pointing. And me dying inside, running into the bathroom, and crying off most of my badly applied Maybelline Great Lash. I was 5 classes and a lunch away from the safe haven of the choir room, where I was accepted if not always understood, and I knew right there that I wasn’t going to make it, no matter how much I thought I didn’t care about other people’s opinions of me. Calling Mom to bring a different pair of pants was admitting defeat to her, to the mean kids in the hallway, to all of the designer sweatshirt wearing snobs, and to myself, but I wasn’t the tough bitch with nerves of steel that I am today (ha), and I gave in. I hid in that stall until class started, ran to the office in the safety of the empty hallways, called Mom, threw on the jeans she brought (thanks mom!), reapplied my mascara, and tried not to cry it off again as I shoved those horrible planet pants deep into my bookbag, hoping no one would remember they ever existed. Never mind that I loved them, or that my boyfriend thought they were the coolest. Right then, because of everyone else, I HATED THOSE PANTS. I got a hall pass from my favorite teacher (it’s good to be a straight A brownnoser!) and slinked back to class and around school all day. That same chick asked me later where my costume went, and while I imagined showing her that my superhuman power was squashing mean girls like her with my superior brain power and superhuman thighs wrapped in planet-y awesomeness, I just turned purple, choked back tears, threw my chin up and stomped away the best I could in those dumb wedges that were now KILLING my feet. When I got home, I shoved those STUPID pants deep into the back of my closet and tried to forget that they, and that horrible day, ever existed. That is, until senior year, when I got cast in Godspell for the second time and got to put together my own wacky costume – planet pants and all – but that’s another story.
What’s funny is that I was on the phone with my best friend Audrey right before I went home talking about our high school memories, and it’s the oddest thing – she remembers a very different scenario, one in which I was perfectly normal, with friends and a semi normal wardrobe, and that I got to play amazing roles onstage, won some awards, dated some sweet guys, generally enjoyed myself, and never really got picked on. All I seem to recall is being a freakish outcast Queen of Awkward in planet pants singing as loud as she could to drown out the haters, even if most of them were in her own head. As I grow older, I realize more and more that so much of what you think about yourself is just that – your opinion, that the people who love you see a much shinier version of you than you can see yourself, and everyone else’s opinions don’t matter one effing bit. It’s like when you hear a recording of your voice and don’t even recognize yourself because you always hear your voice through the filter of your own head, and you’re cringing thinking ‘ugh, I sound like THAT?!’ But you know what, Judgey McHarsherson? I’ll bet everyone around you thinks you have a perfectly lovely speaking voice. People tend to see the good in you, especially if the positive in yourself (and others) is your focus. Try to remember that the next time you get really down on yourself (or your pants), okay? Well, that, or the fact that, in high school or EVER, you never wore pants like this:
Me rockin the PPs in Godspell…
And the legendary PPs today, still as fabulous as ever!
Nothing more flattering than a galaxy on your ass, amiright, ladies?!