I have the most incredible and diverse selection of friends, some begged, some stolen, some bonded through foreign adventures, some through a pretentious need for intellectual stimulation, some with joint interests, some with utterly random world views. I’m proud of the haphazard selection of buddies in my friends list, the go-to list of thinkers, that will give me their honest/brutal/sympathetic/nurturing opinions on anything I can’t figure out for myself. I have friends of different backgrounds, widely disparate lifestyles, and of all ages. When I was younger I found it easier to make friends with men, and have a number of important friendships in my life with some great guys; I did however struggle with girls.
As an 8 year old, a school buddy a year my senior took an interest in playdates, but I was informed that I would receive a strike every time I wore something that wasn’t cool. This point scoring system was fine, as long as I let her chose my clothes, (I had absolutely no idea what cool was at that age and my hand-me-down and charity shop togs were barely off ragged, I was pretty happy with anything that sparkled). I can’t remember how this situation resolved, but I remember being anxious, and wearing the same cord dungarees with clashing jumper underneath for almost every date, because it had been pre-approved.
It’s possible that further efforts were thwarted by a pretty awful time at High School I was stick thin, brainy, gobby, and no doubt an off-sane bundle of precocious hormones. I was bullied….no need for sympathy, as I’m sure I orchestrated my fair share of other people’s post-secondary school social trauma. Excited by new pixie boots to be informed that they were so 2 years ago, my coat was too lilac, too shiny & too puffy (admit, it doesn’t sound particularly cutting edge), my bag too big (there were lots of sodding books) my choices were never good enough.
It may be that I owe my choice of career in fashion to trauma of High School. Maybe I will always be trying to be cool enough to warrant a play date. Maybe I’m driven by the harsh critique by my peers in the past?
The thing is I still wear hand me downs. I love them. Friends bring me things they think I may wear, usually their boldest items, hurried sale purchases made with a sudden rush of excitement and trying to push their boundaries. Of course the confidence in their acquisition is often worn down by the time they try to fit this random act of madness into their daily habit of dressing.
I love charity shops and nothing pleases me more than a vintage find of great splendour that was either loved at a certain time or never quite fitted into someone else’s life. I feel more attached to things that aren’t new, and I love to think of how they may have lived in their previous life. Believe me when I tell you that I spend too much time thinking about super soirees and parties that my frock rocked on someone else. I guess finding ways to enjoy not fitting in easily has been a great boost to my confidence.
And women struggle with self-confidence. We see ourselves in the harshest light, and often we are threatened by other women that seem to have made a better job of being awesome than we have ourselves. It’s important to remember that this is not a competition. We are all unique, and on any given day we can be crawling on our knees or striding like we own the universe. We are capable, confident, vulnerable, productive, skilled, nurturing and beautiful in such a multitude of ways that judgement is just an unproductively minimising waste of precious breath, either of ourselves or our peers. I think the most destructive manifestation of this lack of confidence is the need for some to stand on others, just to look bigger, and better. Spending time making someone feel small so we can feel big by comparison, is really such an ugly thing, and I think, something most of us are capable and guilty of.
How about we own our own victories? While we may be all too aware of our shortcomings, instead of projecting these as failures into the shortfalls of our peers, how about we just focus on making ourselves feel brilliant by taking stock of our own achievements? I love to talk to women that are cleverer than me, work with women who are more talented than me, hang out with women that look better and younger than me, because they are awesome, and the positive energy you get from learning, and progressing in their company is just amazing. Let’s not put our sisters down, let’s raise them up. Let’s celebrate all the messy crazy awesome that is women, and find out what we can achieve if we support each other in our strengths.
I was recently incorporated into an established girl gang. We come from all places, and between us have almost every possible skill set covered. They are awesome and we talk daily in chat, about everything, nothing and lots in between. We support, advise, acknowledge, love, nurture and occasionally kick each other’s asses. They have my back, and you know what…it feels amazing! These girls recently bought me a belated 40th Birthday Tiffany bracelet, as I wasn’t part of the group when the 4 and 0 came upon me uninvited! It was such a touching gesture, and I am excited that finally, despite or maybe because of my clothes, I’m playdate acceptable.