I believe our bodies tell stories; the way we carry ourselves tells the world who we are. Some of it we can control, some of it we can’t, but I’d like to think I’m moving towards presenting myself with greater intention and telling my story with greater confidence.
I was brought up in a resolutely secular household by an atheist-raised-Quaker single mom. The ethic was writ large, even if the Protestantism wasn’t: “Waste not want not” and “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” Believe it or not, I was pegged early on as the fancy one in the family: the one who took good care of her belongings, could pick out a cashmere sweater on the thrift store rack from the other side of the room, the only one who considered shopping fun. These days I’m well aware that there are already enough clothes in the world to keep us all covered for many, many generations. I find waste and extravagance stressful, but I have a hard time with repetition/routine and love trying new things. Hence my love for vintage and secondhand, along with ongoing feelings of guilt for buying new, rate of churn, etc.
We were also a pretty gender-neutral or gender-skeptical family. My role models were all second-wave feminists and back-to-the-land types so there was never much pressure to be ladylike, nor any guidance for how to do so had I wanted to. Because I didn’t learn the conventions early, I sometimes have a hard time reading things as masculine or feminine. Growing up there was normal (round-toed flat shoes, collared shirts, crewneck tees, jeans that hang straight down) and not-normal (pointy or heeled shoes, soft/drapey fabrics, embellishment, pants that reveal the legs’ contours). I still don't really know how to wear the not-normal stuff. I also didn’t know a thing about make-up or hair until I got involved in theater and film as a teen. I came to appreciate them as skills with a specific application -- creating a character -- rather than as hobbies or part of a daily routine.
My background has also led me to believe in and strive for, at a minimum, equity: safe workplaces, fair pay, everyone deserves to have their needs met, and we’d do well to treat other living things as our equals. I know we can’t shop our way to a world where that’s the case, but creating little bits of beauty out of daily essentials -- food, shelter, clothes -- that’s a good place to go when the bigger struggles get me down.
In objects, I value form within function, but rarely form for its own sake. This is why I get so excited about good gear, stuff that performs. I do have a hard time settling for something that I find ugly even if it’s adequately functional, but I almost never buy something just because I think it’s pretty. It has to serve its purpose. And sometimes fun/pretty is the purpose -- that’s me rebelling against my protestant New England ancestors!
In people, I value curiosity and candor. Pretty sure this is why I enjoy working with children; they can’t help but be curious and candid. “Ask questions, tell the truth” would be a good motto if I felt I needed a motto (and yes, I considered journalism too). In style, I guess this plays out as loving to explore new things, but within the realm of what feels authentic. Creating a character is one thing, but there are certain roles in which I’d never cast myself.
Introverted but adventurous, contemplative but restless, I love change, experimentation, and novelty (can’t bear to keep buying the same old toothpaste over and over); but I also have a luddite side that loves heritage, tradition, forgotten skills, and old ways of knowing. I do not enjoy small talk, formalities, or trying to read people, but I crave new experiences and love to be “out in the world” whether surrounded by culture or by nature.
I test as a Myers-Briggs INTP or INFP, depending on the day. I am an Enneagram 4w5 or 5w4; I derive satisfaction from thorough analysis and from creative expression. I'd have a hard time not moving back and forth between critic mode and creator mode. I’m both a cat person and a dog person; never force me to choose! Curiosity and independence on one hand, candor and loyalty on the other. In school, I was equally happy hanging out with the nerds, the punks and metalheads, and the arty kids (theater, band, and studio), but never fully identified with any single group. I tend to exist on the periphery of social groups rather than at their center. I like liminal spaces, am naturally skeptical and rebellious and have a hard time not doing things my own way. Herd mentality and in-group thinking make me distinctly uncomfortable, which for a long time made me think I couldn’t “do” fashion and style. Understanding that stylish isn’t synonymous with trendy was a really big breakthrough for me when I was younger, as was getting a better handle on the socioeconomics of trends and realizing that what's "in" and what's "out" isn't as inscrutable or superfluous as it seems. I'm a big-picture thinker with a quiet independent streak and a hefty dose of pragmatism. And if that's somewhat visible to others, then I'm happy with how I look.
(To anyone who made it this far, thanks for reading!)