Today I am going to share with you how a pair of leggings taught me a very important lesson this week.
When I was younger, and the trend of wearing leggings as pants first was becoming popular, I was very critical of it. I was horrified every time I saw a girl who was putting on display, quite visibly, a clear view of her assets. I remember first really becoming aware of this when we were in the UK (you can see about my trip here if you missed last week’s post). I thought maybe it was just a European thing, but I was quickly disabused of this notion as it spread like wildfire through the US.
If you have ever looked at my fashion blog, you will already be aware that I am a hypocrite. As time passed, I slowly began to warm up to the idea of leggings. Because, really, they are ridiculously comfortable. I admittedly wear them all the time now. As a matter of fact, I wore them yesterday. I do have certain rules for legging wearing; my top must be longer than my hindquarters, and it generally needs to be loose. I am not a supermodel and I do not have anything I think needs showing off.
And this brings me to my point. I work, as I have mentioned, at a daycare near my college. This daycare is actually inside, and run by, a local church. On Tuesday, after I had finished my normal job, one of the ladies that work with the church had asked me to stay and watch a couple of kids while some women of the church had a special dinner. As a free meal, including a delightful sopapilla cheesecake, came with the task, I was only too happy to help (I am fully aware that things like sopapilla cheesecake are probably the reason I don’t feel confident enough to wear leggings as pants).
There was a very large turn-out, but I think there was only a handful of women there who were under the age of sixty. Many elderly women are wise, and they’ve come to the age where appearance no longer concerns them. Therefore, there was an interesting range of outfits gracing the women there. But by far the best examples I saw were as follows: a woman with an unashamed mullet, another elderly lady in a flame-red, low-cut blouse, and ( my favorite) a woman who had to be nearly the same age as my grandmother wearing leggings as pants.
Completely and unabashedly wearing them. She clearly didn’t abide by the same leggings rules as me; her shirt cut cheerfully off right at her waist and nothing stood between everyone’s eyes and the assets she’d been born with but a pair of black leggings. I admit, for the rest of the evening I was simply a little bewildered by this, and I was inclined to go right home and blog about how awful leggings purely as pants were. But the more I thought about it, the more I approved. That lady was rocking those leggings; she could clearly have cared less if anyone else approved, just like the lady with the mullet and the silk blouse. They obviously were comfortable with themselves, so why shouldn’t I be?
I felt ashamed for my initial, tentative judginess. Especially after what happened to me on Monday.
I wanted to blog last Thursday, because I had had such a fantastic day. Sometimes, it seems like you have those days were everything goes right, people are being extra nice to you, you’re in a great mood and you just feel like you’ve really got it together. Thursday was one of those days. And then, you have days where you’re annoyed and don’t know why, people seem to be going out of their way to be rude, something unjust usually happens, and your feelings inevitably end up hurt. Monday was one of those days.
I wanted to blog about it, but I am the type of person who needs to lick my wounds in private. When I get upset, I need to have time to myself to sort it out before I can talk about it. I wasn’t ready on Monday; so I decided to post about something that made me really happy, which was my trip to Europe. I’ve finally sucked it up and got over having my feelings hurt (something that happens to me a little too easily, which I’m trying to work on), and realized what happened was good for me.
On Mondays, I have an evening class that lasts for two and a half hours. I know I have mentioned repeatedly that I’m majoring in English, but I don’t think I’ve said that I’m also minoring in Spanish. It was a very last minute decision, and is only possible because I am taking Intermediate and Advanced Spanish at the same time. It’s somewhat stressful; it means I am a year behind everybody in my advanced Spanish class. So on Monday, I’d already been having an unpleasant day, and then I went to my Spanish class, which is always a trial. The final straw came when one of my friends in class shared something with me. As I mentioned, I have a fashion blog. It’s something I love to do and which is really important to me. It’s also something that makes me feel pretty vulnerable. I mean, it’s a bargain fashion blog, and I am by no means claiming to be wearing haute couture. I also fully recognize that I have a somewhat quirky sense of style that doesn’t appeal to everyone. But the people I know never mention if they don’t like my clothes.
On Monday, my friend, who is an education major and is subsequently doing a practicum with one of the English teachers at our college, told me that the professor had used my fashion blog as an example in one of her freshman writing classes. I was so excited and felt so flattered; the professor who did this is one of my favorites and I respect her so much. I was thrilled she thought it was good enough to mention in class. My bad day had suddenly seemed a little brighter. But then my friend continued telling me about the experience, and she mentioned that there had been a girl in class who kept saying “ew” every time the professor scrolled past one of my outfits.
I never realized before just how cutting a simple “ew” can be.
I have always known that by choosing to do something that requires me to submit my personal opinions to others, I created a situation that was rife with the possibility of criticism and judgement. I’ve just been lucky so far that I’ve never really been forced to face that (the internet can be a wonderful buffer). The whole time I was hearing this story, I was just trying to brush it off and pretend like I was dismissive or annoyed more than anything, when really I felt a little like I’d been punched. I actually felt a little bit like Keira Knightley in Pride & Prejudice when she overhears Mr. Darcy criticizing her to Mr. Bingley. She makes a scornful joke about Darcy to Charlotte, acting like she was glad he didn’t approve of her, but you can see in her face that she is stung.
Do you see her face?! That is definitely an “OH NO YOU DIDN’T” face. In case you were wondering, Pride & Prejudice is my favorite movie. I see some unfortunate similarities between myself and Elizabeth Bennet; I had a tendency to be incredibly judgmental and self-righteous when I was younger, and I’ve worked very hard as I’ve grown to be better about that. But every once in a while, I catch myself doing it again. I also have discovered an alarming deal of pride in myself that leaves me very vulnerable to criticism. I have found that I think I’m a pretty nice person, and I want people to always like me and it makes my stomach hurt a little when they don’t.
This is why I was even more ashamed of myself when I thought of my initial reaction to poke fun at the lovely ladies of the church supper. Just three days before I had almost teared up because some girl I didn’t know at all and wouldn’t recognize if we came face to face hadn’t liked my clothes. I wanted to be incredibly angry and find out her name just so I could hate and judge her from afar, like Elizabeth does to Mr. Darcy. In fact, I wanted to walk up to her, look her over disdainfully, and then say a simple “ew.” This is how I imagined it would go:
But I realized, insulting her wouldn’t make her like my clothes. Sure, it’d make me feel better for a minute, but do you see Elizabeth’s face towards the end there? Her feelings are still clearly hurt. And that’s the thing about fashion- it’s intensely, incredibly personal. I think people’s fashion choices can be one of the best ways to display their unique, individual self. That girl had every right to not like my clothes. But since fashion is so often such a representation of our inner selves, when people don’t like it it feels like they don’t like our very selves. And that’s why I do think it was poor etiquette to so rudely express her difference of taste. But I like to believe she wouldn’t have done it to my face, just like Darcy doesn’t mean for Elizabeth to hear him. So I restrained myself from asking who that girl was, and I was proud of that (there’s the pride part).
But then I turned right around and almost did the same thing I had condemned in someone else; I judged someone for their fashion choices and thought about expressing my disapproval at their expense. I realized I had been mildly prejudiced against an old lady because she was wearing leggings. And it seemed so ridiculous when I considered, because I WORE LEGGINGS TWO DAYS LATER. I should be the greatest advocate of people making their own fashion choices; I’ve said repeatedly on my blog that it doesn’t really matter what you wear as long as you feel beautiful in it. But a pair of leggings showed me I shouldn’t be quite so proud of what a great person I am. And that’s the valuable lesson I took from all of this, that we never can become complacent in our own goodness; we need to always be working to love our fellow man and respect their right to make choices as fiercely as we guard our own right to do the very same.
Is it any wonder I love that movie so much? It really is amazing how often I find parallels between it and my own life. Ironically though, I dislike the actual Jane Austen novel. I honestly don’t feel like Elizabeth really loves Darcy that much, and considering I find him to be one of the greatest heroes of all time, I always felt he deserved better than what Elizabeth seemed to feel for him in the novel. I actually don’t really like any of the Austen novels I’ve read. But seriously guys, don’t tell anyone I said that. I feel like I would get my English major card revoked if that were to get out.
A final note on Pride and Prejudice, I was absolutely fangirling (is this the correct term?) over this article I read the other day, which says that they are recreating the Netherfield Ball from Pride and Prejudice in honor of its 200th anniversary. I would probably sell a kidney to be able to participate in that. My final piece of nerd business over Pride and Prejudice concerns a video series I recently got into called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. It’s a webseries on YouTube that has recreated Pride and Prejudice in modern day life. It’s really super awesome, but I need to warn you it’s also super addictive. It also has 85 episodes now, so be warned. I ended up spending literally an entire night watching videos. It sucked me in.
So anyway, that’s how a pair of leggings taught me a valuable lesson. Also, just a fun note, for some reason every time I try to type the word “leggings,” I first type it as “leggins” and then have to go back and fix it. This happens pretty much every single time. It made writing the post a little difficult.
PS Is using English for my goodbye cheating a little bit? Probably. But this post is about Pride and Prejudice, and P&P is quintessentially English.