Alessia Cara, Mom & a guy on Facebook
I have always struggled with how I look. My style veers between comfy mom jeans to flower child hippie to vintage apparel to couch potato. I’m horribly allergic to eye makeup so I wear none after waking up one morning and questioning why I was torturing myself for the sake of Fifth Avenue. My arches curve too high so anything with a heel gives me pain so flats are my mode of transportation. And when pantyhose went out of style I threw a parade.
I’m a writer so I work out of my home unless I’m giving a speech or traveling, and yes, I unapologetically wear my pajamas until lunch and it includes my favorite ratty robe, although I do cough when the UPS man arrives so he thinks I’m home sick. But on a daily basis I’m usually in jeans, yoga pants and T-shirts. Converses and Vans are my favorite shoes.
Naturally, my mom wishes I would dress up more. I once showed up at her house after teaching my lifewriting class and was doned in nice pants and a top and she wouldn’t stop fawning over me.
“I’m just amazed,” she said with a laugh. “You look so good, I hardly recognized you.”
Statements like that hit a target like an arrow. I’ve been hearing them my whole life. I once had a female coworker who was appalled that I wore no makeup, heard her ragging on me over a cubicle. I’ve always wondered how my lack of eye shadow concerned her, but when you consider how bombarded we are by images of how women should look, I get it. And it’s no wonder women buy into this, feeling less of themselves if they don’t appear like the models in magazines.
Don’t get me wrong. Women should dress the way they feel, even if that mirrors Vogue. But the key word here is “feel.” If you don’t feel like wearing a dress and heels to a party, then wear what makes you happy. At least, that’s how I see it.
Or not. Because that old self-doubt rears its ugly head.
I woke up this morning to someone posting a dapper guy speaking on Facebook. He grew up struggling, or so he says, and his aunt owned lots of nice things that she only used on special occasions. Then she died, and those things were never used. His point was wear your fancy clothes every day as if each morning was the start of a party.
So, I started thinking as I always do that maybe my relaxed, comfortable existence isn’t good enough. My mom’s voice floated through my head, the unused makeup I use for special occasions beckoned me, the heels at the back of my closet that kill my feet called out. I could hear it all like a chorus, “You’re not good enough unless you look this way.”
But then, Alessia Cara saved me. I watched a segment of the young singer-songwriter on CBS’ “Sunday Morning” and felt renewed, encouraged, inspired. She dressed down for last year’s Video Music Awards show and got slammed on social media. Someone wrote, "Well, you're not supposed to be dressing like that at an award show, how dare you?"
On “Sunday Morning,” she replied, “It's crazy to them that I have flaws and that I'm showing my flaws to the world. I have a lot of moms, which is funny, commenting on my things."
"This from moms?" the reporter asked.
“From moms! 'Cause of course I always look at their page. And it's for the most part, like, older women who probably were told that they need to look a certain way their whole life, and probably have daughters that are told this. But it reminds me that I need to keep doing what I'm doing because I want to change these people's minds."
I’ll likely wear nice things to visit my mom and not dye my hair purple at Mardi Gras, at least while she’s alive. But I’ll wear what I want, skip the makeup and heels and forgo dresses and those girly girl things that never worked for me. I’ll embrace my own style because it makes me feel good and if it doesn’t fit society’s version of what a woman should look like, or that I’m dressing for a party every day, then so be it.
Instead, I’m listening to Alessia Cara.
She craves attention, she praises an image She prays to be sculpted by the sculptor Oh, she don't see the light that's shining Deeper than the eyes can find it Maybe we have made her blind So she tries to cover up her pain and cut her woes away 'Cause cover girls don't cry after their face is made.
Because we’re all beautiful just the way we are.
Watch her video of “Scars to Beautiful” here.
P.S. That line my mom said? I put it in one of my novels. :)