I don’t know if this is an actual insult or one simply used for comedic effect but “Your momma dresses you funny!” is something my classmates at Our Lady of Perpetual Hellish Misery* would have lobbed at me if they had known about it, probably.
I was mostly dressed wrong from the first grade on. I couldn’t even get my school uniform right. Everybody else had Tretorns, I had Reeboks. While the other girls had Liz Claiborne purses I had this pink and white number from a discount store. Frankly, we didn’t have a ton of money when I was growing up for me to have expensive and fashionable clothing and I spent a lot of time trying to mangle my wardrobe into something that vaguely resembled the pages of Sassy magazine.**
My mother had this idea of what I should look like, and I had this idea of what I should look like and she usually won out because she had the checkbook and I didn’t want to rock the boat. I remember showing up to a sports banquet wearing pink trousers held up by madras plaid suspenders and a pale turquoise button down oxford. I probably had a perm. Everybody else was wearing Guess! jeans and sneakers and I had on suspenders.
One year, she wanted to have a skirt made for me for the Valentine’s Day dance in junior high. It was incredibly kind of her and its something my grandmother would’ve done for her if she was going to a dance. I’m not sure why I thought it would be a better idea than just buying something off the rack. Maybe because I got to look at patterns and fabric? I picked out a short three-tiered number in red cotton covered in tiny white hearts, a wide white elastic belt with plastic heart buttons to fasten it, and – the piece de resistance – a white t-shirt complete with shoulder pads and red ribbon bows. I thought I looked pretty cute at the time. However, I spent the entire night pining for my crush to ask me to dance and when he asked my best friend to dance instead, I sat on the hay bale (why were there hay bales at a dance in February?) while “Love Bites” blared through the darkened school gym, feeling hot and uncomfortable and fighting back tears. I still can’t listen to that stupid song without feeling just a little bit pathetic.
I have spent most of my life feeling vastly un-dressed for the occasion. Except for the odd wedding or birthday dinner, I look around at some point during the evening and wish I’d worn something else entirely.
*Name of the school has been changed to protect the guilty sinners.
** This was back when Sassy was a hipper edgier version of the pop-color washed out drivel it became later. Do they even publish that magazine anymore…?