When I was in college, you're not going to freaking believe this, but I wasn't a clothes girl. I just wasn't. Sure, I had been best dressed in high school. Sure, I was raised by a Southern woman who made sure I knew that I wasn't to leave the house without make-up and the bigger the hairbow, the better. But when I got to college, I put all that aside and dedicated myself to the higher mind. You know, like you do. If you are pretentious little twat who doesn't know any better.
College was also a time when I didn't have any money. Like no money. And that's normal for a lot of college students, I guess, but it seemed abnormal in my bougie school. The fact that I had a job (a full-time one, natch) was nearly unheard of among my fellow English majors. But, you know, we're not exactly the most grounded people. So while they sat around and lamented the fact that their parents wouldn't spring for the new-fangled iPods that had started to pop up around campus, I was sitting in the floor, coloring in the bleach stains on my work pants with a black Sharpie.
There was a day every year, though, that made me rethink my high minded, anti materialistic stance. And that day was the first day of spring. It seemed that like magic, every year, there would be one day where the winter was turned off and the sun came on and everything was glorious. And as if by the same magic, every girl on campus, would suddenly be outfitted perfectly. I had no idea how they did it--if these things were planned weeks in advance. But one would look around and everyone would have on these perfect sundresses and cardigans and sunglasses and legs would be tanned and hair would be streaked and there was an ease in the whole thing that I have never felt with anything ever. It was a moment when you didn't know whether to curse them, fall to the bricked sidewalks crying or praise their otherworldliness.
One year, I remember in particular. I was a junior or senior, living off campus. I came to school and parked illegally in the faculty and staff lot as I was wont to do. I was walking to campus, struggling with the messenger bag that had seemed like a good idea before it was laden with a couple Norton Critical Anthologies and wearing these sort of ridiculous Doc Marten mary janes that I had, a pair of wide legged green khakis and a really unfortunate button up shirt that I imagine was the exact pattern of some junior level Old Navy designer's grandmother's wallpaper. And then I felt the heat off the sidewalk and I knew what I was walking into, and I vaguely considered going right back to the car. Sure enough, I looked up, and there was this gorgeous being in front of me, wearing something Lilly Pulitzer and smiling. She was exactly everything that I was not, and for that fleeting moment, I would have given up all the understanding of Tolstoy that I had tried so, so hard to garner to just feel the sun the way it shone on the shoulders of her sheath dress.
So here, I am, all those years later. I work at the college now. I can buy sheath dresses now and I know that those purchases do not interfere with my ability to understand modernism. And although I work off campus, I took the time to drive to campus on that first warm day (Monday) and step onto the sunken gardens. Yeah, nothing's changed. There's still a little bit of magic there, a feeling of this unattainable natural perfection, a feeling that given the choice of anywhere in the world, you'd pick that place, that moment, that grass beneath your feet, that breeze tugging at your dress hem. The 20 year old's haven't changed either, bedecked in spring finery, except now I am reminded of how young they really are. And despite the fact that I was also wearing a colorful dress, no tights, and new shoes, I felt the same girl beside them, the Doc Marten girl, the sharpie in the bathroom floor girl.
I will never not be that hot mess girl in some ways. I know that. I have made my peace with it, I guess, and moved on. I look at my 3 year old, whose spring wardrobe I have cultivated with fervent eBay purchasing for most of the latter part of winter, and hope that she will someday walk out on the gardens on that first warm day, feeling and looking like sunshine. In this way, I am not so unlike the overweight t-shirted mom's on Toddlers and Tiaras I guess, but I condone my own foolishness. Allie condones too, as she has become a girl in love with the seasons, and as always, a girl in love with reinvention.
I used to be a girl taken by winter and the dark, but I am no more. I am the sunroof-open-Mariah-Carey-on-the-radio girl. And it is rather glorious. You guys, I'm not even going to front right now: I am wearing a pair of black eyelet SHORTS as I write this. SHORTS, YA'LL. This morning when I walked out of the bedroom in these and my 4 inch heels, bless his heart, but E looked at me in his own bleary eyed way and said "Oh, you can wear shorts to work on Friday?" First off, it's THURSDAY, dear, and second off, "These are formal shorts." WHICH ARE A THING. DO NOT MAKE ME TELL YOU WHAT AN ARM PARTY IS.
And sometimes, I think, maybe I have a little bit more of those perfect girls in me than I thought. Sometimes I can feel a bit of the ease, a bit of the confidence, a bit of the sun. It took me 10 extra years to get there. But, as with most things, it has been worth the wait.