Just a Day (or two) in the Life

Lest you think I am exaggerating about my way too hectic life, let me tell you about the past couple days.

Halloween: I’m still trying to finish costumes. Big got up and got dressed a little quicker than he has been lately.

(Which is not very ‘quick’. It’s really hard to convince yourself to get up early enough to catch the bus an hour and a half before the sun comes up.) They said no full face masks, so I decided to work on that later.

I also had to get Little up to go to the bus stop since Grandma was out of town.

I had just enough time to finish Little’s Robin mask before we had to go into town.

We got to the school just in time to watch the costume parade. There were several Batman’s, but Big was the only Adam West Batman.

Then Little and I had to take off, just in time to make it to my dentist appointment. Yes, I am crazy enough to see a dentist on Halloween.

After that we had time to get lunch, but Little was not hungry. And adamantly against buckling his seat belt.

(My kids have been having a prolonged battle with Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. This means that when they had boils on their hands and I had to keep them home, they were not behaving sick at all, but now we are dealing with appetite loss, crabby behavior, tired, coughing…)

He was willing to put it on to go to the thrift store, so yay! But after that stop, OMG I have never had such a seat belt battle before in my life. For starters, both of us are red heads. We are Very stubborn. He is dealing with all the aforementioned things, and it was just about naptime. He is getting big enough that physically putting him in against his will is not really a viable option, he knows what parts never to bend, and he knows how to wiggle out the other arm, etc. I ended up having to loosen the straps, get him in and tighten it down. And he still wiggled out, so I got him back in and tightened it more. Then he feel asleep before I even got out of the parking space.

I then stopped to get lunch, obviously I had to go to a drive thru. I hate fast food. I know I’m not alone, but I just don’t enjoy it.

After lunch I had to go to pick up Big from school. This also included picking up Winnie-The-Pooh.

A small battle over Little’s seat belt ensued. Then I had to rush to the train station to pick up my mom and grandmother. We have a small car and had to fit three adults (one wearing a walking boot), two kids in car seats, a suitcase, two pumpkins, a walker, and the stuff from the thrift store. Luckily I am very good at Tetris.

Then we rushed home to join the costume parade. We were just late enough that the traffic through town was stopped for the parade. Since we were stopped anyway, the kids and I (yes, from the middle of the backseat between two car seats) jumped out and walked to catch up with the parade. (I grabbed my Alfred coat, but that was all of my costume I grabbed, and couldn’t get Big’s cape or mask either.)

After that the day calmed down. When mom got to the costume contest I went back to the car to get the missing costume pieces, and got back just in time for the family contest. Afterwards we went to dinner at The Holler. Awesome, as always! After dinner we tried to decide whether or not to go to Cerrillos for Trick-or-Treating. Big was super excited and was annoyed when I said he needed a coat. I had just overheard someone saying that it was 16 degrees (Fahrenheit) when they got up. Yes, he needs a coat to go out. Little decided it was too cold before the coat argument even started. We only got around one block before Big decided to go back to the car, skipping over any houses on the way. (Granted this is a rural community, the blocks are big, with only a couple houses on each side.)

Day of the Dead:

Got up crazy early to get big on the bus. I don’t think I got back to bed that day, but we had to get to the gallery and get ready to move furniture. Yay. At two we were expecting a group of people to take a fridge to the ballpark. So we had to empty it, and then started working on clearing off a desk so we can move it.

So right around two: Big got home on the bus, the fridge movers came, the propane guy came to move a giant propane tank, we got a phone call about merchants association dues.

So mom goes to show the propane guy the tank, my grandma writes the check and waits for the guy, I get the kids settled and go realize that the door frame is too small for the fridge. We consider taking down the drywall covering the door that it was probably brought in through. But that goes through the rental unit, and would need to go out through a gate that’s probably also too small, or out the back door and past the propane tank. So we determined to just force it through the too small door. The fridge door came off with a little challenge. The kitchen door came off pretty easily. It’s still too big. So the door jam came off. That didn’t solve it. We had to remove screws because the head of the screw was too thick. That helped, but still did not solve it.

I ended up climbing over the refrigerator into the kitchen, including one of those ‘why women live longer’ in reverse. I stepped onto the dolly that was under the fridge I was trying to get over. I looked around all the places that my mom wearing the walking boot couldn’t get to. Nothing was stopping it, but I could see where it was wedged so I used my shoulder as a battering ram. Finally got it through.

Meanwhile the kids want snacks, so mom made corn dogs and passed them over the top of the fridge. The propane guy determined that he couldn’t move the tank, it was too far, so we need to get people and carry it. He capped off the gas line it was connected to. And the merchants association guy came to get the check.

Ok so we got the fridge to the truck, and roped in more help from the bar across the street. We had the dolly rolling up a ramp of two beams. I pulled it to the point where I had to get on the bed or get squished. I got up, I pulled to the point where the ramp pieces would flip up under the weight of the fridge. One flipped and the other didn’t. The fridge nearly slid off the side of the dolly, except that my arm was in the way. I don’t know what happened at that point, but it seemed that everyone thought they were done, but I had most of the weight on my arm. I had to call out to get them to get the fridge moving again. Everything turned out ok, but my arm has a rather significant bruise.

Ok, so then I went to get the kids because we were going to the Maize Maze in Albuquerque. Only Little took a nap. We went in, got a map, and stepped in to the maze. I decided to let the kids choose turns at random.

We succeeded in getting lost to the point where the map did not bear any resemblance to the maze. Since we got there kinda late, it was getting dark. Unsurprisingly the kids got cold and antsy after awhile. I decided to go back to the entrance just to get out and maintain the fun. After I made that choice we got out pretty quick…out the exit no less!

But the kids didn’t want to hang out, they wanted to go home. Which is fine since it was bedtime. But on the way to the car, Big threw up. Little had done that a few days before, I chalked it up to the cough from the Hand Foot and Mouth.

On the way home Big woke up screaming that his stomach hurt, the seat belt was too tight and that he couldn’t take it. I was really close to home, just had to go over the mountain. But I pulled over and took the seat belt off. He has had some stomach aches for the last several days. I wasn’t sure if it was just how he was sitting and squirming, but his stomach looked distended. I knew that could be a really bad sign and that I didn’t have a cell phone signal. So I had to buckle him back in (looser of course) and get home ASAP. I got home, brought him in, thankfully my mom was sitting right in the front room so I asked her to look at his belly while I got a sleeping Little out of the car. She agreed that Big looked distended, so we called 911. The first responders were helpful, but couldn’t tell us anything. The medical guys were able to tell us that it probably was not life threatening his vitals all looked good, but that he should probably go to the hospital just to be safe. My mom told them the story of my grandfather’s older brother who died of appendicitis before my grandfather was born. The doctor had said that everything was fine and was wrong.

So I drove Big into town while my mom stayed with Little. (So proud of Little: with all the chaos and being woken up getting out of the car, Little put himself to bed.) There is a new hospital in town, thankfully. The old one had a monopoly, so they never cared that everyone called them St. Victim’s. The new hospital is amazingly nice. I have had to accompany three people to the ER/Urgent Care since they opened about a year ago and I have never had a wait. Not that we got in before anyone, but that they just never have people waiting. They get you in right away. It is amazing.

So they got him triaged and into a room. The nurse who took the vitals seemed to think it was a stomach bug that has apparently been going around. But when the doctor came in and looked at the big belly, he was immediately concerned. He left immediately to order X-Rays. After that adventure with a very tired, shockingly co-operative child clearly in pain, they gave him an IV and waited for the results.

Big learned that there is no kids TV on at night. A strange concept to a child with access only to Netflix, VHS and DVDs

Turned out it was just a stomach bug, But it was a scary situation I never want to be in again.

Thanksgiving and Religion

I think it was fifth grade when I asked why the days we got off school for Thanksgiving were just called ‘Fall Break’. My mom asked me who people were giving thanks to. I had to think about it a minute. I knew that it must be a religious thing, since that is why it’s ‘Winter Break’ not ‘Christmas Break’ etc. It did not take me long to realize Mom was referring to God, but what took me awhile was the idea that I was supposed to be thanking a specific entity. It hadn’t ever really occurred to me. I just kind of give thanks to the world, luck, all of the people whose effort it took to bring the meal together, whatever. It never occurred to me that it was supposed to be directed any particular direction. I still don’t think that it needs to. I can be thankful without having any one thing, or person, or event to thank. 

For instance; I am thankful for my family. Who do I have to thank for that? Well let’s start with the recent past: I have to thank my husband for giving me my kids. I have to thank cancer for not taking people from me. I have to thank all of the other drivers on the road who have not killed my family members. I have to thank everyone who has made our society a more healthy place. I have to thank my parents for having me, and my husbands’ for having him. I have to thank their parents (this could keep going…). I have to thank whoever designed the school bus routes for my high school so that I could meet the boy who would become my husband. I have to thank my employers and everyone who employs my family. I could go way back in time to thank the people who moved to this country, and whoever set them up to take that path for whatever reason they did. I could talk about how thankful I am that this ‘tiny blue dot’ is able to sustain life, and how grateful I am to evolution, the stars, and the big bang.

I know that for many people “Thank God” is kind of the way to express that whole last paragraph, and that is fine. I prefer to think of it as an endless series of events that put me where I am today, this allows me to run through them and kind of say ‘thank you’ individually, or just give one big collective ‘thanks’ to the universe. 

 

I consider myself a bit of an outsider, an observer to the battle between religions that has been waging recently. When I was young, I was really very little aware of different religions, I only was really taught about Christmas, maybe a bit about Easter. I found it odd that some people did not celebrate Halloween, but hey, each to his own. I knew the concept of religion and that people believe differently, but I had no idea what they believed. It didn’t really make much of a difference, at that time it seemed like everyone was pretty okay with other people. That could be a young kid growing up with White Privilege on her side, but that is how it seemed to me. 

In middle school I started becoming more aware of politics and the state of the world. It was during this time also that 9/11 happened. The announcement that it was Muslim terrorists made very little difference to me. If I had really thought about that statement at all it would have been something like ‘Ok, so they happen to follow that religion, why mention it?’ Today I believe very much the same thing, but now I know why they mention it, because it is a scapegoat. The media tells us the answer so that we won’t go looking, and having a whole religion that reportedly wants to kill us is a great copout.

On that same note, this is not a ‘Christian Nation’. We are guaranteed freedom of religion under the constitution. This does not mean freedom of Christian religions, it means freedom of all religions. There is a lot of debate right now about the beliefs of the founding fathers, but some believe that not all of them were Christian. Throughout history, while newcomers to this country have been marginalized, they came for a new start, and many for that religious freedom. We are a nation of different people, different races, different sexualities, different ages, different beliefs, but we have all come together in a place that is better for our differences. It is this melting pot that keeps us fresh, and at the top of our game. It is the exposure to new things that allows us the ability to be the best. So why are we not the best right now? We have embarked down a dangerous road, in international policies, educational policies, climate policies, and civilian monitoring, we are limiting the very diversity that made us great. We need to stand up and make the changes that will allow us to use our greatest strength to our advantage again.

Fashion

With my obsession with clothing, it may come as a surprise that, while I do enjoy studying historical fashion trends, I find modern fashion largely uninteresting. Every once in a while something will pop up that I like, but usually it is something that references historical fashion. In casual conversation I usually just dismiss modern fashion as boring, which is the reason that I don’t really like it. But there is more to modern fashion that bothers me than that. Prices.

I do not, cannot, and  will not understand how brand names mean higher prices. The Louis Vatton bag looks the same to me as the one at wal-mart, except that the one at wal-mart I am not paying someone to advertise for them. The quality is no better than the cheap wal-mart version or the knock offs. I have had people argue this one to no end, but I do work with these things, I know what I am looking at. As far as I have seen, men’s suits and the fabrics they use is the only exception to this rule, but even then the nice fabrics that are worth a higher price do not always go with an expensive brand name.

I completely understand paying more for a better product, I understand paying the person who makes something what it costs for them to make it. I expect that. I charge more for my work than you could buy a Halloween costume at party city, but I make it out of sturdy materials, I make it to fit the customer, and I expect to be paid for my expertise and time, as well as the costs of materials. What I do not get is paying more money for the EXACT SAME PRODUCT. We are not talking a few dollars here, it is the difference between $20 and $500. The only difference is the big showy label that says “I paid way too much for this bag!”

Honestly if people choose to spend their hard-earned money in this way this is their business, not mine. It does become my business when people assume that ‘homemade’ means cheap. It is my business when people want me to make them a real Victorian corset for the same as they could buy a cheap Halloween costume ‘corset’. It is my business when people think that because I do not make these brand-name things that my labor is worth less than they would pay for that.

A Costume Designer’s Perspective on Halloween

In case you could not guess, I am a big fan of Halloween. Not because I can dress up, since I do that anyway (and at work it doesn’t matter, I still can’t.) It is because other people dress up, it’s like the one day that the population at large joins me in my world. It is special. This means that unfortunately I expect a lot of people. Looking online I see pictures of inspired, intricate costumes that took planning and dedication.

Last night and tonight I have been watching costumed guests pass through the lobby at the hotel. People put in time to get ready to go to their parties, they get all dressed up, they do their makeup, they do their hair. Some of them look pretty good. Sometimes they do themes for groups of friends. You know it’s a good day when a total stranger asks the only woman in the building who is not wearing any makeup how to apply pencil eyeliner.

That is what I want to see everywhere, and for some reason I am surprised every year when that is not what I see.  I know that for most people it’s just one night. They will throw something together at the last minute or buy something cheap off the shelves just to ‘get in the spirit’. This bothers me a little bit. It’s like they think that these cheap costumes that can only be worn once before they fall apart puts them in the same category, ‘people who dress up’. I find these cheap costumes insulting. When I make something I make it to last. Yes, to most people it’s just a costume,  but I value the time and effort. I value the care and dedication. People who wear these cheap costumes cheapen what I do. By using disposable costumes people tell me that what I do is worth no more than that.

More than that though, the problem that I have with these costumes is how sexist they have made this beautiful holiday. Women, and even girls, find that most of the costumes available are ‘sexy’ versions of something. Even the ‘original’ version is often unavailable. This makes it so that women have no other option than to try to be sexy. It is so pervasive today that even the homemade costumes usually lean this way. This year I have noticed several of these costumes with no more than underwear to cover the lower half!

Let me pause here to say that I have no problem with sexy costumes. I have no problem with women, or men, exposing their bodies. I do not believe that doing so inherently objectifies them. I do have a problem when a person’s sense of self-worth comes down to how others perceive them. I do have a problem with women being reduced to no more than their bodies. I do have a problem with having no choice but to dress provocatively. I do believe that this lack of choice objectifies people. They do not have a way to fully express themselves.

There is another problem that this revealing fad causes. Halloween falls during a time when it is getting colder outside. Girls are forced to choose between having the full effect of their costume or of staying warm. That is not healthy. Most girls grin and bear it. Most guys seem oblivious to it. Those that do take notice end up working for the girl, if they care. This means that women are put into a position of helplessness. They will wait inside while the boy goes to bring the car around, or she counts on his coat, or cape, or whatever.

Men, at least, have some choice in their costume type. But even that falls into certain categories, all of which are carefully chosen not to lose any semblance of masculinity. They can be funny, they can be scary, they can be sexy, or they can copy the original (as long as it is a manly thing). The other way that they can preserve their macho-ness is to not really dress up. I have seen many groups where the girls are done up all-out, while the guys just wear a t-shirt with a Velcro cape attached. Okay, I love those shirts, but I was honestly hoping that they would be an introduction to the everyday costume, not herald the end of dressing up.

On another, but related, note. I saw a costume of one of the monkeys, or whatever from The Bloodhound Gang video for The Bad Touch. I stopped myself from complimenting the reference because I realized what stereotype a woman who likes The Bloodhound Gang would fall into. I would instantly go from ‘responsible employee’ to ‘sex fiend’. I am a happily married woman, I like the music, and I find it funny.  If you listen to the music, it is all about sex, but it has never seemed to me to be necessarily about anything more than a guy who likes his girlfriend, which is fine. It is acceptable for a guy to make the reference, although the stereotype would probably lean towards ‘woman user’, since that is what most people think of the band. Unfortunately that stereotype is something that is acceptable, and even funny to most people.

Halloween symbolizes the best and worst of society. It brings out people’s creativity and individuality. But it also cements many popular trends. I am hopeful that I am wrong, and people do know the difference between a disposable costume and something that will last. I am hopeful that people will learn to escape the boxes that marketing and stereotypes have forced us into.

Happy Halloween everybody!

My Top 10 Halloween Movies

10. Shaun of the Dead

http://www.gstatic.com/tv/thumb/movieposters/34914/p34914_p_v7_aa.jpg

I am not a big zombie movie fan. This one I loved. Mostly because of the opening scene. The rest is honestly quite forgettable. The way that the routine actions of people are shown comments on how we are already zombies. Maybe that is why the cultural fascination. Or maybe it is because we need a break from our zombified existence and actual zombies is a fun and ironic way to do it.

This movie shows why we need escapist holidays like Halloween. It is the same reason that it is only after the zombie apocalypse that people take shape in the movie.

9. Sweeney Todd

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0408236/

This is definitely in the category of Tim Burton’s better works. I love musicals, and this one is not only haunting, but, like much of Stephen Sondheim’s work, very difficult. It is amazing that few, if any of the leads are trained singers. Johnny Depp did a phenomenal job, but Helena Bonham Carter really pulls the film together. I keep hoping to see the younger stars in something else, but I am still waiting.

This story is truly horror. The real monster is a human just like anyone else. And yet, it is not frightening. The portrayal is lighthearted enough to not have viewers on the edge of their seats. It is more of a view inside a disturbed mind. This is far more haunting. We realize that we can identify with other human beings, even ones as twisted as Todd.

8. Arsenic and Old Lace

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arsenic_and_Old_Lace_(film)

Speaking of twisted people who seem just like anyone else, meet the two nicest little old ladies you will only meet once. In many older movies you never see the monster, the fear is left up to your imagination. This is in that spirit, in a way. The monsters live among us. But you can’t really call these ladies monsters. They do what they do for all the right reasons.

On Halloween we extend our trust to people we have never met, and will probably never meet again. Some people take advantage of that, but most do all they can to be a good neighbor. This story is about two ladies who fall into the second category, but are the ones to be feared. They are just so nonchalant about it, you wonder how they ever get away with it!

7. Edward Scissorhands

http://www.gstatic.com/tv/thumb/movieposters/12902/p12902_p_v7_aa.jpg

Another Tim Burton/Johnny Depp entry, this one is in some ways the exact opposite of Sweeney Todd. Edward looks like a monster, but he just has the sweetest heart. Vincent Price, part of so many of Hollywood’s golden age of monsters, is the kind, yet lonely inventor of Edward, whose heart is made from a sugar cookie.

This film comments on how much importance society puts on physical appearance. Initially the neighbors are curious about the strange newcomer, but they quickly change their tune at the first hint that he has any negative intentions. While there is no actual villain in the movie, there are several people whose intentions are less than admirable, and yet are permitted to remain part of the neighborhood.

5. & 6. Hotel TransylvaniaHotel Transylvania 2

http://www.gracehillmedia.com/portfolio-posts/hotel-transylvania/

These are just too cute not to have on this list. Monsters have deliberately recoiled from humans, because humans would not accept them. The monsters have hid so long that the stories take place in a time when the supernatural is not to be feared, but rather idolized. Now it is up to the monsters to accept the humans.

These movies deal with the idea of acceptance, but in a way that is not about ‘real’ topics. This is a kids movie, and makes a fun way to introduce these ideas to kids, under the guise of just a fun movie.

4. The Addams Family

http://variety.com/2013/film/news/addams-family-reborn-as-animated-movie-at-mgm-exclusive-1200781652/

This movie is so quintessentially Halloween it is almost hard to discuss. Every person in the film is twisted in their own way. The Addams are awesome because they don’t try to hide it.

This movie is all about being yourself. This is a common theme throughout the lore, but since this one is about Fester’s faked return, and eventual real return it is even more present. There is no reason not to be who you are.

3. Young Frankenstein

http://www.gstatic.com/tv/thumb/movieposters/4687/p4687_p_v7_aa.jpg

Frau Blücher. If you have seen it, you know what comes next. In Mel Brooks’ overly campy style, this is tops. Jokes repeated so often that they aren’t even funny anymore still manage to be hilarious. This is about the descendant of the original Dr. Frankenstein, who prefers to be known as Dr. ‘Fronkonsteen’. (Original spelling from the script.) The young doctor inherits the old family mansion and follows in the family footsteps. (Walk THIS way) In the end he realizes that he is a proud Frankenstein.

This movie plays with so many concepts and turns them on their head. This is really a fun escape from everything, while we play in the world of monsters. Not really for kids, most ‘adult’ jokes will go right over their heads. That said, I was nervous to watch it as a kid because it seemed like it would be scary. Because Brooks is making fun of the old Hollywood style, there are some moments that have the tension, but it is broken with a joke almost immediately.

2. Nightmare Before Christmas

http://www.gstatic.com/tv/thumb/movieposters/15096/p15096_p_v7_aa.jpg

Being a Halloween list, you get not one, not two, but three Tim Burton movies. This is the first one of his movies I ever saw, and is the benchmark that I hold him to. When the Pumpkin King learns about Christmas, he thinks that he has found what he has been missing. He gets all of Halloween town to make Christmas their own. I seriously wish that some of the toys they made for the kids were available. Okay not in the full magic attacking mode, but real plushies, jack-in-the-boxes, etc.

This movie is about the yearning that we all have to do something different, the craving for adventure. In the end though, it is about learning to love yourself. It is only after Jack does that, that he finds love for another.

1. Rocky Horror

http://www.wktv.com/news/Rocky_Horror_Picture_Show__Rocktail_Party_arrives_at_the_Stanley.html

By now you have probably noticed that I do not like scary movies. Most of these have been for kids. This one is decidedly not. If you are ready to have some important conversations with your kids, feel free to try it, I’m not one to say don’t. I love this movie and the “f— what you think, I am doing things my way” attitude.

My introduction to this movie was honestly the most scary part of the movie for me. I went into the room where my mother was watching it. The first thing I see is Susan Sarandon running around in her bra and a torn off slip showing her underwear to the world. Keep in mind the only movie that I knew the actress from was Little Women. I left my mother to watch whatever this was in private and went back upstairs. Once I watched the movie though, I was hooked. I have seen three different live productions, and watched the movie in theaters a few times too. After a long night of trick-or-treating, nothing quite ties up the night like Rocky Horror.

Freedom of Expression; Costumes and Dress Codes

A few days ago I was reading a blog by a teacher about the day after Halloween. I did not save the link, and I should have. One of the students wore a cape to school that day. The teacher kept considering telling the child to take it off, but she noticed that a child who is normally awkward and clumsy was far more confident. The article seemed to be written in order to pride herself on doing a great thing for this kid, as it seemed to help him in the future as well. No students even mentioned the cape, although teachers did do a double take. I think that all of this is great. But in the end, the teacher, while she did compliment the cape, told him not to wear it again. I cannot figure out why.

I wore costumes to school every day. I got a lot of flak for it from my peers, but it allowed me to be who I am. In high school, people who did not know me by name knew me as Little Red Riding Hood because I always wore a red cape that I had made. Today there is a lot of discussion about school dress codes. They are being attacked for being sexist, and even for creating the very over-sexualized environment they were created to fight. I agree with all of those points. The rules are often stated in ways that target girls more than boys. They are nearly always more strictly enforced with girls than with boys. By making such a big deal of it, we are teaching young kids to look at one another’s clothing and bodies and question “Is that enough clothing”, “Shouldn’t they cover up more?”, and “Why, what is wrong with this outfit that I have to change?” We are saying that what they wear is more important that who they are, and more important than why they are at school.

Some of the rules are unfair to certain body types. In my district short and skirt lengths were determined by arm length. A silly rule since some girls were completely within regulations and still showed ass when they sat down, while I broke that without ever being questioned since my skirt was plenty long because my arms are long.

This is not the message we should be sending kids. We need to be encouraging them to look beyond the clothes, and beyond the body to what a person is really made of. When we focus on the clothes, the person gets lost. This encourages people in our society to dehumanize one another. This allows people to do things to people without feeling regret. Whether that action is teasing in school, or physically assaulting someone. We live in a society where we do not have the luxury to personally meet everyone that we interact with. This means that we cannot afford to make any of the interactions we practice with those we do know contribute to that dehumanizing effect.

The point of many dress codes is to avoid ‘distractions’. This is ridiculous. The fact that a girl’s skirt is a little short, or that a boy’s pants are too baggy (showing my age a bit) should not be allowed to be a distraction in the first place. A teacher notices that someone is leering, call them out. If they persist, they should be sent to the office. Not the person they were looking at. We should not be teaching children that others, girls especially, should cover up so that people looking at them can feel more comfortable. We need to be teaching children that people have different tastes and make different decisions. We need to be teaching children that they are responsible for their own actions.

I went to a middle school with a more extreme dress code, called a Uniform Code of Dress. It was not quite a uniform, but very close. We had 2 colors of pants or skirts we were permitted to wear, in one style, and 5 colors of polo shirts. This was initially instituted to prevent students from wearing gang colors. My friends and I were so out of touch with that world that we could not even tell you the names of the gangs active in our area, let alone what their colors or signs were. I would probably have worn gang colors a lot without realizing it, as many people do.

This system ended up in a lot more time tied up in determining if students were within regulations or not. Not only were we measuring if the girl’s skirts were actually longer than their finger tips to also trying to determine if someone’s pants were the right color. My first dying project was adding coffee to the washing machine while washing a slightly lighter skirt that had been called white too many times to make it more khaki. After I left the school, it was decided to keep the style restrictions, but lift the color rules. So the entire reason for the Uniform Code of Dress was thrown out the window.

During this period I was very frustrated with the rules because I could not express myself. I took to wearing what I call “happy socks”, or the ones with bright colors, pictures, or separate toes. I took a lot of time braiding my hair on the car ride in so that it was as weird as possible. In trying to find ways to express myself I tested the limits that no-one had thought to make. But I also lost something. The goal was not about me being me, but rather about being strange or drawing attention to myself. I still wear the happy socks, but the hair took too much work, and did not really mean anything to me. Later I turned to doing elaborate masks in makeup, which worked when I had an hour and a half bus ride each morning, not so much once I started driving. I kind of miss the masks.

There is another issue that is gaining attention these days. Gender identity. I think that this ties in perfectly with this topic. In high school I had a gay friend choose to wear a skirt one day. I honestly did not even notice it until he mentioned at lunch how much shit he was getting. He had chosen to do it in part to find out what the reaction was. He committed to going a full week. Of course when he stopped, the people around him may have felt like they won, but there is no point in continuing something on the principle of proving someone wrong.

I do believe that clothing is a key way to express who you are. I look back on that as inspiration to be myself no matter what since I cannot wear costumes to work every day. These days wearing a full costume is rare because I am lazy and getting all dressed up to go shopping doesn’t really feel worth it. Childhood is a special time, you do not have to worry about what bosses or clients think. If we allow children to express themselves when they are young, they will be more accepting when they are older, and they will have a better concept of who they are. I do not think that expression should be restricted unnecessarily, to me it is a part of Freedom of Speech. It is a human right.