An Ode To the Cafeteria Girls

Summer before fifth grade I started my very own fashion blog, embarrassingly titled “Chunky Funky Monkeys”. That year I wore polka dot dresses with striped tights, already acknowledging  the way in which my classmates would treat me. I began to regret wearing a certain outfit to school, wishing I’d opted for jean shorts and a t-shirt; at least I’d be able to sit comfortably without judgmental stares.

This feeling of regret and clothing anxiety never quite left me. It never quite left me, because I didn’t let it. Despite knowing my classmates’ ultimate distaste in the way I presented myself, I’d wake up, put on rainbow knee high socks, along with rainbow Converse, and of course rainbow suspenders, and walk myself into school.

Dressing the way I want is the only way I know how to survive. I knew my peers didn’t read Seventeen Magazine, and they didn’t copy looks from their favorite TV shows, because they didn’t care. And that’s something I’ve always done – cared. Maybe a little too much at times.

That was fifth grade me. Today I am eighteen, and I still care, and you know damn well I’m up late at night looking at outfits to recreate from Man Repeller and Vogue. Fashion is and has always been a part of who I am, which is why, many times throughout high school, I lost sight of who I was.

To sum it all up I learned to shrink myself in order to let other people live. I learned that even at eighteen years old, people won’t stop making comments about your outfits; no one is mature enough to have a conversation without the use of shit-talking. I learned that being myself made people so uncomfortable their only tactic was to be downright mean.

And all this on the basis of clothing. I dressed “weird” apparently, although what was considered weird was often what I was replicating from the most recent fashion week. Although what was considered weird was just praised in fashion magazines last week. Although I was wearing my feel-good shirt from my favorite antique store, how dare I show up to school like that?

Something that always made me nervous was getting up to throw my trash away at lunch. I was an open target, walking down the never-ending aisle, towards my ultimate demise. Tables full of whispering girls – guys too – ones who would jump on the opportunity to judge me for taking a breath the wrong way. Was my outfit too weird? Should I have worn shorter shoes? Should I turn around and run back to my table and hope no one saw me walk up at all?

This is to the cafeteria girls, and the locker room girls, and the bathroom girls, the ones who whisper and laugh just quiet enough for you not to hear, but obnoxious enough to know it’s about you. The ones who compliment your outfit then turn around and laugh, the ones who will stare at you because you dyed your hair red. How dare you dye your hair red.

I say fuck the cafeteria girls. Stare right back at them.

As I mentioned before, sometimes you will be in environments where you’re surrounded by people who are so uncomfortable in their skin, they force you to feel small. Don’t be small; make a grand entrance, everyday. Whether it’s your clothes, your hair, your sexuality, your body, your beliefs, yourself as a whole, be GRAND, be BIG, MAKE other people feel uncomfortable. If they can’t coexist beside you, then it’s not your responsibility to make them feel okay by being someone you’re not.

THIS is why I made Thrifts and Prints, because if I gave up those polka dot dresses in fifth grade, if I threw away my striped tights before I even reached eighteen, maybe I’d be the one making other people feel small. Maybe I’d be a cafeteria girl.

I made Thrifts and Prints because maybe, somehow, if I can wear frilly socks with heels, or mix two bold patterns, then you too can be bold.

High school sucks, I’m not going to sit here and pretend that it was the best four years of my life, but it ends. So dress the way you want, and never shrink yourself down for people you didn’t even choose to be around. You’ll get through it, and you might as well look damn stylish while doing so.

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