Real talk: I'm not one to be too self conscious about my outfits. Especially not my date outfits. I usually feel just as comfortable showing up to a dinner party with convenience store wine and leggings (much to my mother's horror) as I do grocery shopping with an evening dress underneath a heavy knit. My style is eclectic. It's all over the place and no one really gets it, but you might be able to dig it if only you give it a chance.
Because of my wide-ranging preferences, I usually don't have an issue with bolder choices. Which is why I had a moment of perplexity when I found myself stopped at the corner of a crosswalk and feeling the beginning of nerves prickle. I was on my way to a first date... and apparently on the cusp of a mental unraveling.
I was actually a couple of blocks away from the restaurant I was supposed to meet my date at — a German bar recognized for being trendy and snobbishly into its beer. Prior to this moment of butterflies, all was well. I found a parking spot in minutes, the guy I was meeting seemed promising, and my cat eye eyeliner went on without too much of a hitch.
But as I waited for the light to turn green and let me cross the street, I felt the first licks of panic... and it was because of my dress.
Why, I thought, did I pick this dress of all things? It was a floor-length number with a heavy skirt — a skirt that liked to pick up the wind all dramatic-like and bring a blush to my cheeks. It was vaguely reminiscent of a Grace Kelly outfit; one she'd wear if she was picnicking in an orchard underneath an olive tree or something like that. While at home and dabbing on my perfume behind my ears, I felt like this dress was made for me... but now I just felt like I was wearing a costume. "Why didn't I just stick to jeans?" I asked myself while breaking out into a cold sweat.
As I walked into the bar and noticed — with great relief — that my date wasn't there yet, I went over to a table and tried to situate myself. "What was happening to me?" I wondered. Why was I bugging out about my outfit? I was supposed to be this girl who has no qualms about wearing controversial mom jeans or slightly pretentious berets, yet here I was debating whether I should go to the bathroom to shove the giant bow into the trash to save the situation.
As I worried while shuffling and reshuffling the napkins on my table, I tried to figure out what exactly triggered this emotional spiral. To this day, I can't really tell you. But one thing was for sure: That dress was 100 percent me. I still remember my face when I found it in the thrift store and how I couldn't help but spin around in the dressing room like I was Maria in the Alps, loving the way the skirt snapped and fluttered around my ankles. I liked the way it felt as I leaned over my bathroom mirror to dab on lipstick at home, and the way it shifted as I walked down the street.
The issue, it seemed, was that this dress gave away too much of me: It would show the guy coming in through that door that this was kind of how I looked on the inside. I'm a little eccentric, a little loud, and have a penchant for looking for treasures in places many people don't tend to look. And because of it, I felt nervous. What if he didn't like what he saw? What if he didn't like my honesty?
And so I decided I needed a break. The decision wasn't dramatic; it came quietly and was obvious. If I was so concerned over the fact that a polka dot find would make someone not like me, well, that just meant that along the way I had lost sight of how awesome I was. I wasn't seeing how much I could bring to the table and, instead, I was worrying that what I brought wouldn't be accepted. I needed time to regroup and rediscover what I liked about myself, and how much value those pieces of me actually had.
When my date walked in through the door, I was still nervous. I stood up to hug him, but felt foolish. And after eating that big ass pretzel the size of a first grader, I still felt certain I might not be what he was expecting or hoping for. But that was OK. After that date, I was going to take the time necessary to remember that I'm what I was expecting and hoping for. I needed to remember that my individuality and the weird things that make me me don't need to be hidden, after all. So that's exactly what I did... And I learned that sometimes, reconnecting with ourselves is exactly the thing we need to feel comfortable connecting to others.
Images: Marlen Komar