Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Being 18 Again

If you ever revisit a place you haven't been for years, you'll probably notice right away that it smells familiar, even if you were barely aware of the scent before.  In fact, the scent itself might take you back in time to when the place was a part of your life.  Scents can be pretty powerful in triggering memories.  When I was in sixth grade, I had some strawberry chapstick that I wore every day like lip gloss.  I wasn't allowed to wear real makeup in middle school, so the chapstick made me feel grown-up.  At some point in seventh grade, after I started wearing a new chapstick every day, I realized that just smelling the strawberry chapstick brought me back to the time that I was wearing it.  Sixth grade was an awesome year for me because I had a lot of fun in my first play.  Seventh grade wasn't such a great year, so I appreciated instant access to the happy memories.  By the end of middle school, I decided that I would keep a collection of chapsticks, lip glosses, and body creams that I didn't use anymore because they each acted as a portal to another time.

As years passed, my collection dwindled down.  Expired creams turned sour and old chapsticks lost their scents entirely.  But for some reason, the original strawberry chapstick stayed the same.  It's been years since I've worn something scented for a consistent time period - the last time I did was the summer before college.  That spring, I had gotten a free Victoria's Secret body cream sample while walking through the mall, and I absolutely loved it.  Normally I wore fun fruit scents, and I wore them as fashion accessories, but this was different.  This was seductive.  I'd never worn anything like it before.  I tried to ration out the sample between prom, beach week, and the rest of the summer, when my mom suggested that I just buy a bottle from the store.  That was the logical thing to do, but I had never bought anything from Victoria's Secret before, and I didn't think I'd want to spend so much money on cream.  But I did, and it felt wild and exciting.

I continued to wear the cream a little into freshman year of college, but after a while I only wore it when I felt rebellious or when I desperately wanted to be back home.  But it occurred to me just now that I might be interested in wearing it again.  Really wearing it, like I did at 18. So I went to my bathroom closet, opened the newest bottle I had, and rubbed a little bit on my hands.  For a moment, I was transported back in time to our senior year beach week, but a second later, it was gone.  The cream used to be very strong, but the scent had faded after just a few seconds. It wasn't made to last forever. And I have hunted around for more of the same stuff, but Victoria's Secret doesn't carry it anymore.  That last of it was what I had.

But in the brief moment that I returned to that summer, I realized that I didn't want to go back there. Sure, I loved high school and hated college, but now that I'm out of college, high school isn't always better than the present by default.  It was exciting wearing something seductive for the first time, but I was never completely comfortable in it.  It was kind of like wearing something that belonged to someone else.  That scent carries confusion and heartbreak and a lot of things that I don't want to relive.  I wish I could hold onto just a little bit of it, just as a memory for my collection, but even the strawberry chapstick is beginning to fade now. But it's okay - cosmetics may expire, but memories can stay alive forever.

Even if I could find the same cream I wore that summer, it would always carry the emotional weight of another time, a time when I couldn't handle some of the best things in my life right now. I'd much rather find a completely new cream - something that might have made me squirm in high school, but that I'd wear in full confidence now because I'm not 18 anymore.  I feel 23, and I love it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How to Fall Madly in Love and Stay True to Yourself

The other day I set off to go to the post office for my dad.  First I went to the bank, then realized I didn't need to go there, then I headed back toward the post office but drove past it and came back home without my dad's mail.  Explanation: I was distracted.  I was daydreaming about my boyfriend and forgot what I was doing.  And most people would say that that's a bad thing, but I don't see it that way.

When I first started dating in high school, my mom and I ran into some disagreements - she didn't like how obsessed I was acting and that I only wanted to talk about guys all the time.  I was sixteen by the time I really started thinking about guys; prior to that, I had no interest in dating.  For most of my life, I was vaguely aware that when people first entered relationships, they often became giddy and couldn't concentrate and would do silly things.  My mom always said she didn't understand that, and that while she was (and still is) passionate about my dad, she never acted that way.  And since I had never dated, I assumed that if the time ever came for me, I would be like her.

But what I failed to realize was that I'm not like her.  My mom is lives a balanced life, but I zoom in on one thing and tune out everything else.  When I was in my very first play, Oz, back in sixth grade, I got so excited about the fact that "oz" is the abbreviation for "ounces," which meant that every label on every bottle and can said the name of my play!  I took a yellow marker (for the yellow-brick road) and highlighted the "oz" on everything in our kitchen.  I was bouncing off the walls about it practically every day.

This is just one example of how I act when I'm psyched about something. So logically, it never made sense that I would suddenly become rational when I started dating someone I really, really like.  I should have known that I would act giddy and silly once I started dating based on how I acted in other situations.

I had my uncertainties about dating at one time because I wondered if when people acted giddy, they weren't being themselves anymore.  I used to spy on one particular close couple at my high school, just to see how they did it.  I knew that both of the students were very ambitious and had many things that mattered to them outside of the relationship.  And while they really enjoyed their time together, I didn't observe any alterations in their personal goals.  That really cleared things up for me.  And now that I'm in a relationship, it's weird to think that I would have to question something like that.  You are still you and your choices are still your own.

Acting differently doesn't necessarily mean that you're not being yourself; most of us do act differently in different situations, some more than others.  If you got involved with an activity that you loved and became more stimulated or happy than normal, no one would tell you that you're being fake - you're just acting the way you feel.  If your emotions are causing you to act differently, then the important thing is to let the other person know what you're like when they're not around, what you were like before you were in the relationship.  If you are honest about how you normally are, then I see nothing wrong with falling headfirst into all the feelings you have.  It's worth the second trip to the post office.  

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Why Shopping Isn't Fun

My favorite pattern
At first I was really excited about going bathing suit shopping today.  When I was in college, I had to wait until spring break to shop, and by then, everything was picked over.  This was the first time in a while that I've seen such a wide selection.  So I grabbed about six or seven suits in my favorite patterns and headed to the changing room.  But I was disappointed to find that having a choice of everything in the store didn't solve the problem I've had since I was fifteen.  The bikinis that I like - the ones that are bright, summery, and have wild patterns - are always made for girls who have really small boobs.  I always have to choose between showing more of my body than I want to or getting a bathing suit that I don't really like.  The last few years I went with bathing suits that didn't cover quite as much as I would have liked and figured I could wear something over them.  But what's the point of getting a bathing suit if you can't even wear it?

The closest I could find that fit
This year, since I went shopping early, I was able to find one that I like with a really good fit.  But it was nowhere near my first choice because it's classic rather than trendy.  It doesn't have that young, wild look that I love.  I hate the way we equate the word "wild" with "revealing."  We assume that someone who doesn't want to flash everyone at the beach must want an older, more conservative style.  My style is still what they put out for high school kids.  Just because my body has changed doesn't mean that my style has.

Every year I go through my clothes and find some that I can give away.  If I haven't worn something in a few years, I assume that I probably won't wear it again.  That rule has pretty much worked for me; I've never regretted getting rid of anything, until now.

I'm a person who dresses the way I feel - if I look happy and put together, it means that's how I feel inside, otherwise I wouldn't present myself that way.  For this reason, I decided to turn more emo during my second year of college, and as a result, I gave away a lot of fun, tropical, summery clothes that still fit because they passed the test of having not been worn for years.  But now that I don't feel so emo anymore, I look through the stores and I can't find anything like what I had in high school.  I wish I had held onto those clothes and waited to feel better.

When I think about it now, my true style hasn't changed much at all - it's my surroundings that make a difference.  In high school, it was perfectly acceptable not to talk in class or express any interest in school, and then be bouncing off the walls about something else.  But in college, this wasn't socially acceptable, and I chose to identify as an unenthusiastic person because it wasn't okay to be selectively enthusiastic the way I was in high school.  In high school, I wore bright, fun clothes because I liked them, but also to be rebellious. Wearing stuff like that to class meant that my mind was elsewhere - I was thinking about the weekend and the personal life that I actually cared about.  Really, I dressed the way I did for the same reason in college, except that in college, dressing like you're happy indicates that you're happy to be there, not that you're tuning out school and making fun plans for the summer.

It's really hard to find the same kind of clothes I had before - like the bathing suits, the stuff I like best is made to fit younger girls.  I look at the pictures from a few years ago and wish I could just open my closet and have everything back again.

**Update: I ended up finding something closer to what I was looking for when my family was on vacation in the Caribbean and I found the perfect bathing suit in Florida. My wardrobe is restored, and I will be much more careful with it now. I will think about why I really haven't worn something, and hold onto it if I think I may ever feel like wearing it again.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Pressured to Exercise

My idea of fun
We all recommend things to friends that we think they might like, based on other things that they like.  You may recommend a book in their favorite genre or a movie that you think they'd enjoy.  But you wouldn't recommend a fictional TV show to someone because you saw them watching the news or a baseball game.

The rules are different when it comes to exercise.  It seems like people are always looking for ways to pull you in. If you say that you enjoy an active activity, people assume that you're in it for the exercise and that you would enjoy other forms of exercise as well.  Some people are just ready to pounce on you and drag you to the gym with them if you even mentioned the slightest interest in something active.  If I say that I like to jump on my trampoline, people assume I want to go to the gym with them even though the trampoline is completely different from gym equipment.

But beyond that initial assumption is the fact that people don't accept no as an answer. In college, I started to really miss jumping on the trampoline at home, so I thought I'd go to the gym just to try it. I felt really out of place because everyone was so hardcore about working out.  I didn't see a single person who looked like they were just there to have fun. I didn't see anyone who just showed up in what they were already wearing, like I did. When I mentioned that I had tried the gym to see if I liked it, I realized that I had made a huge mistake. Everyone wanted me to be their gym buddy.  And I told them no. I explained that I might go to the gym when I felt like it, but I didn't want any pressure to go consistently.  I said this over and over again but people wouldn't stop pressuring me to be their gym buddies until I quit going to the gym altogether.

Not my idea of fun
I love swimming.  My mom and I used to swim laps together at our city pool and talk. I wore my bikini and she wore her lap suit. There were all different people in the pool - parents with children, kids playing Marco Polo - it was an environment where any level of swimming was acceptable.  I thought it might be fun to try swimming in our campus pool, but I was in for a surprise.  The pool at our gym was for people who were athletic and really good at swimming.  I wasted my money on a one-piece swimsuit that I'll never wear again, that I only bought so I could look like the other girls. Whenever I talked about this issue, everyone told me that I could practice swimming and get better at it.  But you know what? I don't want to get better!  I don't believe that anything worth doing has to be worth doing well.  I have a few things that I actually care about, and everything else is just for fun.  Everything else, I'm not interested in working on or getting better at.  I didn't want to be a better swimmer - I wanted it to be perfectly acceptable to swim the way I do in the pool that I PAID to use!

I'm not sure why the word "fun" is so incomprehensible, why even after you tell people that you love to catch up with friends while you're walking, or perform a dance of your own creation on stage, or jump as high as you can and feel like you're flying, someone always brings the subject back to how many calories you're burning.  It's okay if we have different reasons for doing the same thing, but please don't pressure me to exercise.  As I have said before, I'm just here to have fun.