Have you ever dressed up nicely, looked yourself in the mirror and felt pretty happy only to go out and have someone laugh at your outfit and call you lame? Yeah, that literally happened to me.
I haven’t always been self-confident and as a teenager, my self-esteem was pretty fragile. It was at this time I had a painful experience that affected me more deeply than I could have expected.
It was during my Pre-Degree Sciences program at the Epe Campus of the Lagos State University. Among the clothes I had packed along for my stay at the school was a multi-colored top I had found in my mom’s room. It was made of a typical Nigerian soft lace material with the customary (and rather large) holes in it. It was a pretty old piece and could not have been considered modern in any way. But I loved the colors and the softness of the material so much I decided to take it along and experiment with it. I guess I felt there was some latent fashion sense burning in me and I wanted to let it out.
So one fine Monday morning I decided to try on my treasured outfit. I knew I had to layer it somehow so I wore a tiny form fitting tee underneath it. I finished dressing up, felt great about myself and headed to class albeit with mixed feelings. I was quite happy with my outfit but I couldn’t get the unexciting mathematics class out of my mind. You see I hated math. Math sessions were always a great time for my mind to wander and break free from the confines of boring academia. My outfit was great, however, so I braved math class.
Several friends complimented me on my ‘interesting’ choice. Someone said my attire was bold and vintage. I liked the sound of that. In hindsight, I realize that might have been a veiled attempt at letting me know I needed serious fashion advice but I felt good so I simply took it as a compliment.
The day went amazing and all was well with my world, that is until I decided to take a detour to my dorm room through the boys’ side of the campus. As I walked by a set of boys’ rooms with my friends, I heard someone shout, “Hey, mosquito net!” It didn’t make sense to me at first. But then I looked in their direction and to my horror there were several boys heckling me, laughing and pointing. “Where did you find that mosquito net?” “Does it belong to your grandpa?” They went on and on until I rounded the corner.
I’m a pretty calm person, you see. I would never throw a fit, get hysterical or have a meltdown in public. So I simply kept walking. I totally ignored them like they were talking to someone else. On the outside, I looked unfazed and the insults were probably like water off a duck’s back. But nothing could be farther from the truth. I was mortified! I was embarrassed and angry. I felt awful and I vowed to never wear or even touch that outfit again.
And I never did.
That was many years ago.
Yesterday, completely out of the blue, I remembered that experience and an odd feeling of loss enveloped me. It was the strangest thing. I wanted to hold that cloth again. I wanted to put it on again. And I couldn’t help but wish with all my heart that I had kept it.
You see that top belonged to my late father. I never met him because he died before I was born. When I found it among my mom’s things I was so excited it brought tears to my eyes. A part of me probably knew it was dated and masculine and wearing it to class wasn’t the best idea but I dared to because it gave me comfort.
Unfortunately, I threw it away because I listened to some random people who had no idea what it meant to me.
I’m stronger now. I’m not the wimpy kid I was at the time. But more than anything I wish I hadn’t let that one experience make me question a good thing. Then I would still have the vintage, multi-colored, soft-laced top with the huge holes that once belonged to my father. And nobody, not even those boys would be able to do anything about it.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is… “insert life lesson here.”
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