Tuesday, October 2, 2012

England My England

Fifteen years ago I spent my junior year in college at Oxford. This week my father dug up and scanned some photos from that time (the first two from visits to London during the Tremendously Cold winter), the rest from a two-week trip round the countryside he and I took when my academic year ended) and posted them on his own fine blog here and here. Because they are images of my own face I feel free to steal them with impunity.

Of course the very first thing I thought when I saw them after all this while is easy to guess: I was so YOUNG!! The way we all always are astonished by the fact of our own previous youth. But the very next thought I had might (or might not) be harder to surmise.

It was: why did I dress like a man? I remember most of these clothes very well. The wooly faux-Russian hat, the biker jacket, the college scarf, the men's white v-neck undershirts, the huge cargo pants and sweatshirts, the overalls, the male-rock-star sunglasses. Hell, I even remember liking these clothes. 

And, ok, to be fair, most of the unruly shapes and proportions can be chalked up to it being the late 90s. From what I can recall I guess I was more or less on-trend with other girls in their early twenties at the time. I don't think I owned a skirt, but neither did any of my friends. 

No, ultimately it's not the mannish hugeness of my garments that really strikes me, it's the utter lack of color. I love color. Love it. These days if I'm not wearing at least two bright colors at any given moment I hardly feel like myself at all. And, until I saw these photos and was reminded of this other sartorial period in my life, I'd have sworn that's how I've always felt, practically since the day I was released from the drab plaid uniform of my Catholic grade school. 

I've indulged before, here, in showing pictures of a few of my crazy colorful outfits in high school. And it's almost hard to believe I went from those ensembles to these in a span of three years or so. But I think what happened was, I thought I was growing up. I mean, of course, I actually was growing up. But that's the thing about getting older. When it first starts to happen you look back on your younger self, don't you, and you think that the crazy things that made you happy must by definition be the trappings of childhood and therefore must be jettisoned by your new mature self.

I think I thought that this was how serious grown-ups dressed (and I suppose it was, if the serious grown-up in question happened to be a skater dude). Only when we get even older do we realize that the things which made us happy in youth might still make us happy in adulthood, and that, screw it, we're going to keep doing them. As Dr. Seuss puts it "These things are fun, and fun is good."

I include this last photo, even though it somewhat disproves my thesis with that coral-colored sweater, because it cracks me up that I look about twelve years old (though I was actually twenty-one), and I also like how happy I look. On a side note, did you know that if you lived in the UK for more than six months in 1997, which I did, you are not allowed to give blood for fifteen years, for fear of mad cow disease? I guess this means next year I'm in the clear and my brain won't be turning into a sponge after all. Hooray!

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