The First Dress
It was a dress my mom made. A jean dress. She made it for my first day of Elementary school. I was the new girl, in fact, I was the only Asian girl in my whole grade. On top of that, I walked off the plane that took me from China to the USA the day before.
I remember distinctively the awkwardness. It was first grade, everyone wore navy blue pants with a white blouse and there I was, with my jean dress and foreign tongue. Oh it was horrible. My mom had no clue denim isn’t allowed and as a result, not only did I have to borrow clothing from the lost and found, oh no. I also had to deal with a classroom of giggling kids, curious of how much they can ignore me and push me around before this random Asian girl starts crying.
The Second Dress
Fifth grade. I started fitting in with my classmates. I dressed like them, talked like them, helped them in student council, and even joined the dance team when my teacher asked me to. Now, I was rather tall and slim as a fifth grader but when it came to dancing, I pretty much had 0 idea of what it was. I practiced everyday after school with 7 other girls, cha-cha, salsa and waltz. Now the dance team performed at the parent/student assembly at the end of the year. We were notified of an action minutes before the curtains opened…
“Go into the audience and find a parent to dance with after the last number. The next group needs more time.”
My parents never attended any school assemblies so naturally, I was helpless. I survived the performance in my little red dress and tiny three inch heels but when time came to find a parent…I was practically running around the auditorium hoping someone would be kind enough to take my hand.
It took me until everyone else started dancing with their new found partners for a nice lady to tap my shoulder and take my hand.
No Dresses, Never Dresses
All of middle school I was hit by this awkward thing called puberty that left me with what I thought of as a fat body, untameable hair that liked to knot itself every other minute, and a height that allowed me to see above most boy’s head. Also, I received the awkward label of ‘new girl’ twice since I had to move to Texas for a year before moving to a new part of California for 7/8th grade and high school. So wearing a dress was the last thing I wanted to do since it seemed as if dresses and I just don’t mix.
Therefore, fast forward to high school.
It’s actually more or less all of my ‘little black dresses’. Sometime in the middle of Freshman year I realized if I don’t like the way my body looks, I should do something about it. And I did. I started going to Taekwondo classes every single day and started jogging. It felt great, and I wanted to feel even better so now I try as hard as I can in Taekwondo and Cross Country.
I also started liking my hair for the way it is. Sure, I can’t really brush it down to the beautiful silky strands my friends have, but I realized my hair is what it is. A little more conditioning, a bit of layering, and it’s not bad at all. As for my height, well, I realized 5’6 is not tall at all, and being able to see above the crowd does have its perks (finding people! looking at final grades! try-out results!). If I didn’t want to be socially awkward, I should reach out to different activities!
As I made these astonishing discoveries, I started participating in activities that required dressing up. I guess I decided after my last band concert Sophomore year that little black dresses work for me. I kind of went crazy with how many I own after that but every single one of those dresses made me feel confident and comfortable.
Moreover, these little black dresses made me feel like myself. Not the Fifth grader searching in despair with a flashy red dress that made her awkwardness standout. Not the First grader who broke the dress code on the first day of school and had to wear clothing two sizes too big for the rest of the day. But rather a 16 year old girl, who’s had her share of embarrassment, frustration, and other things, but came to appreciate them as what shaped her.
Would I experiment with other dresses in the future? Heck yes. Might I embarrass myself again? Probably. Will I be so mad that I swear off dresses altogether again? Not in a million years.
Even if I do, I’ll remember how to get back up and move on from there.