It was the summer of ’97, and jelly shoes were all the rage. I met up with two of my best friends, and we ventured over to the middle school to pick up our schedules and see what teachers we’d been assigned to, crossing fingers that we’d share a class period or two.
I remember my outfit like I just wore it yesterday (let’s thank God I did not). The palest of pale lime green shorts, a horizontal striped shirt with pink, orange, green and white in similarly soft hues, and jelly shoes. Same style — one orange, one green.
Yes, I wore two different colored shoes around. I was a weird kid, okay? I’m a weird adult, too. It’s cool.
I was so proud of that outfit. I felt like the most creative kid on the block. I was daring, I was unique, I was me. I was Jelly Shoes Girl.
Then two girls on the sidewalk across the street saw me walking home and started pointing and making fun of me.
“Haha, are you wearing two different-colored shoes,” one girl belted out.
“Oh my God, she’s totally wearing two different shoes!” Her friend pointed at my feet, and they both bent over in an exaggerated laughter.
They continued to taunt me while I walked on the opposite side of the road, telling me how “stupid” I looked and that I should “go home and figure out how to dress.”
Eleven years old. The prime age for bullying and its nasty side effects. I thought about my shoes, asking myself if I’d made the right decision.
“Well, you could always just go back to wearing the same color,” I thought, pondering whether my outfit would somehow be more acceptable if I were to succumb to peer pressure.
“But I like my shoes!” I interrupted my own thoughts with exasperation. And with that, I rounded the corner and walked on home.
I continued to wear my mismatched jelly shoes until autumn arrived, and they were traded in for penny loafers, because I didn’t want to match all the kids wearing Doc Martens. This theme of doing my own, weird thing continued into high school with a terrible auburn-colored perm, the 80+ bracelets I wore on my wrists — all at once — during college, the lip color that was too dark and too glossy in my 20’s, and on into my 30’s, which seems to be a mixture of DC chic and Daria rolled into one odd ball. Oddball. See what I did there?
So, you know, embrace your weird. Carve out who you want to be and chase it with vigor, even if it hurts. You’re your greatest masterpiece and the thing you spend the most time with. Rock those jelly shoes.
(Top Photo: Younger sister on left; me on right wearing ankle boots with yellow ribbed socks…’cause, you know, Jelly Shoes Girl. Oddball.)