A few days ago, my mom and I had gone shopping together. It was no major event by any means; Ross, Target, pick up food, etc. It was, for all intents and purposes, a typical day of errand-running. Of course, there is always a particular kind of pleasure in spending time with one’s parents, especially after you have “moved out” and have begun, in one way or another, your own life, your own journey, beyond that of childhood. Now, you greet your parents on equal footing, and see them as they truly are, just as they do for you.
The day was then already pleasant in its own right. Simple tasks like running errands comprise most of your life, so it’s important to cherish such small adventures; in doing so, it becomes easier to enjoy life; it becomes easier to enjoy yourself. It always becomes easier to relax and to be yourself when you are happy, upbeat, positive—and by doing so, you’ll learn more about yourself in moments that you least expect it. Moments that may seem pointless to anyone else.
Take for instance, looking at a pair of floral linen pants. Nothing I have ever seen could look more ridiculous. Nothing so gaudy, so silly. Nothing so delightful. In truth, I loved them. I said aloud that I did in fact love them; next thing I know, I am driving home with them.
Of course, one’s first thought would be, “they were bought as a joke.” I told myself, “what a joke. These are delightful, because they are clownish! I have them to poke fun at them.” But the more I thought about it, the more I considered how that wasn’t the full truth. The pants are delightful; not just to make fun of them, but because they are just fun to me.
Suddenly, the ridiculousness, the gaudiness, the silliness of it all, every seam, every bird sewn on, every inch of the pants, the bellbottoms, the lace waistline, became delightful. Nothing could look more interesting. Nothing more unique. Nothing more brilliant. The pants became a slap in the face to convention, because I have never seen anything like it before.
It got me thinking about how boring pants can be, especially for men. It is universally expected, in America at least, for blue jeans to be the basic component of most outfits. Slight variants of the blue, slight variants of the size, and the occasional black or kaki pair (which is considered the more exciting alternative), are all that can be expected to be worn. Women have a few different options in regards to legwear, but the point still stands: everyone is held to the same social expectations for clothes. Everyone is held to the same social expectations for everything. One’s ability to conform is, quite honestly, considered a virtue. Eventually, even the theme of “non-conformity” became a way of conforming (I blame the hipsters).
And this is something all are guilty of. Everyone wants to fit in; everyone wants to be the “it guy” or the “it girl”. My pants consist almost entirely of blue jeans as well; I am one of the worst offenders of this concept.
But, at the same time, there is a surreal, almost absurd joy in doing something entirely unexpected, entirely unique, entirely personal. There is an absurd joy in following an impulse as opposed to a social norm; there is an absurd joy in owning a pair of floral linen pants. So why then, do we flagellate ourselves into conformity? Why not disregard convention whenever and wherever possible? Why not seek this absurd delight in everything we do?
That’s easy to answer: it’s because it is difficult. It’s isolating; it’s awkward. It is entirely too easy to feel uncomfortable and embarrassed, when acting in one’s own impulsive amusement. Even the idea of strolling around at the mall, for my own purposes, in my pair of floral linen pants, is horrifying—even though I was bewitched enough to buy them in the first place. In private, beyond the public sphere, one feels no pressure, no obligation to conform, and no shame at laughing and enjoying one’s own ridiculous pleasures. But when faced with the idea of being seen by people, being noticed, being judged, it’s suddenly all about the blue jeans. And if someone were to wear the floral linen pants in public (especially a guy), they would be strange, goofy, crazy—they would be out of their head, or they would be trying too hard. Never, it seems, can one be judged without bias while being oneself in public.
Clothes are just one of the more obvious examples; the power of conformity is all-encompassing, looming over all of our actions. It is a shadow, it seems, that sees everything. It hovers above us, as we skip a song on our playlist while friends are in the car, because it feels to embarrassing for them to know you listen to it; it whispers in our ear, while we feel like dancing to the music in our headphones, choosing instead to walk silently, quickly, across the street to our destination, and seeing everyone else doing the same. It is inescapable. Worse, it is revered. Even when we try to fight it, we fall deeper into its net. We dye our hair blue to fit in with that punk group over there; we shave our heads because we saw it on Facebook; we wear yellow lipstick because a celebrity did a photoshoot in it. We try to act different, only to be just as guilty as that guy that only wears blue jeans.
There is nothing inherently wrong with conformity, per se. Sometimes, someone might just actually enjoy blue jeans. There is nothing wrong with dying our hair blue because it’s a punk look.
But it does become wrong when it keeps us from owning a pair of floral linen pants. It does become wrong when one refuses to play one’s favorite song, because it would embarrass them in front of their “bros” if they knew they listened to Britney Spears. It does become wrong when we hide bits of ourselves—the bits that give us the most absurd pleasure, the purest joy—from others because we are afraid.
The pressure to hide ourselves away is too common, and too accepted. The power of what other people think of us is too great. If wearing a particularly ridiculous article of clothing, or playing a particularly strange song, gives us joy, why hide it? Why feel ashamed?
I believe there is power in absurdity, in strangeness. There is integrity and happiness in forgoing the conclusions others may come to. We, as individuals, are all absurd; we are all inherently ridiculous. To embrace this concept, to feel ridiculous and absurd and to be proud of that, is heroic; it is awe-worthy; it is unique; it is a thousand-and-one things, but most of all, it is freeing. It means something to be proud of your absurdities, and we’ve all been there. We’ve all known people who were truly themselves, far closer than anyone else we know, that exude confidence and happiness. And it all comes down to these little things; it all comes down to feeling bizarre in a stupid shirt that we have an inexplicable love for; it all comes down to wearing the floral linen pants we bought the other day, and feel truly amused and delighted to see them in the mirror.
If there ever were a path to happiness, this would have to be my definition of it. Disregard the mocking, the judgements, the isolation it might bring, to be yourself; disregard the doubts you have, or the fears, and forego convention. And one day, if I happen to take my own advice to heart (because writing about something is hell of a lot easier than mastering it), you might see an idiot walking down the street in those stupid floral linen pants.
So, here are some more embarrassment fodder; aka me on snapchat.