My Floral Linen Pants: The Absurd Delight in Being Yourself

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.

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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.

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Why You Should Read Classic Literature

A wise person once told me that Jane Eyre is a boring book filled with cliche melodrama. That the heroine is unlikable, the romantic interest even worse, and that the book was wrongly regarded as classic literature.

Turns out, that person wasn’t so wise after all, because Jane Eyre is a goddamn masterpiece.

Besides allowing me the chance to defend the genius that is Charlotte Brontë, this did provoke an interesting question to consider: What determines Classic Literature? Why are some books—like Jane Eyre—heralded as timeless works of art while others are tossed to the side and forgotten, along with the rest of the boring parts of history? Well, I study English Literature, so I felt the need to defend my craft. In my opinion, there is a strict, uncrossable line that determines the classic novel from the temporary fad. The prestige that comes with a novel being accepted as part of a nation’s canon is not just prestige; there are concrete reasons why they are considered important. In fact, these reasons are so concrete that I urge for everyone to pick up a classic novel and read it. Right now. After reading this article, of course, but after that? There’s no excuse. Do it.

Fiction writing, first and foremost, is an art. No different than the Mona Lisa or a self-portrait of Frida Kahlo. It has no obligation to exist beyond it being a masterful piece of a genius’ creative capabilities.

But Literature takes it a step further. The classic novel, when compared to a dollar-store romance story, is the same as comparing the Parthenon to the pantry-sized dorm room I live in; they all serve a similar purpose, but only one work changes history. Only the Parthenon and the classic are worth remembering.

Literature changes history. It is a political statement that has stood before a culture or a society or even a person, and declared, “No. I think differently than that.” I began viewing all classic novels as political statements; they deserve no less from their readers.

Don’t believe me? Then let’s return to Jane Eyre. Here’s a quick rundown of the story—a poor orphan girl has a terrible childhood, gets sent to a shitty school, becomes a teacher for the bastard daughter of a rich man—whom she ends up falling in love with, but discovers he is already married to a woman he keeps locked in his attic. At first glance, it sounds stereotypically Victorian in every possible way. How could Jane Eyre of all people be a revolutionary for the 1800s? She is virtuous, boring, pure, and white: all the traits required to be a standard Victorian heroine.

But, did you know Jane Eyre was the first novel to ever have a child narrate in first person? Before Charlotte, no author had ever given a voice to a child. Why would they? Children are mindless pests, right? Charlotte thought otherwise—it was quite radical of her to argue that children, like adults, are equally deserving of love and attention, and the right to having a voice. And oh man, did she give that child a strong voice. Jane Eyre—as a girl of eight—denounced God, belittled her wealthy aunt, and told a hypocritical pastor that in order to stay out of Hell, she simply won’t die. When her cousin made fun of her, she punched him in the face. When she went to a disgusting rundown school, she dreamt about breaking her teachers’ noses.

This wasn’t done simply for shock value; Charlotte Brontë made a political statement. Children deserve to have rights. Religion is hypocritical. God is used as a means of teaching girls to hate themselves. Charlotte saw all through all of the hypocritical standards in the society around her, and she said Bull. Shit. 

Brontë revolutionized the way people viewed their kids. She become a pioneer for how authors wrote about children. She was the first to give them a voice. And, of course, she wasn’t alone in this—Charles Dickens wrote about David Copperfield and Oliver Twist around the same time. These classics, amongst many things, made political statements about how society should treat children differently.

Charlotte Brontë also held the radical idea that maybe women are equal to men. And that maybe a woman doesn’t just want to knit stockings in the house all day, and that she craves adventure and excitement just as much as her husband or father. What a concept, I know—but it was shocking in the 1850s. It was scandalous, course, dirty. “Good women” didn’t want to do all those yucky things like going outside. And yet again, Charlotte called bullshit on them. She wrote in the preface to the second edition of her novel:

“Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last.To pluck the mask from the face of the Pharisee, is not to lift an impious hand to the Crown of Thorns.These things and deeds are diametrically opposed: they are as distinct as is vice from virtue. Men too often confound them: they should not be confounded: appearance should not be mistaken for truth.”

In modern terms, this basically translates to: “Just because something is, doesn’t mean it should be. Oh, and don’t tell me what to do, and fuck you.”

And what’s amazing about Literature is that there is a novel for every subject. If children and women don’t interest you, there is an author out there who wrote about something that revolutionized sex, or marriage, or government, or religion, or even the art of writing itself. These literary icons created the culture we live in today. Take a look at some examples:

D.H. Lawrence wrote about adulterous sex in the beginning of the 1900s…as a good thing. He was also the first to repeatedly use the words “fuck” and “cunt” in a novel. I mean, we are talking up to 3 “fucks” a page—I counted.

Jane Austen basically invented irony as we know it today. Alanis Morissette really ought to pay her respects.

Christopher Isherwood wrote about gay men having stable relationships in the 50s and 60s…as a good thing.

Maya Angelou spoke up about the horrors of growing up in the 1940s South as a black woman.

Virginia Woolf perfected streams-of-consciousness and wrote openly about depression for the first time in history.

Mary Shelley invented Science Fiction. Trekkies and Star Wars fans? Pledge allegiance to this 18th century socialite—you owe her your fan devotion.

The list goes on and on. I specialize in British Literature, specifically female authors, but imagine the depth of Literature coming from ever country on the planet. Each with it’s own history—it’s own revolutionary goal—it’s own political statement. All of these books added something monumental to the society we live in today.

So please, pick up a classic during your next trip to Barnes and Noble. Read each word not as some stuffy old drivel, but as it’s own declaration for change.

I recommend starting with Jane Eyre.