I like cute shoes.
I like nail polish.
I like the feeling I get when I’ve just painted my nails and I catch glimpses of them as I type, or, even better, when I model them to myself in the mirror. Ya know, casually hooking my thumbs in my pockets to see how the color on my fingertips lays against my jeans.
I like skirts and dresses. I like this skinny jeans with boots on top style and I bought new boots this year, for the first time in nearly a decade, to do it right.
Big deal, right? So what? Lots of people like nail polish and clothes and new boots.
Yes, but lots of people also don’t talk about it. Or nurture it.
I don’t normally talk about it. Or nurture it.
When I was a kid, I came to a crossroads sometime during middle school. I went to a Catholic school complete with uniforms. Little plaid skirts and button down white shirts. So in the early years, we all looked pretty much the same. Little girls in little uniforms, hair pulled into pigtails that were almost guaranteed to be messy by lunch time.
But right around middle school, the group began to divide. There was the group of girls who began to actively search for every opportunity to incorporate fashion into their uniformed lives — the way they wore their hair (perm it, of course), the way they wore their shirts (leave the top button casually unbuttoned). They chose stylish brown shoes or very fashion forward coats and sweaters and school bags.
At this crossroads, I went the other way. I focused on my school work. I admired their fashionable looks but at that moment, that incredibly early moment in my life, I decided I couldn’t do that. Because I was studious and serious about school. I had ‘more important’ things to think about.
I couldn’t, I decided, be top of my class while wearing cute shoes.
In the years that followed, I dabbled in fashion. Dipping a toe in here and there with a new, expensive purse or a trip to a posh salon. But mostly, I pushed it aside. I studied and cultivated a persona of serious, smart, important. The path stretching in front of me, I believed, had to be paved in the same stone the entire lifelong way. I believed that I had to choose – fashion or school, fashion or being good at my job, fashion or being a good mom. And fashion never won.
But here’s the thing. These days, my life is a mess. A big, beautiful mess of a million scattered ingredients. I am mother to a four-year-old girl and a one-year-old boy and so my days are filled with glitter and trucks and tutus and sneakers and dancing and climbing and running. I am a working mother and so I move from changing diapers and filling brightly colored bowls with cereal to discussing the importance of developing a comprehensive content strategy for non-profits. I’m an artist at heart and so when the day is done and the emails have been put away and the kids are tucked into bed, I dive into knitting or painting.
My path is no longer paved in one, single kind of stone but a veritable rainbow of stone and brick and sometimes sticks and mud.
So why can’t I also be fashionable? Why can’t I also paint my nails and buy that new pair of shoes that fills me with an undeniable sense of happiness? And why can’t I admit that yes, sometimes a pair of shoes fills me with an undeniable sense of happiness?
My daughter is bright. She has a beautiful soul. She works hard at school and happily continues her learning at home. She loves to paint and draw. She nurtures and takes care of people. She loves to run and jump, dig her hands into the sandbox and turn somersaults in the grass.
And she cares a lot about her shoes. She picks her attire in the morning with great care and though passers by might think her pairings are haphazard, she very deliberately pulled that pink, fluffy tutu on beneath that t-shirt that she colored herself over the tights with the sparkly silver polka dots.
She hasn’t reached any kind of crossroads yet. She hasn’t been tempted to create any arbitrary rules of engagement. She breezily pulls everything she loves out of this world and swirls it all together into one big marbleized life.
And sure, she contradicts herself on the daily. Layering bracelets up and down her arms and draping a pile of necklaces around her neck and in the same breath whining when I insist on brushing her hair. But so what?
Why can’t she love her accessories and all things sparkly and the idea of literally being Rapunzel and still dread the moment when the brush meets a tangle? Why can’t she spend a fair bit of time in her closet in the morning, carefully selecting the bright white skirt and flowy white shirt that she loves and then, not more than an hour later, charge into the schoolyard for a full-on game of tag.
Why can’t I also be all that I am and all that I want to be, mixing work with motherhood with fashion?
There is no answer to that question. Because, I can. Spending a half hour in the evening carefully swiping a tiny brush across my fingernails does not detract from the way I nurture my children. Taking a little time to plan my outfit for the day or try a new style, even when I’m working from home and will see nobody that isn’t at preschool during drop-off, does not make me less serious about my work. Spending a few minutes dreaming about the new pair of sandals I bought and plotting out what dress will really show them off the first time I wear them is not a waste of minutes that I should have spent reading or planning the next day’s busy schedule. Rather, it is an expenditure of minutes that makes me, me.
I can be a good student, a good writer, a good employee, and a good mother and I can do it all at the same time. While wearing cute shoes.
pour your heart out
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