Four years ago, I bought a pair of cream cotton pants, that nowadays,
never see beyond my bottom dresser drawer. Two years ago, my brother
got down on one knee for his high school sweetheart, at her favorite dog
park. A few weeks ago, I was rummaging through old boxes of winter
vegetables and found a shriveled sweet potato, harvested last September,
perfect to carve into a stamp. This is a rough timeline as to how I
ended up at the Indianapolis 500, intensely hungover, wearing a pair of
shorts I made with a rotten potato and a fanny pack embellished with
glittery, gold letters, “SHOT QUEEN.”
After a short COVID hiatus, the Indy 500 attracted a crowd of 325,000 people in its recent race. Among those thousands were one special bride and 8 bridesmaids, prepared for the weekend with boozy pudding shots packed into penis syringes and an outfit set list, with race day’s uniform consisting of checkered bottoms, a “TEAM BRIDE” top, and flame sunglasses. Perhaps the “Met Gala of the Midwest,” others adorned Canadian tuxedos, witty vintage t-shirts’, and bikinis imprinted with stars and stripes. The journey to the track was a blur, partly because I was sprawled onto the laps of my fellow bridesmaids as we packed nine people into our driver’s SUV. Upon arrival, we greeted men with megaphones yelling doomsday, large crowds, never-ending pavement, and a five-hour EDM concert in the middle of the track starting at 8am. Dear reader, you may not know me very well, but it was everything I feared it would be.
Reflecting further, what I truly feared most was losing my sense of self amongst gender performativity and wedding pompous circumstance. A few values were called into question, for example, I wanted to support my sister-in-law, but I did not want to buy matching shorts from Amazon. As a compulsive people-pleaser, I am recently discovering that I am in control of negotiating the boundaries surrounding the spaces I show up in. And there’s no standard or rule as to how to show up, that each person has different needs and values and selves. In order to show up for my sister, I needed to wear clothes that allowed me to hold onto myself. That day, she was a Shot Queen with marbled, mishappen squares scattered onto slanted, cutoff shorts. And to my surprise, the weekend that I was anxiously awaiting, allowed me to find a settling amount of peace that even lingered once returning home.
“Finding yourself” feels like a simple, deceivingly linear plot arc; where one embarks on a journey and at the destination you will receive the prize of a neatly wrapped, perfectly outlined concept of self. When in reality we are multitudes of contradictions, fluid, unlimited, and our concept of self is debated moment by moment. Within these contradictions, we are negotiating the boundaries of what feels right, feels like ourselves. Do I believe hoarding massive wealth is ethical? Not really. Do I secretly love the Kardashians? A little bit.
David Whyte, poet and writer, describes these negotiations as a
“frontier between what you think is you and what you think is not you.”
Fashion can be a physical embodiment of this frontier and an expression
and celebration of our fluidity. One day, at this frontier, we may
discover our shopping carts filled with velvet track suits. We may
discover clothes as tools to explore the frontiers of gender. Today it’s
butch-adolescent-grandma, presented perfectly in my current outfit of
Bermuda plaid shorts (reminiscent of days at the mall in Aeropostale)
with a silk, floral button-up tucked in. Or we may find ourselves in
places we never thought we’d be, but with a deep sense of presence to
the voices of the outside and inside world, thanks to a pair of
do-it-yourself checkered shorts.
John O’Donohue one of the necessary tasks is this radical letting alone of yourself and the world — letting the world speak in its own voice and letting this deeper sense of yourself speak out.