Pretty much every time my clothing gets complimented, I look down and realize they’re actually someone else’s clothes. My sweater is from one roommate, my shirt from another and my pants used to belong to someone in marching band. Not exactly sure who, though.
These hand-me-down arrangements work out very well for me, since I have all the fashion aptitude of a rather creative four-year-old. For all of my childhood, and much of my angsty teen years, my daily uniform was too-short jeans, a too-large shirt featuring animals in their natural habitats, and men’s sneakers that should have been thrown out with last week’s AOL discs. Although my fashion sensibility has improved somewhat, I still routinely steal 25-year-old T-shirts from my dad.
And that’s where my friends come in. Many of them, especially my roommates, are pretty trendy people, and I can usually count on them to tell me if my clothes match. (A camo tank top and a brown and yellow floral skirt do not, by the way, match.)
In humility, I acknowledge my ignorance and defer to their superior judgment. Usually. Sometimes, however, I think I know better than other people, and the results are disastrous.
For example, I was a little unsure of some hot pink heels of mine, so I asked my guy friend what he thought of them. After several rounds of interrogation, he admitted that they were “kind of trampy.” But … I liked them! And I’d paid five whole dollars for them at the ASPCA thrift store!
So, I kept clacking around in them. I even wore them to my interview at The Aggie. I really thought they said, “Hire me to write about my tragic missteps in life!”
Apparently, they were saying something else to the toothless, middle-aged skateboarders hanging out by the otherwise deserted MU parking lot afterward. (Please, ladies, invest in some pepper spray.) As I strode by, feeling validated as a serious writer and intellectual and also thinking about how hot I looked that day, two rather sketchy-looking chaps began devoting their visual attention to me.
“Hey, you dropped something!” smirked one. “Nah, I just said that so you’d turn around and I could check you out.”
What cads! I didn’t do anything to deserve this! Am I legally permitted to karate chop them in the groin?
“I like your shoes,” said the other shower-deprived man, his voice dripping with Eau de Sleaze.
Dang it. My friend was right about those puppies.
As hard as it is to ignore my faulty instincts concerning footwear, it’s even more difficult to accept good advice in the more important matters of life.
From romance and time budgeting, to conflict resolution and romance again, I put my friends in prime “I told you so” position over and over. But as I get older and the stakes of my arrogant follies are raised (bouncing checks sucks), I’m learning not only to consider the advice that comes my way, but to seek out good counsel as well.
As we all learned from Stranger Danger talks, you can’t trust just anyone. I love all my friends, but some of them are slightly understaffed in the practical wisdom department. If I did everything I was told, I’m not sure if I’d be at Stanford or in jail (equally horrifying alternatives).
But I notice that I have a lot of people around me who are kicking butt at life. Some are peers; others have a few extra years of experience under their belts (it’s okay to trust people over 30.) When a tricky situation comes up, they’re the ones I go to for advice. I might not always like what they say, but the rewards of listening are well worth it.
Especially if I can avoid catcalls from grody old dudes at the parking structure.
BETH SEKISHIRO skipped her fashion consultation this morning. As a result, she is currently sporting an oversized, pink T-shirt with the words “band nerd” emblazoned on the front. To bequeath constructive criticism to her, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.