I’ve always been quite weird. When I was a little girl, and all my friends were singing into their hairbrushes to Madonna songs, or trying to dance like Michael Jackson, I was listening to Mozart.
When the teacher at school asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up, everyone else said “hairdresser”, “astronaut” or “doctor”. I said “Editor of Vogue“. (I have, in adulthood, refined that aspiration slightly. Nowadays I specifically want to be Anna Wintour, who I consider to be one of the most marvellous creatures ever put upon the Earth. In tricky situations, I quite often ask myself, “What would Anna do?” But I digress…)
I can remember having a birthday party, about 25 years ago, the theme of which was Rock and Roll. Just try to imagine – the kids from my class, who hadn’t even a vague concept of what “rock and roll” meant, dressed up by their parents in teddy boy suits, poodle skirts and bobby socks.
I can see them now, standing awkwardly with a plastic beaker of fizzy pop and a pink wafer, listening to Rock around the Clock (to which, I might add, I knew every word) wondering what the hell had happened to their street-cred. As for me? I was begging my mum to teach me how to jive.
So, let’s face it, I was never one for following the herd. I was always a bit archaic, a bit old-fashioned, a bit more Chanel suit, than shell-suit.
To an extent, not much has changed. I love vintage styles and often look like I’ve stepped out of a time-warp. I feel more authentic, more “me” in a dress and seamed stockings and red lipstick, than I do in very casual clothes. That’s not to say I wear a beaded flapper dress and feathered head-piece when I weed my garden. Although a neighbour did once comment:
I think you’re the only person I’ve ever seen doing the gardening in heels and leopard-print.
But it’s not just the fashion of a bygone era that suits me better than today. I like the mentality too. I genuinely believe that the world was a better place when people took the time to put on a hat. Think about it – putting on a hat takes care (so as not to wreck one’s carefully-coiffed ‘do), planning (will this match my outfit / blow away / scare small children?), and consideration (is this the correct type of hat for the theatre, or will the five rows behind me not be able to see the stage?); all useful life skills.
The city where I live, and perhaps the world in general, is less accepting of my weirdness. Twice in the last month, complete strangers (both male I might add) have shouted as I walk down the street: “Are you for real?!”
I never reply to such questions. I like to assume the questionner thinks that I look such a vision of loveliness that all his dreams must have suddenly come true, and he’s just checking to see if he’s awake. I suspect, in fact, the reality is that he’s horrified to see a woman on a Saturday night who is completely covered from neck to knee.
Either way, the question doesn’t need me to answer it. I’m distinctly, uniquely and undeniably real. I am me, and clearly I have been since I startled the other kids at school with my weirdness. I’m very proud of being exactly who I am, and I’m delighted that most of my friends are fellow weirdos. Uniquely, distinctly, undeniably themselves.
So next time a fella in jeans and a boring shirt shouts across the road, “Are you for real?!”, I shall translate it in my head as “All hail the weirdos!” And then I’ll push my hat to an even-more-jaunty angle, give him a big grin, and continue on my fabulously-weird way.