Not a single bump. I’d scream and cry if it was any other way. Every morning, the same fight. Facing the window in our small upstairs bathroom, my mom had to comply and follow my strict instructions on how to comb my hair until I had the perfect ponytail.
Even though I was only 6, I also had a very strong sense of fashion. I couldn’t style my hair by myself, but I could for sure pick my own clothes. My mom had given up on that one, and together we had bought five outfits I could alternate throughout the week.
As I grew up and she got back to working downtown, she eventually started shopping for us during her lunch break, adding accent pieces from – watch out – La Senza girl and Simons to my foundation wardrobe. No one could get those at the shopping mall. I was a trendsetter.
If I ever fell playing at recess time, I’d first assess the damage made to my clothes before deciding if it was worth crying or not. If my cute one-of-a-kind jeans were a bit ripped (remember the 90s guys, def not on trend), I’d start sobbing immediately.
My ego always hurt more than my physical body. And I swear, I really felt the torn in my heart when something happened to my clothes, or could compromise my appearance on the long term. By long term, I mean, 2 weeks. As a kid, 2 weeks with a humongous scratch on your knee is a very, very long time.
Funny how the Universe works. She tried to teach me about vanity a few times, but I wasn’t listening. So every year, right before going back to school, when my tan was finally on point and my hair full-on blond, I’d get harmed.
The summer before second grade, we playing in my cousins’ backyard in Rimouski. My sister, overwhelmed after having hit the ball, swung the bat back with as much strength as she had swung it forward to liberate herself from the now flying object and run to first base. My sister finished her course at the « first base » rock, and the bat finished its on my forehead (I was a great catcher, but never saw that one coming).
The. Largest. Plum. Ever. On my forehead. Two days before I’d see Claude again. It didn’t burst into some bloody disaster. It just sat there in the middle of my face.
And I didn’t get the lesson. So the year later, again, same setting. In my cousins’ backyard in Rimouski, enjoying the last few days of vacation before coming back to Montreal. This time, we were playing an absurd game where the person in the front, her back turned to the others, pitch the ball. We, all the other plays, have to catch it. The one who catches the ball has to hide it in their back. The pitcher turns around and guess who has the ball. I don’t remember the end of the game, because as I was walking backwards to grab the ball, I fell in the downstairs cement staircase. That was one big step instead of twelve for my little 8 year-old.
I was so mad. This time, it was a bloody disaster. My knee was screwed. I had plan to wear this very cute kaki skirt with my fav new cami for my first day of 3rd grade. Damn it. The more I’d thought about it, the more I’d weep.
Looking at me now, you’d never think I was once a fashionista. My pale face suffers from the lack of makeup in those long winter days, and my feet are so cold they turn purple in my Birkenstocks I persist on wearing even in the middle of winter at the office to prevent my hips from suffering. You’d think I’d be over superficial matters like a scratch on my knee or a hole in my jeans.
Think twice. If on the outside, it looks like I don’t care, on the inside, I know it only morphed into a gigantic monster. Because I never learned the lesson. I’ve never had enough of a failure to stop relying on external factors such as my appearance and the work I deliver to reassure myself that I’d be loved and accepted.
Because what I needed all along wasn’t a perfect ponytail. It was the confidence to show up as I was, with no matter how many bumps there was in my hair this day or how many scars I had on my knees. That’s what defines a true trendsetter.