Purple Sneakers

Throughout life, I've felt I was consistently "not getting the memo," so to speak.

For example, in the second grade I was invited to a "girls only" birthday party, for Caroline, the prettiest girl in class, who lived in a mansion. She had perfect hair, perfect clothes and a perfect older sister who had Barry Manilow posters hanging on the wall. My family was different. My Dad cut my hair, my favorite sneakers were purple and my sisters listened to the Beatles. We were trying to keep up with the Jones's, but were often a day late and a dollar short. In fact, we were about an hour late getting to this particular birthday party. As Mom pulled into the long driveway of the mansion, all the girls had been lined up on the front steps, in front of what looked like a Plantation, getting a group picture taken by a photographer for the newspaper. It was a sea of white frilly dresses and bobby socks. I did not get the memo. I was rockin' polyester pants, a cow boy shirt, and my purple sneakers.

"Oh please hide me," was all I could think. But I couldn't even talk. My mouth just hung open. Mom stopped the car abruptly at the entrance to the driveway. We both stared at the obvious social train wreck about to happen. The realization, that I was about to be the only Tom Boy in a world of perfectly appointed rich girls, made my brain freeze. I turned into an ice sculpture and was hoping for a heat wave so I could melt and disappear.

My compassionate mother, who could see I was nearly a puddle on the floor boards said, "Do you want to go back home and put on a dress?"

Shrinking down in my seat so no one would see me, I muttered "Yes."

Now, the last thing on Earth that I ever wanted to do, as a little girl, was wear a dress. They didn't make any sense to me. If the wind blew or you jumped the wrong way, your under wear was exposed. Come on, that's crazy. They made you vulnerable, and you couldn't even play in them. I guess you could play house (yuck) but kick ball and soccer were out. Heck you even had to check the way you bent down to sit on the floor. Give me a break. Back then, given the choice between wearing a dress, or digging a ditch, I'd say "hand me the shovel" every time. At least then you'd get to be playing in the dirt. But I desperately wanted to fit in, so I went home, picked out my least annoying dress, and Mom helped me into a pair of tights. She got them up past my knees and then grabbed the waist of them and bounced me like a cement yo-yo. I felt like my dogs must have felt when I dressed them up in people clothes; I had their same pitiful look. Neither the dogs nor I enjoyed a minute of being a doll, but our sweet torturers just loved it.

I don't remember the drive back to the party, but I remember that when I got there, everyone let me know that I had missed out on the group photo that was going to be in the newspaper. Big deal I figured, who wanted to read about a kid's party anyway, and besides, I felt bad for the photographer. Surely he would have rather been on assignment in Africa. Then, someone asked if that was me in the car that pulled into the driveway and then left. Uh oh. My plan was to say nothing, act casual, and avoid eye contact. "Nope, wasn't me. Don't know what you are talking about."

 

That afternoon, I suffered through trying to be normal. I tried to act like I cared about the arts and crafts and tried to follow everyone's lead with every new activity, so they wouldn't know there was a stranger in their midst. It's a pensive way to have to behave as a nine year old, sad and alone with your own thoughts, feeling like a misfit and worried that everyone else thought so too.

There were a number of times growing up, well into adulthood, where I still felt that way. In a social situation that's out of my comfort zone, surrounded by people and places that are new to me. I still open my eyes real wide to see how it is that we behave there. Sometimes I still doubt if what I'm wearing to a function is appropriate. I still want to fit in; we all want to belong. Reading "I am a stranger on Earth" Psalm 119:19, makes me happy every time I read it, because that nine year old inside of me is able to say "Yes, me too!" It makes me feel a sense of unity, to know that even thousands of years ago, someone was feeling exactly like I do.

As it turns out, I fit in with the other comics who are all misfits to some degree, and that's perfectly OK. I've was always been searching, trying to understand what it was that I was supposed to be doing. I learned the hard way, by doing all the wrong things and then righting my path. I'd sit and ponder life and decide who it was that I wanted to be, and how I wanted to go about doing it. It's hard for me to admit this, but I was a little lost, maybe even a lot lost. I always wished there was some blue print, some book of directions to life, so that I could have just that - direction. And then I started reading the Bible more closely. For me, that's exactly what the Bible is, a book of directions for life. Sure there are the Thou Shall Not's, but there's a lot more about how we should be with each other, even how we should talk with one another. For instance: "Do not let any unwholesome talk, come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those that may listen" (Ephesians 4:29 NIV). Stuff like this just makes me happy, call me a nerd, call me a dorky misfit, and you'd be right on target, partially. From another perspective, it's kind of cool if you can speak constructively to people, listening to them and helping to build them up. It creates stronger friendships between strangers, friends, and family. And when you are being that cool, that you are following the Bible and speaking only what is good so that others benefit, guess what? No one cares if you are wearing a dress or your purple sneakers, but they will want to hang out with you, of that, I am sure.

And you know what? I bet I wasn't the only one at that little girl's party, who would have rather been wearing pants. The other day I went to a fancy lunch at The Ritz Carlton, a fund raiser for a woman's organization, and I wore a dress. I've gotten to the point where I actually enjoy wearing dresses from time to time. No hose this time though, those are still verboten. My friend who's an artist came with me, and she wore jeans, a cute top, some smashing earrings and killer heals. Half way through the lunch, several ladies leaned over the table to tell her they were so jealous that she was wearing jeans, and that if they knew they could have worn jeans, they would have. It reminded me of the party I went to in the second grade, a bunch of grown little girls, trying to fit in.
We are all just kids on the inside, trying to dress like adults and trying to say adult things. It's good to remember that God made us each individual and unique expressions of Himself. To express your uniqueness, to be as "You" as you can be, can be a wonderful form of worship!

These days, I thank God for my individuality, and for my purple sneakers.

Yes, I still have a pair.