Raise Your Hand if You’re Sure

Cherri kidWear what the * you want.

By Cherri Ellis

On a recent visit to my hometown, my mom and I had a fabulous time going through old pictures. Wearing pajamas and drinking wine late into the night, we covered her floor with evidence of the past. She had bags of stuff, from official documents like marriage and birth certificates to cards written in a child’s scrawl. I would find a photograph and she would tell me all about it, from what year it was taken to why I looked so upset. (My imaginary Cadillac didn’t have seatbelts.) I couldn’t get enough of it. I came across my fourth grade progress report. It had a myriad of boxes to be checked: mathematics, reading, writing, language arts, social sciences—all the standards. There were two columns marked, November and January, and I scored above average in all of them. At the very bottom of the page there was a section titled, “Work Habits and Social Attitudes,” and that’s where it got interesting. My teacher had given me four big fat “Needs Improvement” marks. Apparently, in her opinion, I did not do the following: respond to suggestion, use my time wisely, exercise self-control, or work well in groups. Reading it, I actually laughed out loud. I asked Mom about it and she said, “Oh, that was Mrs. Irvin. She called a conference with me and said that you would do your work too quickly and then go talk to the other kids. I told her to give you some work that took you longer.”

Home for a few weeks now, I have not been able to stop thinking about that report. First of all, I adore that my mom had my back. She has my daughter’s even more.  Were I to call her and tell her Chelsea had robbed a bank she would be all, “Now why did that baby have to go to that trouble? She didn’t have to buy a ski mask did she? Did she find one in the color she wanted?” The teacher called my mom in but she was the one who got schooled.

When I try to recall Mrs. Irvin, I get only a hazy memory of a disapproving brunette bouffant. I only have one actual memory of her. She called me up to her desk and hissed that my dress was wrinkled, which now seems cruel but evidently didn’t traumatize me. I went back to my seat thinking that something weird had happened, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t about my dress. It is amazing to me that at the age of 10, I could sense that Mrs. Irvin’s opinion of me was a mirror in which I should not seek reflection. There is no evidence of any civil disobedience in school reports prior to and following my fourth grade year, so perhaps we just didn’t see eye to eye.

There is a moment every morning when I decide what to wear for the day. Sometimes I slip the perfect garment off a hanger and that is that—I think on it no longer. But sometimes I fall into a whirling dervish of changes, the shirt not looking right with the pants that are too casual for the shoes. My indecision stems from random factors such as a two-pound weight difference or how recently I’ve had my roots done. Women spend too much time second-guessing their appearances because there are so many options. I have chosen an outfit taking an invitation’s font into consideration.

I want to go back to being the girl in Mr. Irvin’s class, when I was clearly OK with all my decisions. Pre-pubescent girls, if lucky and well-loved, enjoy a window of certainty that is all too brief.

Cherri report card“My Suggestion”

(*fill in your expletive of choice)

As I stand in my closet each morning

I am anything but nonchalant

You can change for an hour 

and still find that you do not

Wear what the * you want.

The magazines say you’re not perfect

And your outfits are not au courant

Tonight is a fundraiser. 

God, how you wish you could

Wear what the * you want.

Everyone’s phone has a camera

And a terrible picture will haunt

Put down the elastic and get out the Spanx—

you can’t

Wear what the * you want.

Sometimes you will feel like an oddball

And mean girls in schoolyards will taunt

Flash them a confidant smile, my dear, and then

Wear what the * you want

If the world says you’re too old to matter

No longer a debutant

Read WHAT NOT TO WEAR OVER 50 and then go and

Wear what the * you want.

Kim Kardashian gets to be famous

Gwyneth Paltrow gets to be gaunt.

Tom Cruise is a gay scientologist. Why can’t you

Wear what the * you want?

There are some who are comfortable covered

There are some who are more prone to flaunt

Whatever your mood, your size, or your age, just

Wear what the * you want

One Response to “Raise Your Hand if You’re Sure”

  1. Janet James says:

    love it!!!

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