Yesterday was Sparkly Pink Boot Day for the girls in my daughter’s fifth-grade class.
“But Mom, I don’t have any sparkly pink boots,” my daughter told me. “My boots are tan.”
Of course, that is the part where every good parent tells their child, “You don’t have to be the same as everyone else. It’s okay to be different.” But that is such a lie! It is not okay to be different. Well, not unless you are super-rich like the Kardashians, or super-gorgeous, or so incredibly cool that your individual sense of style will be interpreted as a new trend and imitated by everyone else.
In 1984, when I was in fifth-grade, I was not the same as everyone else. I was different. I was myself. I loved sandwiches made with peanut-butter, dill pickles, and bananas. I wore mismatched socks on purpose. When kids asked me questions, I would reply…sdrawkcab. While other girls were giggling together during recess over girly things, I was sitting by myself reading novels, or studying Spanish, or racing boys across the blacktop in order to prove to everyone that I was the fastest runner at Madera Elementary School. (Okay, well…second fastest, just behind a really cute boy who played soccer and rode BMX bikes and was in my GATE class and on whom I had the hugest crush for two years).
Anyway, I was different. I was weird. Other kids reminded me of this fact so often that eventually, I began to embrace it. “The reason why I am weird,” I explained to everyone, “is that I am not from Earth. I am a changeling child from Jupiter.” It was the only possible explanation. I was no ordinary weirdo. I was a Jupitian. Sadly, being a Jupitian meant that I was never invited to birthday parties or playdates, and that I was picked last for kickball teams, even though I was a pretty good athlete. Being a Jupitian was a lonely identity, even though I was simply embracing who I was.
“Just wear your tan boots with a sparkly pink shirt,” I suggested to my daughter. “That way you’ll still sparkle like the other girls.” Inwardly, I wished that I could race to the store and buy my daughter the cutest, pinkest, most sparkly boots in existence, if only to help her to fit in and have friends. Because I had to learn the truth the hard way. It is okay to be different…as long as you are still exactly the same as everyone else.