Way back in 1998, one of my main ways of deciding whether a guy was worth dating was if he wore "nice shoes". At the time this meant he had to wear skate shoes or something even cooler. If his shoes weren't cool, well then he was out.
To be fair, in 1998, I really wasn't all that interested in dating.
I was a grumpy 12 year old after all. So this might have been a way to ensure that I didn't have bother. Because the "cool shoe" factor cut the possibilities in at least half. But I don't think it was just that.
I'm 900% sure that it was a reflection of my own insecurity.
In middle school I was a not-so-secret nerd. (Okay, I'm still a not-so-secret nerd.)
But my goal despite having eccentric interests like writing poetry and doing speech arts, was to be invisible.
There was no way I wanted to be the focus of the popular kids' wrath or attention. Their opinion might not have mattered to me, but having seen what could happen to people if you got in the spotlight in the wrong way, my intention was always to fly under the radar whenever possible.
So making sure that I only dated guys with cool shoes was part of that.
It sort of worked for me.
I ended up dating the most popular guy in school for a few strange months. The captain of the rugby team was a guy as extroverted as I was introverted. The romance began while we were studying A Midsummer Night's Dream in English class together. But it was ill fated. It turned out that I would rather read a book or hang out with my weird friends then try to navigate middle-school romance. Even though he did have really cool shoes.
And you would think that the thing with cool shoes would have ended there.
But it didn't. I didn't date a guy who had what I deemed very uncool shoes until I was 22. In a stroke of irony not lost on me, this guy with his uncool shoes taught me more about love and respect than any of the cool shoe guys ever had. And from there on out, I just got over the whole shoe thing. But still, it took ten years!
That's actually insane.
It took me ten years to realize that what a person wore on their feet had nothing to do with was in their heart.
Jeeze. I kind of don't want to admit it. But it's true.
As I've gotten older, I wonder more about my own superficial past and present as well as others'. Especially in the area of self-presentation.
What we wear and how we do ourselves up, what other people wear and how they do themselves up - it seems to occupy way more space than it deserves.
"I hate men in tank tops."
"Just so everyone knows leggings are NOT pants, and you don't get to just wear them around town like they ARE pants."
"I really lay into her for wearing jeggings. I hate those things."
"As the premiere of the province I don't think she should be running around in spandex in public. It's unseemly."
"Everything was great except that our server looked like she was going to hit the tracks. And the other server was dressed like a DJ."
"That restaurant only hires sluts."
"Wait why do you think they're all sluts?"
"Because they dress like sluts."
"You know you would look really good if you just wore makeup"
These are a couple of random judgy comments I've heard recently.
One of them is my own judgy comment actually. Before I started my own exercise routine I thought that the public-wearing of lycra by a leader in government lacked decorum. I kind of can't believe that was my opinion. But there it is. I was insecure about the fact that I basically hadn't gone for a run in 10 years, and so it came up in my unfounded opinion about the premiere's outfit.
As soon as I started running, that all changed.
Suddenly I was admiring people's exercise gear and wondering where they got it.
I thought it was great that women felt empowered enough and comfortable enough in their bodies to wear tight clothes or to run around in their exercise gear.
As I changed, my opinions changed.
Roundly indicating to me that my opinions had been essentially without value. Unfounded. And basically pointless.
What I'm wondering is: what would happen if we all just collectively stopped caring so much about what other people wore?
Why does it matter if she's wearing a dress where her cleavage is exceptionally prominent?
Why does it matter if he's wearing a tank top that shows off his super fit arms?
Does wearing a pair of stretchy pants that are painted to look like jeans mean you deserve a public shaming?
If I had to guess, I would say most of our concern about what other people wear is related to either our own insecurities and fears or basic sexism.
A few years ago a friend of mine told me that I would look really good if I just wore makeup.
I would have been easy to feel insecure or offended after that comment. But in the moment I knew that she wasn't really telling me that I don't look good without makeup. What she was telling me is that she thinks SHE doesn't look good without makeup.
Her comment made me laugh.
Although at the time I didn't even own any makeup, I had spent the better part of my teen years obsessing over makeup, reading Vogue magazine, and applying makeup to any friend who would let me. Every time my mom went out with my dad for a nice dinner, or to a party, I would do her makeup for her. So yeah, I knew all about the wonders of makeup. And what I also knew was that it's completely subjective.
When I was a teenager I thought makeup made me look better.
Now as an adult I just think it makes me look different. Not necessarily better or worse.
The same applies to wardrobe, hair, accessories, whatever.
Every opinion we have about how somebody should or should not look is just our subjective desire for people to fit into a box that we're comfortable with.
As soon as somebody's appearance challenges an idea we have about ourselves or the world, we impose a judgement on them in order to feel comfortable again.
So I guess judgy thoughts are useful.
They're like a spotlight that we can shine back on ourselves.
Every time we're in judgement we can reverse the light and find our own insecurities staring right back.