Ashley

When I was a little girl I wore steel toed cowgirl boots. They were white with some amazing tassels on the sides. My first day of school a boy started picking on me and I kicked him with my fast moving steely toed boot and proudly walked away. I was fearless, no reason to doubt my course of action because I hadn’t been taught my place yet.

That same day I rode the school bus back in tears, my expectations of life completely altered. My twirling skirt, hat, fabulous cowgirl boots, and sparkling top didn’t live up to the fashion standards provided for kids in Cypress, Texas. That was the first day I felt “abnormal,” “weird,” apart from. As time passed, these staples of my wardrobe got thrown away, replaced by fads of the times and not as perfectly tailored to what my personality was and is. 

From that first, swift boot kick I realized what repercussions were for a girl. I was taunted and bullied, had my hair pulled, my weight persistently shamed. It’s not easy growing up as a female when your appearance is a public ornament, open to ridicule or praise at all times. 

Through the years this pervading idea of becoming a facade for others’ ease of mind and comfort made an impact. Instead of taking pride in showing off just how fabulous I can throw together vintage, ragtag combinations of clothing, I wear the public uniform, I blend to not be as noticeable. To be more noticeable as a woman is to “invite” danger into your life. I wear loose fitting clothing, jeans, and heels to be taller and thus more intimidating to men. I learned that while working with oil field men, sexualization is huge in that field and I literally wanted to rise above it…the heels got taller and taller. At the end of the day, when I was a skyscraper in a small office, nothing helped. Unsolicited advice and jeers continued to be thrown my way. 

I had a mental breakdown in my teens, I put on a twirling dress and just cried. It felt like I had lost myself, trying to be who everyone else wanted me to be and veering so far from my true north. This day was pivotal and remains ingrained in my memory as the day I felt broken. Why couldn’t I be like everyone else? Why was I always too big? Always too ugly? Always too much? Never enough? 

I always hoped to get back that “essence” I had as a young lady. The “not giving a shit,” mentality that only now I can see was powerful. The not caring if I offended anyone by fashion or behavior but embracing the fiery, quick little human that I was. These days I look around and see women, powerful women, speaking their truth and wearing their power on their sleeves. It fills my heart with joy to know that it is becoming a safer place for women, that the trials and tribulations of generations of strong women has opened a door and started a conversation that can shape the future. 

In private, I still wear unicorn onesies, odd socks, twirling skirts, and anything my heart desires. One day I hope that I will again have the courage to allow others to see me, truly see me, and not the well cultivated facade that has run my life these past 20 years. One day I want to strap on a pair of white, tasseled, cowgirl boots and find strength in my identity as an empowered woman. One day I want to go out into the world not as a part of public space but as a force of nature.

 

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