Feature Article

A Challenge to Style From The Stylistically Challenged, Part One: Childish Sentiments

by Justine Manzano



     About a week before my first day returning to college after a 5 year interruption, my sister-in-law walked into my home office and winced.  It was a wince louder than any gasp could have been.  She was shocked, appalled, and disgusted—by my choice in school supplies.  Why?  Because they were randomly covered with kittens in cups and shoes as well as cartoon characters.  My sister-in-law who, like all in-laws, had always been judgmental of me, asked me a brilliant question.

     “Do you realize that your desk has been invaded by a child’s school supplies?”

     “No, those are mine,” I told her, nonchalantly.

     She stopped dead in her tracks.  “Then, you do realize that you’re in college, don’t you?”

     I wasn’t offended anymore.  I’d heard comments about my clothes, my accessories and my lifestyle just like that for most of my life.  I’ve never been conventional and I’ve never been ordinary—and I’ve never heard the end of it.  If a person’s lifestyle and their sense of style was determined by their cultural and social surroundings, then I was anti-style, stylistically challenged, as it were.  Which begs the question, if I am the definition of a lack of style, what is style, and how can I change it?

Childish Sentiments

     I have had a topsy-turvy childhood, so sometimes, the now grown me likes to enjoy my childhood a little.  When I was moving into my first new place with my husband, even my close personal friends were a little confused by some of the choices I had made for my place.  I had chosen things like a Strawberry Shortcake wall clock and throw pillows in the shapes of monkey faces and smiley faces.  People seemed very disturbed by this.  I could not imagine why.

     I am constantly being reminded that I am a full-grown adult.  I often hear that I am a TV obsessed, video game obsessed, pop-culture obsessed twenty-three year old married woman and that I seem to have gotten married and grown up without my knowing it!

     Even as I write this, I stare down at my socks.  They are pink, they have a cat and a mouse on them and the words “Best Friends” are emblazoned across them in white.  Almost all of my socks look like some variation of this, as do most of my t-shirts.  My clothes are my personal statement to the world. 

     In my world, the adults closest to me have either lost touch with the current world and are still listening to sixties music on the car radio, or they are desperately trying to grab hold of anything and everything possible to show the world that “we” are still young.  Though I liked the “staying young” approach better than the “living in the past” approach, it still was not the correct way to go.  Those who use the “stay young” approach are trying to stay in touch and be hip, but usually this looks like a vain and sad attempt. 

     My intention has never been to faultily struggle to be hip.  My intention has been to stay young at heart.  Why force yourself to grow up and fit into the box of the responsible adult?  You can be responsible and still wear the Pac Man T-shirt you know you want to wear.  I have always managed to juggle the heavy responsibilities of a full-time job, full-time attendance in college and managing a website while still maintaining a healthy level of non-seriousness. 

     Every day, people die due to the level of stress in their lives.  In New York City, stress is a way of life.  We run around like crazy people, never stopping to see that we need to calm down, to stop and smell the figurative roses.  This is why I am an advocate of maintaining youth at heart.  I am around something that will make me smile every day.  Whether it’s the notebook I’m writing in, the quote I have taped to my computer, the socks on my feet, or the “Office Pet,” an animal made of pipe cleaners that is prominently displayed on my desk at work, I am surrounded by symbols of who I am—someone who refuses to let stress beat me.  I believe

my behavior is the key to the fountain of youth!   And who would avoid that? 


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