In the UK shops are set to reopen on June 15th, and like a lot of us, I am desperate to piece myself back together, the urge to run to shops to buy fast fashion, hair dye, and buy the things that make me feel like me is strong. But then I started to think about how much of my identity is different, cue The Internal Shift.
I've always struggled to make ends meet, like many creatives my finances give way to grandiose ideas and an “I’ll make it someday” attitude, which often leads me living from payment to payment, leaving very little left in the way of disposable income to spend on myself. I wear things until they physically die, and I've even been known to use the old trick of sharpie-ing my boots to make them not look like I've worn them for three years in a row (which I definitely have). I'm a fan of big transformations, it's not enough for me to simply survive something, I must thrive because of it or else I simply feel like I've lost.
I’ve got a very distinct style but most of it is relics from a person I once was, I don't have the funds to physically take myself shopping, or click “buy now” on something I covet on Asos, so why do I and many others have this desperate need to become a new person after lockdown. What's interesting is that this period of introspection came after a series of catastrophes for me, the thought of being alone with those thoughts was sickening, a very bad heartbreak, family and pet deaths to name a few. I thought that sitting my ass indoors and not having the stage for comfort would break me, instead it rounded off my edges, I am calm, centred and furious. I feel like I can do anything and have been given opportunities to better myself as a person both in education and socially SO,
I've come to a theory, I'm going to wait at least a couple of weeks before I even venture into a shop, I want to test whether my identity and how I feel is in fact tied into my self image, or if it's just the outside matching with a bigger internal shift. I know it seems completely frivolous talking about clothes when there's not only internal shifts happening everywhere, but several global crises to tackle and be in solidarity with, but fashion moves people man, you've only got to look at a person getting a new haircut and buying a new jacket and physically see everything change for them, and I've got to say apart from my career clothes, a sort of drag uniform if you will, I was content to let my own outer layer take a back seat.
Before lockdown I was a live singer, (I hope to be again of course, who doesn't love getting applauded for a living), but I've been writing almost every day since the stay inside orders came through. I've worn makeup approximately five times, and I've dressed up only to go on socially distanced dates. However when I did dress up, I flung my wardrobe open to try on outfits like a girly 80’s montage only to find… there was nothing there. And I don't mean nothing was there in the sense of I had no clothes, I do, it's just that every item I looked at looked like it belonged to someone else. Christ I thought, what's been going on inside my head that I no longer feel like the person who got so excited over these when I bought them.
Oversized clothes to hide myself, uncomfortably feminine dresses so I didn't look too “butch”, and hand me downs that I was too polite, (and desperate for clothes), to refuse. The person in that wardrobe is confused, ill informed, and frightened to make a noise. The person that's grown out of the weeds in lockdown is loud, writes for LGBTQ platforms and anti-bullying activism pages, and isn't a quietly retreating opinionphobe anymore, and I feel like I’d rather walk down the streets naked than disappear into my old relics.
Getting involved with the Black lives Matter movement, socio-political problems within our healthcare system, and social and racial bias, actively researching, and educating myself in order to be an informed ally has forced me out of my little bubble of comfort. Regardless of everything else, I have to look at who I surround myself with and who I want to project to the world.
I'm a very social creature, my laptop has become my lifeline during the pandemic, I think my cheese may have actually slid off my biscuit if I didn't feel like I was talking to an old friend, so why when I do have to go and meet someone new, do I feel like there's a complete disconnect between my outer layer and my inner monologue? I think that to expect there not to be some sort of aggravation beneath the surface in the current climate is for lack of a better word, naive.
My ex partner was obsessed with fashion. Their mum even said to me once before said partner transitioned, “She can't sit there with no clothes on like you, she's whatever outfit she puts on”. Now however much I adore fashion I never understood why they looked like they were going to cry watching a Mugler runway, why they looked like they were actually aroused picking out fabrics.
But I think since being stripped of all my usual distractions and becoming completely different internally I get it. What you present is a story about yourself, and when that story shifts, it's like wanting to rip your old skin off and put new skin on, that's what clothes were to them, and perhaps that was what I was missing when I hung yet another polite white T shirt up in my wardrobe. The thought of putting on my old garments with their old history and their old memories makes me unjustifiably sad.
I don't recognise what I was trying to do with them, I don't even recognise my hair or the way I do a little flick with my eyeliner, have done for a decade. I've been through such an intense internal shift, (I believe made more intense by writing eight hours a day, that is getting VERY familiar with your brain my friend), that putting on anything old feels like a betrayal.
Could it be for some of us, that being alone inside our heads for the very first time has brought about the biggest shift we will probably ever face? I'm thinking yes. It's amplified by being in a survival state where the only thing to do to survive is to sit still. Cognitively paradoxical because when there's a threat your primal brain only thinks one thing, run.
There's been other huge shifts in my life sure, and I always marked it with an outer shift, shaving my hair off was a big one, I felt like the years of growth has kept in all the toxicity over the years, and it felt so freeing to let it drop to the floor chunk by chunk.
I was speaking to my friends about the “burn it” attitude. I will go a very long time enduring something that doesn't make me feel valuable, which can sometimes be in our own minds, and then coming to the end of it there's no gentle laying down of that phase of life, there's no kissing it goodbye, we simply burn it all to the ground. The thing about the “Burn it” attitude is that there is no sure fire way of knowing what will happen when you do, it’s just the blind faith that the old way isn't working.
Everything has changed during lockdown, and I'm not mad at it, I am however very excited to see what the new me portrays to the outside world, now that the inside of me has caught up, because I want to see what grows out of the ashes. The placid people pleaser who wore her mum’s old t-shirts is no more, and maybe it's time to start taking my own opinion a little more seriously.