I'm not exactly sure when this took place, but I was probably ten or eleven years old when awareness began. Awareness for me took the form of noticing girls, and then noticing myself and becoming self conscious about how I looked. Before this time, I was blissfully unaware of anything other than whatever was taking place at the moment. I just reacted to my surroundings like a squirrel in the middle of the road with an approaching car - all over the place.
And it was about this time that my dad became unemployed. He was an insurance salesman and I don't really remember what happened, I just knew that for a while there he didn't have a job. And somehow I found out that he had borrowed some money from the neighbors to buy us kids some new t-shirts and underwear for christmas. I can still remember my younger sister crying about not getting the toys she wanted, and how sad my parents looked.
So we never asked for anything much. Except now I was starting to notice that my clothes weren't quite in style. My mom, bless her heart, took it upon herself to purchase me two pair of jeans for school. Bell bottoms. Dark Blue. Totally yuck. And I hated them. So everyday at school, while on the playground or at P.E., I would run and slide and try to tear them up in hopes of getting a new pair. And finally, one day, after much sliding, the knees ripped! Yippee, home free. I went home and told mom and showed her my dilemna and was expecting the "lets go get you another pair then" and I could pick out some cool ones.
Didn't happen. Mom took them from me, ironed a patch on each knee, and handed them back. Yes, a terrible blow had been dealt to my self esteem.
This was also about the time Nike tennis shoes became popular. They are nothing now like they were then, but they were the prized possession of the day. Blue nylon looking things with a white check on the side. And I wanted a pair. I guess I bugged mom long enough that we had to drive all the way to the big town eleven miles away to find them. Yep, we left Maberry and went to Mt. Pilot. I can still remember getting them and getting back into our chevrolet caprice station wagon with the wood trim, and looking at those shoes like a prized possession. It could have been a golden trophy. Mom's words still come to me: "You better take care of those. I have never paid $14 for a pair of shoes in my life". For real.
Now the shoe is on the other foot. (pun intended)
I am much older, and though I try to be aware of how I look and what I wear to a certain extent, I don't really care much if its to the approval of others. I wear boots. Cowboy boots mostly. And I wear them all the time if I have pants on. Suits, jeans, slacks...heck, I don't care. I like boots. And in the summer, shorts and sandals only. Its me. Its who I am and it makes me comfortable.
Fortunately, I can afford this stuff now. And my kids get what they want also for the most part. One is eleven years old now and hasn't quite gotten to the point of being aware of what the culture says she should wear. And that's good. One is sixteen, and is thoroughly self conscious about her looks, but not because of what others will think about her, but how she wants to look. She is very comfortable with herself, something I really wasn't at her age. And the self confidence of both of them makes me proud. They don't follow the crowd or the culture or the marketing overall. They totally dislike Hannah Montana clothing. YEAH!
I'm not sure if its harder being a kid now than it was for my generation. In some ways its seems so, in others not. I guess its all relative to the situation. Times seem more complicated, but kids seem cooler. The seem to be more comfortable with who they are. More accepting of others. More into social activities. More concerned with the environment and food drives and "race for cure" activities and saying I love God on their MySpace pages...
Good for them.