The first day of school is a huge event in a child’s life. It’s a new start. Will my best friend be in my class? Will my school crush be in my class? Is this the year I will finally become popular? Is this the year I won’t get any spankings? And it’s also the time for new clothes if you’re privileged enough.
It’s not that I didn’t get new clothes. I generally got a new pair of sneakers. New socks. New underwear. The kind of Blue jeans that were so blue and stiff and long that when you were old enough to care you begged your mom to wash a dozen times before you had to wear them. But most of my clothes were hand-me-downs. Not just any hand-me-downs: the hand-me-downs of the two most popular brothers in town. We could count on Polo and Izod and OP and whatever else was cool at the time. Because of this, my twin and I dressed pretty well for poor preacher’s sons, and we always got the clothes in time for the first day. Like most kids we already had our clothes picked out before the first day. And I never had to worry if my clothes were cool because I got them from the cool kids.
In my second or third grade year (I’m not sure) I laid out all of my new hand-me-downs on the bed and made some very careful considerations. I could go the safe route with a polo and some white tennis shorts, or I could take a riskier route. The thing is, I knew I would be taking a chance with the other option because I had a queasy feeling about it, but I was feeling particularly devil may care and so I went for it.
The outfit that I chose was a red and white satin track suit. Red satin track shorts with white trim. and a white satin tank top with a red stripe down the front. This of course went with white knee socks and my knew Nike shoes. I like the way they felt; soft and silky. Perhaps that should have been a red flag, but I knew that they were cool or had been because of the last kid to wear them so I put my concerns away and chose them.
On the morning of the first day, no one said a word. No Paul, not my dad. Oh, perhaps my mom said, “Well, David, that’s an interesting outfit,” but that was before I knew that when my mom said “interesting” she often meant that maybe it wasn’t the best choice; however, she always let knew choose my own clothes by then. Besides, I was too busy being proud of my uber-stylish new-old clothes to notice. Before leaving, my mother snapped a shot of us in our new-old outfits and the lunch boxes from the previous year.
We walked to school, which was about six blocks away. This gave me time to really adjust to the idea that I was really going to wear this. I was really going to walk into the school with nothing by satin. I held my head high when I walked to my class, and I was pleased to see that my best friend was in my class.
At some point, my teacher needed a volunteer to run an errand and I was the lucky one. Running an errand was generally reserved for only the very trusted members of the class and I counted myself one of them even though it was the first day. I set out for the destination. While I was walking across a breezeway to wherever I was supposed to be going, I encountered another kid in my grade: Todd.
Second/Third grade boys have been taught manners, but they don’t use them on each other at all. And they certainly have no tact. He stopped me as if to say, “Let’s have a little chat,” and said, “No offense, but those are girls’ clothes.”
Despite being blunt, he said it in such a friendly way. He was not being rude, nor was he making fun of me. I looked down at my clothes and I immediately saw what he meant. On some level, I already knew. I knew by my stomach ache which happened when I was anxious about something. I didn’t argue with him about it, and I made up my mind never to wear them again. In fact, I wished I could have gone home right then and changed.
Todd immediately became my friend after that. In my own little 2nd/3rd grade little boy way, I really appreciated him. He saved me some future grief. It was a kindness.
At some point after that, I realized something about those clothes. I worked it out on my own. How could such a cool kid wear girl clothes? How could such a cool kid wear clothes that were so uncool? The truth was that they were cool because he wore them. He could pull them off, and I could not; plain and simple.
p.s. My mother has the picture of me in this outfit before leaving for school. The one and only time I ever wore it. I will post it as soon as she sends it to me.