on sophistication…

You would never know it from the photo evidence, but at a young age I had a bit of a weird obsession with what I called “sophisticated ladies.” In fact, I still do. Granted, my perspective on said lady has changed from the mid-nineties, when I thought the final word on sophistication was a claw-clipped updo and a fur-collared, mid-calf length cardigan (am I the only one who remembers just HOW IN those long sweaters were for like 5 minutes? Of course, I got mine 5 minutes too late and wore it stubbornly for probably like a year past its prime, but hey, I’ve always been a late bloomer).

I’ll never forget the day I told my mom that when I grew up I wanted to be “sophisticated.” I was riding in the car, unsatisfied with my Goodwill outfit (my family had 5 kids, all of whom grew like weeds, and my dad was a working-class mechanic. Do the math.) and dreaming of the days when I would walk about a big city in a long sweater. The fact that I shared this deep-seated longing with her in the presence of my brothers and sisters was something of a risk, as my siblings were a dream-crushing bunch who had lived with my clumsy fashion efforts far too long to keep their teasing to a minimum—ya jerks, I was only 7 and I TRULY THOUGHT THAT IT WOULD BE A GOOD IDEA TO WEAR TIGHTS UNDER MY HOLEY STIRRUP PANTS BECAUSE, DUH, THE TIGHTS WERE PINK AND THE PANTS WERE TURQUIOSE AND THOSE COLORS ARE TOTALLY PRETTY TOGETHER, JUST ASK LISA FRANK.

Anyways, her response after the laughter and groans and “here’s my impression of Audge trying to walk in high heels” died down was to say “Let’s talk about this when we get home.” A somewhat ominous proclamation, but I was happy to cut the conversation short and spare myself from any further teasing.

Once home, I was instructed to haul out the fat dictionary and look up exactly what “sophistication” meant. I remember reading it aloud to my mom, alone in the living room, and feeling my heart sink as the word “worldly” came up, again and again. (I’m too lazy to put the definition in here, look it up yourself you free-loader.)(Just kidding, I love you, please keep reading my blog.)

Growing up in a Christian home, I knew “worldly” wasn’t exactly the quality you wanted your young daughter to strive for. I listened as my mother explained that God wanted us to emulate His Son, not the world. I understood what she was saying, and in retrospect, I can picture the fears that were going through her mind: images of little Audrey, stick-thin and smoking a long cigarette ala Cruella de Vil, eating escargot and scoffing at her po-dunk parents from suburbia.

But what I didn’t have words for at the time is this: I didn’t want to be worldly, at least, I don’t think I did (still think that word has a somewhat ambiguous definition), I wanted to be respected. I wanted people to think that I had it together, rather than seeing me as a chicken-legged 10-year old with a used Limited Too tee-shirt and a stringy haircut. My mistake was thinking that this kind of respect would come from clothing and a fancy claw-clip hairdo. My other mistake was not clarifying this to my mom, because I think if she had understood what I really wanted, we could have had a really meaningful conversation about it. She’s a smart woman and I respect her input. But I was embarrassed and feeling sheepish and just wanted to let the whole thing die, so I said nothing.

As a fully mature 23-year old with every answer that my 10-year old self lacked, I am here to present you with my nugget of wisdom for the day: respect does not come from what you wear or how you style your hair (wow, that rhymes, I could turn this into a song for 10-year old females with low self-esteem. Hang on while I grab my good idea notebook. <-[I don’t have one, but how much cooler would I be if I did?!]). People will respect you if you respect yourself, and hang on, I’ll elaborate because I know that sounded trite. When you believe you have value and intelligence and experience and are trustworthy and have things to offer to the world and the people around you, it shows. I didn’t realize this until college, which is when I metamorphasized (??) from the small audrey cocoon into Audrey the butterfly who understood that she could and should impact the lives of people around here and chose to use her powers for good. Respect and value yourself, people. You’ll make more friends and they will think you’re awesome and then you’ll be happy forever.

And if you are thinking “Duh, Audrey!” well good-job. You are obviously emotionally and intellectually superior to me. Have a lovely day!

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