No matter how confident you are, there are times you can’t help but feel a little like Elle Woods when she shows up dressed as a bunny at a party that is clearly not a costume party. There have been a couple incidents in my life that I have felt like a “Playboy bunny wannabe” at a Harvard wine night. One particularly “Elle”-ish moment was Halloween a couple years ago. I was dressed as “Barbie” in a pink american apparel leotard (see also skintight and low cut), tutu and heels (some may have described them as “stripper heels” but I say they are multi purpose shoes). I had grown accustomed to the rules of feminism which allowed me to wear whatever form of lingerie I wanted to on Halloween and pass it off as a costume, in fact, the year prior I’d dressed as a Victoria’s Secret Angel so the Barbie outfit seemed relatively “PG”. Unfortunately, my fellow party goers didn’t seem aware of the “rules of feminism” I’d come to know and love and instead I found myself amongst a bunch of scoffing hipsters in “Where’s Waldo” and “Crazy Cat Lady” costumes. In all fairness I had no issue with their lack of originality when it came to rummaging through the bins at Goodwill in search of the most hipster items they could find, I was dressed as Barbie after all. How much less original could I have been? Instead I was irritated by the blatant rudeness and giggling of the other guests which left me laughing at (and slightly embarrassed by) my total Elle Woods moment. Let’s just say I didn’t make any new friends that night and ended up storming out of the party and drunkenly crying on a stranger’s lawn until my friends found me (not one of my classier moves).
My more recent Elle Woods moments have hit a little closer to home as they have nothing to do with improper wardrobe choices (which can be easily laughed off). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, one of my biggest fears is that people will think I am stupid. I place a lot of value on intelligence, on education and on essentially not being a ditzy “trophy wife” kind of girl. I attended a few parties with a new group of people (told you I’m trying to make new friends and ignore my social hermit tendencies) and quickly learned they were all intelligent in a very different way than me. While I was trying to fit in by discussing Botticelli and…well, to be honest, Tory Burch they were talking binary code and compilers (?). I suddenly felt foolish, I felt dumb and I kind of wished I hadn’t worn a pink tutu dress and sandals with sparkles on them. As they casually mentioned their corporate jobs, swanky apartments and upcoming vacations abroad I felt myself growing more and more self aware of how much of a grown up I was not.
I felt defensive of my intelligence, of my worth as a person, and I felt myself feeling a strange sensation I hadn’t had since 7th grade when I so desperately wanted to the attention of the “cool girls” with Abercrombie jeans and matching blonde highlights. I was nauseous as they recapped stories from their college days at their practically ivy league alma mater. I wanted more than anything to feel validated, now I was the one with blonde highlights and overpriced jeans but I now craved a new kind of recognition that couldn’t be purchased with an American Express platinum card. Just because I didn’t attend an ivy league school, hold a six-figure job or read computer code like it was the newest installment of Harry Potter didn’t mean I couldn’t be interesting or smart or successful (right?!).
After a few quick pep talks from my wonderfully beautiful and intelligent best friends reminding me that there are different versions of success and different forms of intelligence I was encouraged and a little less intimidated by the new crowd. While I don’t like feeling intimidated in the moment (oh god, it’s mortifying) I think it’s healthy to feel “small” once in awhile, it reminds us how many fascinating, interesting people there are in the world and can serve as inspiration to better ourselves rather than as a source of insecurity. In the end Elle may have pranced around in a bunny costume but ended up winning the trial without forfeiting her signature color (or fabulous shoes).