I have a handful of friendships that have carried forward from my teenage and very early young adult years — people I’ve known since high school or the two years or so immediately after. One such friendship is with a man whom I’ve grown somewhat distant from in the last few years, as we have some remarkably different views on some topics that make it hard to keep the friendship close.
The last time I saw him, however, was on a January evening about four or five years ago. It was slightly chilly, but not enough to warrant a jacket. So I wore a tank top covered by a thin cardigan sweater with an asymmetrical hem that, being as short as I am, hung to my knees in some places. And I’ll never forget what he said when he saw me.
“Well, you’re definitely…unique.”
It gave me pause, not because of the words themselves, but because of the tone behind them. There was a little amusement and a lot of judgment.
This friend used to be in the military. He’s very rigid, very conservative (in some ways, not all), and very, very set in his ways — and getting more so the older he gets. By comparison, I’m practically a ’60s free-love-for-everyone hippie. But this was the first time I’d ever really felt like he was judging me.
And it bothered me. Not that he thought that my being unique was a bad thing. I long ago let go of any need to know what people think of me, or to control those thoughts — not to mention, any desire to be different as a result of someone’s opinion of me.
No, what bothered me was that he sincerely thought that wearing a sweater with an asymmetrical hem was such a unique thing. Or that the way I dress, do my hair, eat, drink, or do anything else is a bad thing, whether it’s unique or not.