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Why My Self Expression Shouldn’t Concern You

I was scrolling through my facebook feed when I saw the words, “The top 30 things you can’t wear after 30”. According to the article, when you’re thirty years old you can no longer wear short dresses. You can also no longer wear leopard print. Overalls are never to be worn by anyone. I stared at my collection of Charlotte Russe dresses and wondered, am I going to have to get rid of these soon?

Who gets to define identity? Do our parents define it? Do our friends define it? What about The New York Times? On June 24th, the article, Growing Older With Madonna, written by Jancee Dunn was published in the fashion and style section of the New York Times. In her article she writes, “When Madonna lifted her Givenchy matador costume to flash her fishnet-encased derrière on the Grammys red carpet, I reacted first with a kind of clinical admiration (her workouts must be intense, given the muscle mass you lose starting in your 30s), followed by prim disapproval.”

The article then delves into what it means to be Madonna’s age (56) while still performing at a grueling speed. Dunn asks the question:

Why does she have the seemingly compulsive need to shock and titillate, drawing from a playbook that is now over three decades old?

My question is, why do we have the compulsive need to judge how people present themselves? Lately there has been a lot of publicity around Caitlyn Jenner, Kim Kardashian’s selfie book, and Rachel Dolezal. It seems like everyone has an opinion on who these people really are, even if they don’t know them.

When I was nineteen, I wanted nothing more than to be a celebrity. Not necessarily for the publicity, but more for the identity. Celebrities seemed larger than life. They could wear whatever they wanted. Their expressions became my fashion. One day out of the week was my designated Celebrity Day.

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NY Times

Wearing Madonna-like fishnet cut off gloves and flashy dresses that I bought in the subway station with tags that said Paris Hilton on the back, I would walk through the streets with my head held high. After all, it was Celebrity Day.  When I wasn’t wearing Paris Hilton dresses or Madonna gloves, I made up my own celebrity. Celebrities were bold. They weren’t shy and reserved like I was. I figured that if I wanted to become someone who could feel confident making bold fashion statements, I would need a drastic image change. One that was so drastic, I could become a different person. This was when I started collecting wigs.

I had my long, blue wig for the days when I was a wild woman. And then I had my more subdued big bushy blond wigs as well as the long brown hair extensions that I could clip in myself. Whenever I put my hair on, I felt like I could be whoever I wanted.

All of the sudden, I wasn’t afraid to have opinions. I wasn’t afraid to express myself. I certainly wasn’t afraid to tell other people, sometimes people I didn’t even know, my thoughts about everything. Politics. Religion. Fashion. Self examination. These were all conversations that suddenly seemed easy.

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Over the years, I stopped wearing my wigs. I realized that even when I took the wigs off, I still had the same opinions. I could voice them, or not voice them, and they were still a part of who I was. My identity didn’t need to be anyone else’s. I had found my own voice through the courage of others.

When I look at the covers of magazines, whether it be fitness, lifestyle, or teen magazines, one piece of advice stands out most. Love yourself. Be yourself. Define yourself. If Kim Kardashian is loving herself and defining herself by publishing selfies, then why are we so quick to judge? If Madonna is doing what she wants with her body and re-defining what age means for her, who are we to tell her otherwise? If our main concern is feeling at home in our bodies, our bodies must be our own to define-

Even if it means wearing leopard print after thirty.

Rebecca Lee

Rebecca Lee

Rebecca Lee has been writing since she could pick up a pen. She currently lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.

2 Comments
  1. I am not so sure that celebrities get to wear what they want or appear the way they want. We’ve all seen pictures of actresses going out to the grocery store just as themselves. No makeup. No glamorous clothes. Just ordinary human beings like the rest of us. And the criticism that comes their way for doing just that. We are shocked that they are just like us.

  2. I definitely agree we should feel free to express ourselves. I hate the idea that you “can’t” wear something due to some arbitrary metric. My late grandmother wore feathers and sequins and too much makeup into her 80s. I might not have the exact same taste in clothes at 28 that I did at 18, but my change in attire has nothing to do with being “age-appropriate.”

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