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Black Beauty

girl-in-blackMood: Ready, Set
Drinking: The tea with the ice

Packing for a trip, even a long weekend, takes me awhile. There’s so much to take into consideration: weather (do I need an umbrella or a big huge coat?), activities (kick-ass boots or hiking boots?), amenities that will be provided (my mom’s house is well-stocked with my favorite shampoos, soaps, and toothpaste), etcetera.

And when I’m going someplace I’ve never been before (Alabama) and doing something I’ve never done before (featured speaker at a conference and church service), there’s a lot of outfit selection, laying-out, trying-on, and discarding going on. (There may be some shopping involved, as well. I’m always happy to have an excuse to expand the overcrowded wardrobe.)

When I’m wearing something that makes me feel like me, something comfortable yet stylish, feminine yet odd, pretty but weird, something that makes me stalk around like a long-legged bird… Although that analogy is kind of creaping out on me, because now that I think of long-legged birds, I’m realizing that they’re not all that graceful. They’re actually kind of awkward looking, with the head-bobbing and the beak-pointing. But whatever. Long-legged and graceful. That’s what I’m going for.

So in the midst of all this packing and shopping and modeling in front of Boy and mirror and dog, I’ve been realizing something that’s really pretty damn obvious to everybody else.

I like black a lot.

It’s not something I do on purpose. Not anymore. Yes, there was a day when I used to comb the racks for the blackest inky blackness I could find. I even owned a tube or two of black lipstick at one point in time. But I’m not the queen of the underworld anymore. Not even a duchess. Maybe an acolyte, for old times’ sake now and then.

And I’m no Johnny Cash, either (and I’ll hear a thousand “Amens” to that one). I’m no romantic (wo)Man in Black. I’m not wearing black for the poor and the beaten down or the sick and lonely old. I don’t have any reasons as noble as that for my monochromatic style.

Actually, most times when I go on a shopping spree, I’m thinking in bright, starry-eyed colors. “Red this time, for sure.” “Maybe I could make violet work without looking to Grimace-y.” “Something green. Make my eyes pop.” But the color gods are not fans of mine. Most times, when I find what I’m looking for, guess what color it is? Yup. Black. I’ve even asked, “Do you have this in a nice cherry red?” Nope. “Just black, miss.”

So you see, it’s really not my fault that black appears to be my favorite color. It was just meant to be. And I’m not upset about it, either. Black is quite convenient. I’ve worn white on a few occasions and only last about 15 minutes before I’m looking all BritneySpears-frump with some anonymous stain marring my outfit. Black doesn’t betray you like that.

Plus, it just goes with everything. When you have a wardrobe that’s mostly one color, you don’t have a hard time matching.

And here’s a rabbit trail for no apparent reason…Wearing black does not make you “goth”. Yeah, I gladly wore the label not that many years ago, but truth be told, I probably only ever ascended to gothling stage. I was never a full blown goth like Siouxsie. (I never could get my hair to such light-socket stature.) But just because you like to dress in the color of night doesn’t mean that you secretly (or not so secretly) long to be a vampire or that you spend inordinate amounts of time languishing in midnight graveyards, clutching bouquets of dead roses and sighing while singing The Cure…

Anyway, my mother will be happy to know that I am branching out. I’ve recently discovered that navy blue has taken quite a liking to me. So much so that she’s earned a place of honor in my suitcase. Next weekend, I’m taking on Alabama while wearing the color blue.

Watch out world. It’s gettin’ crazy up in here.

-Lo, who had a very brief flirtation with the color orange back at age 15.

Embrace the Farm Girl Within

There was a time, in the height of my gothling glory days, when I would do almost anything to keep you from finding out where I came from. I tried to convince myself that I wasn’t really ashamed of my hometown, etc., but it was a pretty feeble effort and failed rather miserably. See, it’s hard to be all melancholie and the infinite sadness with your long black skirt and piles of black eyeliner if people know that you used to be Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. It kind of ruins your gothy credibility. So I stuffed that adorable little skeleton in a musty closet and hid it as best as I could.

Of course, now that I look back on it, I can see all the drama for how silly it was. Now I know that Tom the Vampire was really a band geek from the suburbs who wore pink button-up business shirts with pocket protectors before he got his dentist to fit him with fangs. And Tink the twirling goth princess didn’t come spinning out of the womb wearing combat boots and lace dresses. Somewhere, in some small town, she’s the biggest dork in the yearbook.

All the arty little white-faced kids started getting their Siouxsie fixation and Bauhaus t-shirts at some point when they were still wearing polo shirts. Some of us just got started with the fishnet and eyeliner a little sooner than others. The rest of us had to play a bit of catch up and hide a few more preppy pictures, that’s all.

As for me, I grew up in a small little Illinois town in the cornfields that bears the singular distinction of being the Hometown of Ronald Reagan. Actually, I didn’t really grow up “in town”. I didn’t even grow up on the outskirts. Nope. I was a real live farm girl. I grew up baling hay and picking corn, chasing barn cats and riding horses. And yes, even milking goats. (Which is easier than milking cows because goats only have two spigots.)

It was an idyllic childhood, really. I had no reason to complain. Most girls my age asked for a pony and got the plastic version with the dollshair mane. I skipped right over the whole pony business and went straight to the real deal–a big, tall horse. I spent the summers brown and barefoot, finding the newborn kittens hidden in the haymow, picking strawberries in the garden and hanging overalls up to dry on the line in the backyard.

I got stung by the bees that hid in the white clover and I got kicked in the jaw by my sister’s obnoxious white pony. (His name was Buckwheat.) I’ve stepped on a nail and caught my pants on barbed wire. I won ribbons and trophies at 4-H fairs and county horse shows. I learned how to deliver baby goats (baby goats are called “kids”) and sew a fancy dress. I’ve canned peaches and packaged sausages. I’ve gone on foxhunts and hay rides. I’ve seen chicks hatch, puppies birthed and horses die in their sleep. I could climb a fence faster than most boys, drive a tractor before I could drive a car, jump a horse over a 4-foot gate and run barefoot on gravel without even wincing. I was a farm girl. No doubt about it.

I tried to deny it for a long time. Once I got all citi-fied and learned how to hail my own cabs, I thought maybe it was dorky to be a hayseed. Everyone seemed to think that you were smarter, sleeker and more sophisticated if you were spawned in the city. Especially if you were going for the my-skin-is-as-pale-as-the-moonlight-by-which-Lestat-hunts look.

There was a time when I would have given anything to be more Nicole Blackman than LaDonna Witmer. I wanted heroin friends and street smarts, KMFDM tours and childhood trauma. I wanted to have a better excuse for my darkness.

But even farm girls have their demons. You don’t have to have a miserable childhood in some dank tenement to be morose. You can grow up in the sunshine with puppies and kittens and still sit in a corner and cut yourself. Just because you have a happy childhood doesn’t mean that you can’t understand the depths of despair.

It’s all a lot more complicated underneath than it looks from the surface. And as far as my story goes, I’ve come to enjoy the contradictions. I mean, it’s kind of cool to know Rodeo Queens and Vampire Boys all at once, you know?

But where is the point in all this rambling babble? I have no idea. I seem to have lost it somewhere between Laura Ingalls and Emily Strange. Here’s my wild stab at wrapping it up:

Somewhere along the way, in the midst of all this growing up, I’ve come to embrace it all. All the pieces of me, from the little blonde tomboy pretending to be Princess Leia with a lightsaber, to the awkward teenager who knew much more about horses than boys, to the fledgling little goth girl who started stuffing her closet and makeup box with black. They are all part of me now.

There’s still an excess of black in my closet, but I just bought a dress that’s lime green. I’ve still got my Nine Inch Nails bumper sticker, but I’ve got Gwen’s new CD in the stereo. Somehow I’ve interwoven the farm girl and the gothling, the melancholy and the sunshine, the poet and the tomboy, the ruffles and the combat boots. It’s all mixed up. It’s all me. And I think it’s turning out alright, after all.

-Lo, who isn’t even sure what her real hair color is anymore, anyway.