“No one does that anymore,” my eldest sister replied. The fall day was hotter than summer, some tree leaves green, holding on to bonds of chlorophyll, and I wondered if maybe even confused. The summer season had brought rain and temperatures a season ahead, while now this mid September morning we walked a park trail, sleeveless and sandal footed, a ‘record breaking temperature day’ with heat warning announcements. Summer was fall, and fall is summer.
An upside down kind of day.
My eldest sister resides in the acronym known as the GTA-Greater Toronto Area. I’d hopped over for a weekend visit when work took me from my mid-Alberta city, to northern Ontario. Lifting off from a one terminal airport and just a quarter of an hour later, I wheeled my camera gear backpack behind me for the longest trek of my trip–the gate to the luggage carousel. I’m thankful at these times that I’m a flats wearing gal, even the laced up running shoe looking kind.
Oh, don’t get me wrong though! I struggle with this as the comparison kicks in, the “I am nots…” Not as professional, not as chic, not as smart. And then, it’s subtle, but there. These women, in there runway dresses, jewels, and beautiful, heeled shoes are better than me. I pass them by, walking the carpet, on the escalator, in my yoga pants and laced canvas walking shoes, my lips bare and just a touch of mascara (maybe), and hold my head high telling myself, it’s okay to be me. This is who I am, and that is who they are. And I love that their sylin’ so nicely!
I tell myself, we’re all okay, no matter the shoe we wear. But I’m saddened too, as I know, even in mid-life, my struggle to not compare is still there. And as I stand comfortably, waiting for my checked luggage to drop down the carousal shoot, fleeting thoughts not captured cross my mind. Why the need to compare? Why the need to feel less than due to being the girl that picks flats over heels, and bare-faced over foundation, and backpacks over purses? When did this comparison start? And when does it end? I think of another friend who recently left her job at a plastic surgeons office where girls of 16 years old, with volley ball bodies came wanting butt lifts.
“Why?” is all I can ask her.
“I blame the Kardashian’s,” she says.
Ha! I smile. It’s a good, witty answer. But not the answer. I can’t be sure, but possibly the Kardashian’s are victims too, of the comparison. But instead of motivated by another’s look, maybe they are motivated by others needing to look at them.
Comparison in an upside down kind of way.
My sister and I walk, the path curving upwards, wild grasses dotted with wildflowers I do not know the names of are on our left, maple and birch trees on our right. We keep the same pace, a Baby Boomer and a Generation X, the eldest and the youngest, with three in-between. Our parents passed on. We carry different stories of upbringing, but same family. I continue my reminiscence of my best friend, of riding our bikes, at eight years-old, to Nelson Park, where we slid down the bank to Nelson creek, and walked it’s edge and balanced on it’s stones to the other side and back again, in rubber flip flops that sometimes fell into the dark waters, leaving us barefooted and running in the shallow stream to catch them.
“No one does that anymore,” she repeats. “Parents won’t let their kids go alone to those places. It’s a different world.”
I nod. I agree. And saddened. Compared to my childhood days, it is a lot different. With my best friend, along those creek beds, sometimes hours would go by with little words between us as we navigated new stone pathways to cross the waters. Looking back now I can see I could be the introverted, quiet shy blondie, with the nail biting habit, and uneven bangs, without a thought there was anything wrong with me. As a child I dreamed of being free, freer to do whatever I wanted, lacking the wisdom that I was in a freedom. As I grew, and molded, I developed skills to be less shy and work in the, what I saw, dominantly extroverted world. In adulthood, I became free to make my choices, but choices where societal acceptance was a dominating variable.
An upside down kind of free.
Now I type, at fifty-two, wearing loose lulu lemon jogging pants, a Hawk Nelson t-shirt, and bare-footed. Later I’ll be suiting up, in a skirt and jacket, the expected attire for a professional appointment. But my feet will be in flat-heeled black boots, and my trunk will carry my hikers prepared for creeks along the way. And in that creek, maybe there will be new waters to cross on stones still untouched.