A Ghost of Christmas Past
Remember Delia’s? If you were an adolescent girl in the 1990s or early 2000s, surely you must. The Delia’s catalog would come in the mail and I wanted everything. I had previously had a smaller version of this experience with the American Girl doll catalog, but with that wishlist I was more reasonable. When I was in the first grade, a group of girls told me that I couldn’t be friends with them because I didn’t have a Pound Puppy. I acquired that Pound Puppy and the stakes were raised much higher: I couldn’t be their friend unless I had an American Girl doll. Christmas came and went and I had my doll and they still wouldn’t be my friends. It didn’t matter, though, because now I had the doll. At seven years old I had sense enough to understand that they weren’t being friendly. I did not have that sense at 15. At 15, my insecurity had few limitations.
So the Delia’s catalog would arrive and I would flip through the pages and I would picture myself in the outfits, mentally trying on different personas. I wanted all of them. I would be better if I was just different. And then I felt bad for the wanting. I was starting to grow into a more adult understanding of greed and modesty and the value of a dollar, but even these rational parts of me could not quiet the utter longing to look pretty and cool, preferably with flat abs. So when Christmas rolled around, I created an elaborate list, with pictures, of what I wanted from the Delia’s catalog. In this very consumerist part of the world, that may be fairly typical behavior, at least if I believe TV ads, but I still feel such shame and regret. Then came the glitter jeans.
I think the term was spacedyed. The jeans were dyed with a gradient ranging from a pale, icy blue to a medium blue at the cuffs and they were glittery. The glitter was actually part of the fabric, not glued on like at the Limited Too (a store I was never petite enough to shop at, frankly). They were pretty darn cute. And I got them for Christmas. And then I only wore them twice, and never to school. I felt so bad about it, hoping that my mom wouldn’t notice. I probably should have exchanged them, but the thing is, I really liked them. I was just too scared to wear them.
Part of the problem was the fit. When you’re an even moderately tall woman (5’8″ for example) buying jeans can be stupidly difficult. Then, throw in the unfortunate super low rise trend of my high school years and things got worse. These jeans fit fine, but the rise was low enough that I felt like if I sat or kneeled or anything, my crack would come peeking out. The real issue, though, was that I had never seen anyone wear anything like them. Were they as cool as I thought they were? Or were people going to notice me? Fearing that I would stick out, I wasn’t brave enough to wear them.
I look back and know two things. First, those jeans were cool. The fabric felt cheaper than it should have, but the overall style of the jeans was pretty darn cute. Second, I was cool. I look back and marvel at how insecure I was. I was so smart and driven and I was into classic books and old movies and I could put together a cute little retro outfit. I wrote my own magazine out of my bedroom and ran through cartridges of ink (thanks, Mom and Dad) printing it for my friends. I was a whole person and I do not understand why I was cutting off bits of myself and hiding them in my bedroom. It made me miserable, and I’m sure it made me miserable to be around. I don’t get it. I should have worn the jeans.
Now that we’ve established that you remember Delia’s, do you remember A Christmas Carol? Remember when the Ghost of Christmas Past comes and takes Scrooge to see scenes from his past—his lonely childhood, his early career, his fiance leaving him because he loved money more than her? Scrooge looks back, first with love and compassion for himself, then with regret. The regret is stinging and I think we all understand it. This part of the story always makes me so sad, though, because of how Scrooge looks back on his youth and sees it differently with older eyes. It can be hard for us to practice compassion for our younger selves and that can make it hard for us to practice it toward other people. We see this dynamic play out when parents live vicariously through their children or hold them to standards that are designed to heal their own regrets, or when they lash out at them for mistakes that hit a little too close to home. We see this dynamic play out when we dislike someone because they remind us a little too much of something hurtful in our own past. We see it when people think that because they’ve suffered other people should too. Bah, humbug.
So, in this last post of the year, as we approach this difficult Christmas, I have three wishes for you:
- Release your Ghost of Christmas Past. Bid some regret or hurt adieu.
- Practice compassion for the young people in your life. Tell them, specifically, what you love about them. If you can, nudge them to practice compassion for themselves.
- If you get your own glitter jeans, please do not be afraid to wear them.
Merry Christmas! I hope you find some joy in the holiday this year and that 2021 brings better days. (Unless you’re in Congress. Congress gets coal, but not to burn. Think of the environment.)
Please tell me you had something like my glitter jeans experience. I will feel so much better. Let me know below.