Invisible Scars

This last week I listened to the audio book version of The Hundred Dresses by Eleanore Estes. This Young Adult book tells the story of Wanda Petronski, who only owns one dress and wears it every day to school. It is always clean, always mended, and always the same. In an attempt to make friends and fit in, she says something that leads to daily teasing and taunting. Up until the half way mark, I was in love with the book and its message. Then the plot seemed to take a wrong turn and conveyed (to my mind – which I understand is not “normal”) a watered down morality tale.


The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

I think I was so sensitive to the ending because I have been Wanda Petronski. I know what it is like to be in elementary school and not have any friends and be made fun of for your clothes. I was mocked for both quality and quantity. These were days before tweens were fashionistas, and no one really cared if things matched, but they definitely noticed that I was always wearing the same items.

I was young, lonely, having a bad life as whole, and then when I went to school, which used to be my escape and the place where only good things happened, the living hell continued. Thank goodness that phase of my life only lasted about a year and a half. Then I made a wonderful friend, my life sucked less, and the teasing stopped. But it has never been forgotten.

Tammy the Grown Up tried to convince herself that clothes really didn’t matter and only really had utilitarian pieces. This was unsatisfactory, though, for every time she went out and was inappropriately dressed, she was 11 again. Now she covers those scars with LOTS of clothes. She’s smart about it though. (Enough third person already!)

I have lots of inexpensive pieces that all mix and match. I try to have one attention grabbing piece (whether it be clothing or an accessory) on at a time. That splash is usually a piece of vintage jewelry. I love it because it is different so it stands out, it’s inexpensive, and I get tons of compliments for them.

My first piece (and one of my favorites) is my silver butterfly brooch. It came all tarnished, so I sat there and dutifully wiped it with my polishing cloth. Rub, rub, rub, hold up and admire, say, “Hey, DH2U, look at it now!” (which to his credit he did every time and said something appropriately admiring of how my hard work was paying off). Repeat often.

Silver Butterfly Brooch

Getting ready each morning I giggle as I think of Office Space and “pieces of flair” mixed in Marilu Henner’s character’s advice in LA Story not to wear more than 7 points of jewelry because any more detracts. I never go to work with fewer than 3 pieces of flair, and normally 4-5. It makes me feel pretty, especially since I’m getting so much better at accessorizing and not going all matchy-matchy with sets. I like playing to see what works

I wish I could send a message back 30 years letting little me know that it gets better and she will own and wear tons of beautiful things and that the “sticks and stones” rhyme is full of crap! Acknowledgement that words can and do hurt would have made things suck less.

8 thoughts on “Invisible Scars”

  1. You know what I would try to tell ‘third person Tammy?’ Actually clothes DON’T matter. If I knew her I would try to build up her confidence to understand that SHE is enough. And if she went to some place rocking a bin liner she would wear it with such confidence from within that the next day everyone would be rocking the bin liner.

    YOU are the gem not your clothes. Having said that, clothes can be fun, but I would hate my daughter say to be as dependent on them being up to the minute as society has made women (nay, even young pre-teens) feel they should be today.

    And dare I go there for one of my new favourite writers, but I’m going to disagree with you again. I actually like the ‘sticks and stones’ tune because if you CHOOSE to believe it, it will work for you. Words only have the power that we CHOOSE them to have over us. And I’m speaking to grown up Tammy here because few if any children would be able to sustain a barrage of mean words thrown at them daily by bullies and be able to ignore them. But grown up Tammy might know that she has a choice.
    If I cursed you in French you would not have a clue (presumably) so it has no effect or power over you. Despite it being a rude, damning word…it is still just a word…thrown at you by a momentarily angry or stupid person. Why give them such power?


    1. Thanks for taking the time to respond to my post, Pea!

      I wish I were as thick skinned as you. In theory I know that words will only hurt if I let them. I’ve noticed that the only time insults do hurt is when it is in an area that I am uncertain about, or when there are other dynamics involved. It is definitely something I’m working on.

      It’s not as if when I find myself in these situations now that I stay 11. It is that brief flashback to times I wish were forgotten. Then the Grown Up Tammy steps in and says, “Yup, you goofed, but you are here now and can choose to pout or to have fun.” That allows the momentary embarrassment to pass. You are so right about it being a choice.

      Disagree with me all you like. That’s why the blog is here. Plus, I actually don’t think we are that far off. (And I probably would understand the French insult!)


  2. Oh my, oh my…what a post! There are so many things to say. But I will say that I admire your ability to look back and still keep clarity about the issue. Wouldn’t a little note knowing that life really does get better seem like it would have made all the difference when we were younger and tormented with so much doubt? However, it’s never as easy when you are in the moment, especially as a kid (right?). I remember being teased and wanting so badly to have what everyone else had. It was a hurdle I never got over, as a kid, and was pretty bitter towards my parents for not “letting” me have what I wanted, but felt like I REALLY REALLY needed.

    Now my outlook is very different, knowing the meaning of a dollar and how it’s being spent. Along with having more confidence or just the plain know how to understand that I am who I am and decide to spend money on certain items and not others. It’s my choice, now.

    There is a connection with young people that self worth is attached to items you own. As we got older, we still care, but compartmentalize and can choose to stay away from others that make us feel like we are less because of it.

    I love where you are in your current dressing style. As I feel I am of the same theory. I too, can remember all those times that words cut deeper than they should. It’s still hard, as an adult. Acknowledgment would be nice, b/c even as an adult I am told to suck it up and not let it get to me, or that I am overly sensitive…when really, I truly believe, people could be a bit kinder. But they usually aren’t and to be very frank most people don’t care at all, even when they say they do. As much as I want them to get where I am coming from it’s a losing battle (with some). So, I can only control my reaction, which is usually to mull over it for longer than I should and hopefully, eventually, get past it.

    What is sad, and something that terrifies me for my little one on the way, is that kids have a harder time with things like that. I can remember all the bad things that happened to me in high school much more vividly than the good…that is just who I am. I hope she has a thicker skin. I will try my hardest to teach her the things I have learned throughout the years, but I still realize they are lessons she will had to learn in her own way. I just need to be there for her with whatever happens.


    1. Thanks, Gwen, for your supportive words.

      I wasn’t blaming anyone for the situation I was in (except the bullies). You are definitely right that while in the moment as a kid, no notes from the future would have helped.

      I’m glad that bullying is at least addressed in schools today. I hope your little angel has a much better time of it. And since you went through it, you can offer her support and guidance if it does happen. So true about having to learn lessons ourselves.

      I agree with you that a bit more sensitivity all around would make the world a better place.



  3. I understand your musings here. I went to Catholic school till 8th grade so was spared some of the fashionista (I mean – what is anyone gonna one-up you on when you’re all wearing the same plain red and grey plaid jumpers, white peter pan colar blouses, red cardigans and white ankle socks?). But then 9th grade hit with a vengance. Too young to get a job and buy some of the clothes brands that were so important to fitting in – and I think that’s when I learned to sew. I could afford to sew some really cute dresses and skirts and beg my mother till I wore her down on buying name brand Levis. Jeans and cords. She wanted to send me off in Wranglers or some Sears brand. Gasp!

    And I still love clothes. And I love your brooch. And I love your writing and your spirit and your humor – and I’ve never seen any of your clothes or “pieces of flair.” Hahaha


    1. A uniform would have been perfect! I remember having an Australian penpal, and they wore uniforms to public school. She wished she was able to express herself by wearing her own clothes. I never had anything I cared to express through fabric, so that would have been ideal for me.

      My philosophy has become that it doesn’t take any more effort to be nice than to be mean, and you get so much more out of being nice, so why not choose that route?

      And thank you for the kind words. They mean a lot.


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