TMI: Why It's So Hard For Me To Pack For My Hometown Visit

Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling - Sarah G. Schmidt, Location - Riley Park, NW


Something I have struggled with but haven’t identified fully, until just now is my trouble with packing for a visit to my hometown. As I prepare to whip a bag together for a quick weekend trip I am at a bit of a loss on what I’ll pack.

I grew up in the hinterland part of Saskatchewan in an everyday, non-descript small town. One would think that inconspicuous setting should free my sartorial self to pack whatever I want - as no one will see me and no one will care - right? Except me: I see me and I will most certainly care.

Further complicating the plot is that I haven’t been to this town in over five years. The last time was for a quick 36-hour visit. Let me backtrack a bit for context. I moved away right after high school to Calgary for university. My parents moved away at the same time for jobs and to be closer to extended family. Thus my sense of a hometown is a bit lost on me. It feels a bit odd, yet I understand it is not totally uncommon, that where I grew up is no longer my home.

If I were a simpler (or less vain) person I would throw a pair of leggings and a couple shirts in a bag and hop on the plane. But I know myself and I know it’s not that simple. I’m not that simple (at least not simple in the clothing department). I’ve never really been a T-shirt-and-leggings kind of person.

We are bombarded with articles on what to wear for interviews, as wedding guests, and for holiday parties. But what style advice is available for the person who is heading home to a town that isn’t their hometown anymore?

I find it truthful yet bewildering that I know I will have to defend my choice of “dressy clothes” - ie: anything other than Rider gear and leggings – as if I am trying to impress someone. That idea of “less is more” and don’t-you-dare-peacock musters up why I struggled a bit as a kid finding my own way and feeling supported in my choices. As a child, teen, and young adult I was often made to feel too loud or headstrong and that people saw me as boastful. Cue the misogyny loaded eye roll.

Thinking back, at the time I felt external shame for wearing something I felt was special in my everyday; I felt shame for wanting to look different than the skate shoes, low-waist flare jeans, and surf brand T-shirts that were oh-so-popular in the early 00’s; at times I felt that I didn’t fit.

No one noticed if I wore Space Jam hand-me-down T-shirts from my older brother or my sister’s old shoes. No one cares if you looked careless. People did notice, however, and may I add commented negatively when I put effort in.

 “Why is she so dressed up?"

"Who is that for?"

"Got a date?" (I assure you I did not)

"Doesn’t she think she’s hot shit?"

"That outfit is so wild. Is she trying to be a city snob?"

"Are she trying to impress someone?”

...were all teeny tiny verbal insults thrown my way. These initial, invisible wounds thrust at me eventually turned into character building badges of honour. If they were talking, I must be onto something. Soon after the sting wore off, I learned to get a rise out of getting a rise out of people.

I understand now that how I navigated growth – outside of questionable teen decisions not mentioned here – was primarily through how I dressed. I realized fairly young that I could have a point of view and express self-care and self-pride with what I put on my body. I could, in fact, care about myself through my clothes.

Once I heard the expression, “Only take serious advice from people you take seriously,” I took that to the bottom of my style-fuelled heart. I no longer cared if someone insulted my outfit if they were wearing beer T-shirt and grubby, ill fitting jeans. Any fashion advice that would come unprompted to me was moot. I was free in a way.

Upon reflection I believe that shame-for-trying was really just a fear of being judged. If I didn’t follow the norm – both in dress and speaking my mind - perhaps they thought that I didn’t value their way of life. Perhaps they saw my revolt as a sign of ungratefulness. I get that. No one wants to feel small.

I try and sympathize that it may have been their defensive mode of sharing with me that I was somehow too big for my britches and that humble pie is the only pie worth serving. Maybe I was but so what? I’m so sad to admit that I erroneously learned very young that self pride – no matter what - was considered boasting. Living boldly was not desirable. Simply put, I learned that to live a quiet life, one should probably be a bit quiet.

I moved away.

One of the odd things I had to relearn after leaving my hometown was self-love: I never knew that pride in oneself wasn’t a despicable virtue until leaving. I don’t remember hearing, “Good for you,” or seeing a high five genuinely shared from one person to the next until I overheard someone sharing to their friend that they crushed a final exam. That memory is still so vividly critical to me. I didn’t truly know how to encourage and support someone else’s dreams – big dreams outside of what I had learned to aspire to as a kid in that small town - until I was nearly nineteen years old. Truth.

No wonder I’m a bit on edge about the weekend. I will be trying to strike a balance between expressing myself: who I am and who I’ve grown to become; and not being too showy. In my heart I know the people of my past will accept me with open arms no matter what I wear but I should also be prepared for a ribbing or two.

As to not incite too much “who does she think she is” small town gossip, I shall leave the fur, ostentatious hats, and sequin dresses safe in my closet.