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Sorry, I don’t wear ‘Gossip Girl’ fashion to school

Yes, I survived my first sem in college in T-shirt and jeans. I don’t go to school in a prom dress every day, like some girls in my class

By

ILLUSTRATION BY NICOLL EARL BUSTAMANTE

I just got off the phone with my mother. She was asking if I had already enrolled for the second semester, and what amount she should write on the check.

She was calling from her home office, where she was catching up with our bills and writing checks so she wouldn’t have to rush them when we returned from vacation. I wondered if she noticed my lack of enthusiasm, but I guess she was paying more attention so as not to pay a centavo more to my school.

Here I was in our home in the province, trying to keep my mind off school, even as the new semester loomed near. It’s not that I don’t like school. I’m just not one of those airheaded girls who just go to school to show off their latest artsy manicures, or some style they ripped off from “Gossip Girl.”

My school is already full of those girls, Blair Waldorf or Serena van der Woodsen wannabes. I wonder, when did our society cease to celebrate originality and elevate these goddesses of modern consumption? These girls strive to emulate the same person, so they end up looking like bad replicas of the celebrity they emulate.

It’s not that I have anything against these girls, but I have trouble seeing the point. It’s not like we have a local version of The Met, where Blair seats herself as the queen bee of the Upper East Side. Why do we actually need to get the same shade of lipstick? I entered college, not a beauty contest.

College is supposed to be a place of learning. To me, that means getting to your class on time and passing, if not with flying colors, even the subjects that wouldn’t be much use outside school.

 

One of those things

My attitude was triggered when I overheard my mother complain about my tuition. (I didn’t take it against her. It’s just one of those things mothers do, I suppose, to show how much they love their children. She complains, but she pays my tuition promptly anyway.)

It’s not that we are poor and we’re social-climbing by way of my parents sending us to arguably the best school in Metro Manila, but my parents weren’t born with silver spoons in their mouths. We are of modest means, and every peso we have is hard-earned, so I was determined to maximize any opportunity those pesos—thousands of them—open for me.

I thought college was as simple as that, but after a semester at the university, I discovered it was about so much more than getting decent grades you can show your parents at the end of the semester.

On my first day of school, I wore my favorite dress. It was a local brand, and I had it for quite some time now. I thought it gave me a boost of confidence, as I was about to chart a landscape that, while similar to high school, was at the same time entirely different. I took a seat in front. There was a bunch of other girls giggling one row from me.

(I could actually smell them more than see them—they could give pine-scent air freshener some serious competition.)

I overheard some snippets of their conversation, mostly about me. As I said, I’m a practical girl so I wore rubber shoes that day, since based on my classroom assignments, I had some serious walking to do. I was going for comfort, in jeans and shirt, rather than chicness.

They were talking about why I did not even bother to wear stilettos. I even heard a pre-packaged remark, about how the ’90s called and wanted my blouse back. That particular girl must have been parroting some trashy Hollywood television series. They were basically bonding over deconstructing my entire being right there, and within earshot!

What annoyed me was, how could these girls think they were better than me, enough to look down on me? I knew they, and their fans, were wearing the latest scent from Victoria’s Secret, which I know only because their collective scent seemed to merit a biohazard warning.

I knew their bags were from Nine West or whatever, and mine was just a Hawk bag, though strong enough to carry my books and notebooks. Yes, I wore Skechers sneakers instead of those painful-looking high heels. But did that make me less of a girl, or worse, less of a person?

Even as I told myself that it did not, I was struggling to suppress my tears as they went on rambling about a new shade of blush they read about in one of those lifestyle magazines. Fortunately, our professor arrived, and I kept myself busy taking notes.

After the class, the girls behind me brought out their iPhones and snapped photos of what our professor had scribbled on the blackboard. I think, more than anything, they were more interested in showing off their gadgets in front of the class just before anyone left.

Comfortable in our skin

I wasn’t always the subject of their “clucking.” There’s always a girl out there who dresses worse than I do, or who wears the wrong cut of dress or jeans. I was able to make friends with a couple of girls who weren’t catty, and who, like me, were comfortable without makeup. We earnestly thought we looked okay just being comfortable in our skin, and if other girls took out their own insecurity on us, then so be it!

Who cares if boys don’t notice us? This is college, after all, and it should be all about improving our chances in life, as my mother put it. But of course, occasionally some boys would wonder our way, and it was a welcome experience.

I thought I had averted anymore self-esteem issues, but I was wrong. My parents didn’t exactly raise us to live luxuriously. My siblings and I don’t drive our own cars, so I commute to and from school to our house, which is just one ride away.

I don’t mind taking the jeepney. To me, it is the most economical way of transportation, and I quickly became accustomed to the ride.

But one night, I found myself running late inside the campus as I was finishing up a paper. It was already late, and there was not a single jeep in sight. I was standing there for a while, when a car pulled up beside me.

It was one of my classmates. She asked me where I lived, and if she could give me a ride. I told her, which turned out to be out of her way. She asked me, “Why don’t you hail a taxi?” A few cabs had already passed us. I told her I would just wait for a jeepney.

To my shock, she actually told me, “Look, I’ll give you money for the fare if you admit you can’t afford a taxi ride.” It took all of my strength and dignity not to break down in front of her. I calmly told her I could afford a taxi, although at that time I barely had enough cash with me to cover the cab fare. I immediately hailed one, and fortunately, almost like magic, one stopped. I immediately went in, and rode home.

I was in tears as I handed the driver my money, which I supplemented by running to the kitchen, where we keep some cash. It was a pretty low point in my life, though I know now that it should not have been.

You know, just because a person dresses in T-shirt and jeans does not mean she doesn’t have the sophistication to be admitted in some elite circle. It doesn’t make her—and me—less of a person. Riding a jeep every day does not mean you don’t have money, nor should it actually be a measure of anybody’s worth. Hey, I’m just being practical. Besides, I don’t go to school in a prom dress every day.

But experiencing these things made me even more focused on the things that really matter in college: making friends and excelling academically.

My lack of enthusiasm on the phone with my mother does not really tell the whole story. It was just one of those days when you take in everything before diving in. Here we go again! I opened my drawer and retrieved a printout of my grades. I couldn’t help but smile knowing I made it through my first semester in just my T-shirt and jeans.


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Tags: Blair Waldorf , Gossip Girl , Serena van der Woodsen

  • http://bluelawbyanna.blogspot.in/ Anna

    Inquirer, you should really check your content.  This is still the website for a national daily, after all – not some kid’s personal blog

    • http://twitter.com/ramillav ramillav

      This was published in a lifestyle section so, if you don’t know, this basically answers “What’s it’s like to be you?” Hence, the section is called “2bU!” Adik ka yata eh. 

      • HiddenMickey

        That’s not fair, sya lang may personal blog? Don’t they want to know what it’s like to be “me” naman?

      • http://twitter.com/ramillav ramillav

        Good point! I think you can submit, though. Not sure how.

  • omotesando

    Does anyone here personally know the author? I asked because:

    FIRST, there’s no mention in the article that the incident she narrated happened in UP. She may be currently enrolled in UP, but does that forecloses the possibility of the incident happening elsewhere?
    SECOND, was it ever mentioned that the author is referring to the “first sem” of the current academic year?
    THIRD, are you intimately close to the mother of the author who allegedly wrote the check? How sure are you that she wrote it “payable to (any school)”?

    Instead of lashing your bitterness at Ms. Yap, why don’t we just take this article as a simple youth lifestyle piece, besides, it seems that many bitter commenters here didnt bother to check if “youth” section is still for them. Good day.

    • http://anti00gravity.deviantart.com rginedav

      but the youth isn’t simple, and the fact that the author willingly published this piece makes a number of these comments fair game.

  • http://anti00gravity.deviantart.com rginedav

    hardly think the girls with the iPhones were showing off to the whole class; they were really just probably taking photographs of the board. 

    sorry, but it’s hard to sympathize with the author’s plight when she’s being so critical of other people’s lifestyles choices. Not that i’m condoning the bullying that happened but generally most people would not be sympathetic to your story if you choose to make snide marks about the perfume they spray and the bags they carry.

    Also, an editorial question: why was she wearing jeans and a t-shirt when the previous paragraph just stated that she was wearing a dress to school?

    “On my first day of school, I wore my favorite dress. It was a local brand, and I had it for quite some time now. I thought it gave me a boost of confidence, as I was about to chart a landscape that, while similar to high school, was at the same time entirely different. I took a seat in front. There was a bunch of other girls giggling one row from me.

    I overheard some snippets of their conversation, mostly about me. As I said, I’m a practical girl so I wore rubber shoes that day, since based on my classroom assignments, I had some serious walking to do. I was going for comfort, in jeans and shirt, rather than chicness.”.

    She was just probably referencing her first day of school in that paragraph but it doesn’t translate so well. Also, nobody cares about people wearing jeans & t-shirts in college. Most people wear that. I just get a sense that either a) the author thinks too much or b) she probably did something else to make these girls remark about something as trivial as her clothes in the first place.

    • http://twitter.com/richtuason Rich Tuason

      I second this!

    • Mindy Santiago

      Agree. And I find it hard to believe that they were criticizing you for ‘not bothering to wear stilettos.’ Seriously, it’s the girls who do wear stilettos to school who are more likely to be made fun of. But maybe you were being too paranoid about what these girls were thinking about your outfit? There’s a concept in psychology known as the spotlight effect. I suggest do some reading on the topic.

      Also, nobody can ‘deconstruct your entire being’ unless you allow them to do so. Don’t let other people’s comments get to you so much.

      P.S. ‘Occasionally some boys would wonder our way’ — It’s wander, not wonder.

  • http://twitter.com/richtuason Rich Tuason

    I feel for you with the whole backstabbing issue and all, but giiiiirl, you need to go watch some Legally Blonde and Sex and the City. People learn differently, as well as express themselves differently. And you’d be surprised at how full of applicable education the world of fashion is.

    Don’t take things so negatively. Instead, channel your feelings into something positive and take comments as constructively as you can. Sure, you may be comfortable in how you’re presenting yourself right now, but nothing’s wrong with improving yourself, your look included, especially when you want to impress someone–like a future employer. First impressions last, as they say.

    I do hope you have a better time at college. This is all part of the learning.  :)

  • http://ampleproportions.tumblr.com/ Katrina Camille

    Gossip Girl? The metaphor is 5 years too late. 

  • Retrogirl86

    I think you should just focus on your studies and not mind other people’s businesses.  If the other girls in your class would want to wear stilletos or show-off their gadgets, let them be.  And why would it hurt if you can’t really afford to ride a cab?  That’s the truth, accept it, but do something about it.  Study hard.   And does it really matter what other people say about you?  Apparently, you’re too young to understand.  You will learn in time what really matters..

  • juliandid

    Oh, college. I remember my first year in college. I didn’t have a sense of fashion, mostly because I spent practically my entire life in a uniform. By senior year I had my own sense of style, but still didn’t think I was really fashionable. Then I got into a grad school in the US. Suddenly, I was very fashionable. The funny thing is I didn’t change anything in my wardrobe. I just gained an ounce more of confidence (mostly because I got into grad school).  

    There were a few girls like that in high school. I learned that a single raised eyebrow is probably the most intimidating look in the world. If it happens to you again, turn to them, give them the eye brow, then turn back to whatever it was that you were doing. (The best example is Meryl Streep in the Devil Wears Prada) You don’t even have to say anything.

    Oh and your classmate offered to pay for your taxi? His/her delivery maybe a bit tacky, but it may also be that your classmate was genuinely worried about you waiting for a jeep all alone at night. 

    PS. What made everyone think she was from UP? Sorry, it just seems so out of the blue.

    • HiddenMickey

      there was a tweet by an inquirer account that said she’s from UP

      • juliandid

        That explains why I didn’t know.

  • Allie Yu

    Dear author, I believe you’re just being way too sensitive. Saying you were being mocked but then judging those people back? You should take what you experienced as a challenge to better yourself. Maybe its an innate wake-up call, that somehow maybe its time to outgrow your jeans and shirt and explore life a little. Hey even a caterpillar blooms into a butterfly :)Honey, college is a jungle, yes. But the way to survive it is to go on, study, do your thing and never make the snide remarks you get from others affect you greatly. If they tease you then just laugh about it and move on. Don’t take it too personally. I’ve been teased way too many times in college also but i just brushed it off my shoulders and laughed about it. Even wore shirt once with a butas and flaunted it. No biggie. (I was good sport, I should say.) Hang out with boys more often if you can’t stand girls.Take this, we’ve all had classmates back in college who looked like they just stepped out of a fashion editorial but the ones I met, were never THAT bitchy. In fact they’re pretty personable and you’ll never really know that if you don’t reach out and get to know them past the high-heels and makeup they wear.Let this thing help you grow and expand your horizons. You will mature in time and you’ll be stronger. After college, it’s tougher. So I wish you good luck. And remember, nothing a good laugh can’t cure. Laugh at yourself also, it’s not that bad.

  • alleyantelope

    I’m not sure of where you’re studying. But supposing you’re from UP, I guess you just have to find the crowd you’d be most comfortable in. Every fashion sense is accepted in UP, or so I think. Hence, you shouldn’t actually be having that kind of dilemma. You can do with the “pambahay” attire or the hippie, or glam, or gothic, or even costume play. It shouldn’t really matter. Oble doesn’t even have clothes on. 

  • cleoan

    At some level you are insecure. Their comments affected you coz somehow you are conscious about those things.

    About that girl offering you a ride / money for taxi, i think she was just genuinely worried about you.

    The thing here is, “package” yourself appropriately. I mean dress up the way you think best represents your personally and how you wanna be perceived by others. A bum-looking guy can never be perceived hard-working right? A guy with pants down his crotch should not be offended when referred to a “so hip-hop” right?

    We have to admit, this world is very visual. It’s not enough that we tell people  we are this or that. We have to look the part. 



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