In fourth grade, I began wearing two different colored socks for one simple reason.
I liked it.
My childhood naiveté never informed me that my simple act of fashion disruption would set the stage for an ongoing battle against society’s definition of normal. While the rest of the girls in my class were showing up in outfits coordinated down to the shoelaces, I walked around in tie-dyed shirts and mismatched everything else.
Fast forward to college and I landed my first real job working on a landscaping crew composed of all men. I stuck out like a weed in a flower bed, and showed up to most of my classes covered in grass clippings. My perfume was gasoline, and I habitually turned in assignments dotted by engine grease.
Not for the first time in my life, I was met with incredulous stares and upturned noses. You’re a girl, why don’t you act like one?
But I had a question of my own.
Who in the hell decided what girls are supposed to act like?
Obviously someone with little imagination.
Adulthood roared in a couple years later on a wave of trial and error. Days were wrapped in blankets of camouflage and hard-headedness. Other occasions were coated in glitter and four inch high heels. The best times tended to be a little bit of both. I kept my hair long because it made me feel pretty. I kept my nails short because I was always digging in the dirt.
Pick one or the other, they said. Grow up.
I smiled and said no thanks.
It’s okay to be strange. Buck convention and like things because you want to. Wear the cowboy boots with leggings. Work on your car with makeup suitable for the red carpet. Do whatever the hell you want to, because life is far too short to worry about keeping up appearances. Don’t be pigeonholed by cultural whims.
Today? Today I’m within a month of crossing into my third decade of life. I consider myself one of the fortunate few willing and able to ignore pretty much all of society. I take the pieces I want, add them into the chaos of my life, and discard the rest. I go where I please, and do so alone if I desire. The rough and dirty world of construction is still how I make my living, and I unashamedly curse like a sailor because of it.
These days, I no longer notice when people glance at me in stores, silently wondering at the five foot ten woman with the giant work boots. I hold my head up and breeze on past, content in knowing that my unconventional style is who I am.
I’m exactly who I want to be.
If anyone bothered to look past the coating of dirt and the sweat soaked ball cap, they might note that my jeans glitter, just a little bit.
And to this day, my socks still don’t match.
Alyssa Cumpton is an artist and writer based in Boise, Idaho. She enjoys horseback riding, rockhounding and running around in the desert. She also loves hanging out with her dog, cats and chickens.