It all started with the buffalo overalls.
My mom thought they were the most adorable thing an eight-year-old could wear but I knew that a tan corduroy jumpsuit with a zipper down the front and an enormous buffalo on the front was hideous.
She begged. I refused. She tried to force. I cried. She bribed. I acquiesced — and wore them to school one day, where during recess a little boy promptly pulled the zipper down, scarring me so deeply that once I reported the incident to Mom, the buffalo overalls disappeared from the closet and were never mentioned again.
It probably hadn’t been the first time, but it’s the first I remember. The truth is, I don’t think I’ve never not been rebellious. I didn’t want to wear the clothes my mom bought for me. I smoked pot before every French class my senior year in high school, never spoke up in class, bought all the books we were reading (Candide, Madame Bovary and the like) in English, wrote my papers using a dictionary and managed the nearly impossible feat of draining my brain of the entire 10 years worth of classes I’d taken on the language. (I got a 2 on the AP test, which I believe you are granted for signing your name.)
When the girls I grew up with all started marrying and procreating in their early twenties, I was entering into my wildest period. (Mom gave up on that speech she started perfecting when I was about 16 about how we would put a dance floor over the pool for my wedding after roughly the 10th wedding that took place at her house that wasn’t mine.) When I took jobs working for people I didn’t respect, I talked back to them. Respect, I felt, was something you had to earn, not something you just got, and it certainly wasn’t easy to earn it from me. Unsurprisingly, I’ve been fired from jobs for all sorts of random reasons — once for not being able to swirl the frozen yogurt correctly during a summer job on Martha’s Vineyard.
I’m still a rebel today, though I’ve somehow found a way to listen to that part of me without using it to cause myself and other people pain and misery. I’ll never be good at conforming but I now see that as something to celebrate. Following the path less traveled has led me here, to this life which is far beyond what I could have ever dreamt possible if I’d stayed on the treadmill I thought I had no choice but to be on. And I’ve learned that being rebellious isn’t always such a great thing; bosses, it turns out, should be respected not for being perfect people but simply for being responsible for your hiring and firing. And it’s pretty clear to me now that smoking pot — and giggling in the back of the classroom with friends over how it seemed like the ink from the pen I was writing with was flowing right out of my fingers — really wasn’t such a great trade-off for forgetting a language I’d kill to be able to speak today.
Though here’s something I promise: you’ll never, ever talk me into a pair of buffalo overalls.