The Buffalo Overalls By Deb Anna

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.

9 Replies to “The Buffalo Overalls By Deb Anna”

  1. What an interesting post, Anna. It left me laughing and shaking my head, wondering if all writers share the trait of nonconformist. I never had buffalo overalls, but your description of getting to where you are today closely mirrors mine. I hated rules and began “bucking the system” as early as five. And yet, today, my writing career fits who I am like a glove.

    P.S. I’m getting addicted to your daily grog posts, guys!

  2. I had a green and orange polyester turtleneck-and-pants ensemble. Misery.

    And no, you don’t get a 2 for signing your name. My entire AP Chem class, save for one student, got 1s on the exam. The teacher decided the material was too hard for him and stopped actually teaching about halfway through the year. (The one kid who got a 2 or 3 went on to be a Chemistry teacher.)

  3. I literally cringed at your description of the buffalo overalls, Anna, while Katie’s green/orsnge polyester ensemble left me wondering: Mothers really bought those clothes??? Hee. So, while personally missing out on the fashion rebellion, instead I read, read and read some more and then listened to the lyrics of “Both Sides Now.” Sigh…. Not exactly rebellious, but hopefully I’ve become someone both fair and decisive.

  4. I didn’t smoke pot before every French class and still didn’t retain any.
    I believe nothing happens by accident and you’ve created the journey you were meant to experience. I mean, look at all the cool people you’ve met and exciting things you’ve written about!

  5. I hated the clothes my mum bought for me too. Polyester everything. Then my dad went to London and brought me back a sweater made of shetland wool. I wore that and my jeans until I wore through the elbows.

    Great post.

  6. Haha, very funny post…reminds me of myself when I was younger. Minus the weed smoking. My mom would flip out if she thought I’d ever touched drugs!

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