THIS WAS ME IN THE SIXTH GRADE.
WHEN I WASN’T PLAYING TONSIL HOCKEY WITH MY BARITONE SAXOPHONE,I WAS SERVING ALTAR GIRL REALNESS IN CHURCH, OR RUNNING THE SIDELINES AS THE CHEERLEADING CAPTAIN.
...My aunt was the coach.
As a soft-spoken super-nerd whose weekends were booked hosting house parties for Sims, the magic of a good statement piece helped express my 'self'' to others, defiant of the sequined conventions set by LimitedToo.
There was an Avril Lavigne-inspired skinny black tie over my middle school choir ensemble in an early attempt to establish my ~image~ as an artist, and a poncho incident similar to that of Manny Delgado on Modern Family.
(Mine was styled with chunky Candies clogs and bellbottom jeans.)
Returning to the scene of this particular crime, once you machete your way through the wooly fibers of a paradoxical short-sleeved sweater and scale the mountain range of adorable double chins you will find a beaded choker necklace-- not your run-of-the mill stretchy black wire worn by every tween in the 90’s.
At a picnic organized by the Latin American Parent’s Association, a community for adoptive families that we were a part of through my adoption, a Peruvian woman selling handcrafted accessories set up a display table of her items. Apparently the beauty of her creations was powerful enough to deter a third visit to the buffet table as I broke off to visit her showcase and relish in her designs. My mother followed behind with a presumptuous extra bowl of ajiaco soup, witnessing this sudden shift in priorities.
Among earrings and change purses, a beaded choker delicately embellished with white flowers captivated my attention with an inescapable death grip. My mom quickly offered to buy the necklace as a souvenir, more likely to prevent drool from staining the poor woman’s tablecloth than to appease the desires of her hypnotized darling daughter.
As I revisit this school portrait with a contact-lensed eye,
I know for certain that my choice in accessory did not arrive out of happenstance.
Selecting a yearbook ensemble is the most self-actualizing experience one can face at a young age, forcing you to convey your identity within the confines of harshly-lit 8x10 frame. Twelve-year-old Mia was savvy enough to capitalize on the powers of her newly-acquired necklace to subtly acknowledge her pride as a Colombian import, if only immortalized within the pages of a middle school yearbook.
It did not matter that the woman who beaded the necklace was Peruvian and that I was Colombian, or that didn’t come equipped with LED lights flashing the colors of our flag.
i knew what this piece represented to me,
& that silent statement was
more than enough.
My upbringing has morphed my ethnic identity into a cultural hybrid as an honorary Italian-American by nurture assigned to a corpus Colombian by nature and my choices in statement accessorizing follow in suit.
I pair emerald earrings from Bogota with vintage cameo brooches purchased in Florence and layer Tuscan leather with scarves from my mother's collection of South American souvenirs.
The beauty in expressing one's self through style is in the impermanence of an accessory. A necklace can be taken off and be replaced with another, or enhanced with an additional five necklaces if I have anything to do with it.
Every individual, whether adopted or not, should feel the same confidence in revising the embellishments of identity as they would in such an accessory swap. After all, shattering the permanence of our 'final ensemble' is as simple as a return to the racks of our poncho closet.
...If only I had placed equal consideration into waxing my eyebrows as I did into accessorizing.