High School Dances and Crop Tops

Me: “The night before Spirit Week I always get self-conscious.”

Paul: “Why? About what?”

Me: “Dressing up.  I worry other teachers will think I’m a fool and my students will think I’m lame.”

Paul looked me straight in the eye and replied, “Katie, go all out.  Haters gonna hate.”

I exploded into laughter and then resolved to do just that.  Go. All. Out.

Because Paul was right.  Haters gonna hate.  So I should be myself and look a fool and not care what others are thinking about me or whispering to their friends about their teacher who has a little too much school spirit.  I shouldn’t just wear a cute blue shirt on class color day.  No, I should wear a blue sequin top with blue pants and a blue cardigan and a blue necklace with blue shoes.  Heck, I might as well top it off with Paul’s blue hard hat.  So I went to school looking like this.IMG_3272

I didn’t care about the haters who might think I am a desperate adult longing to be young again and I didn’t care that it was my turn to lead staff devotions though I looked like Smurfette heading to the club.  Hello my name is Katie Van Dyk and I like to wear weird costumes.  I’m owning it now.

But I didn’t in high school.

It wasn’t cool to wear costumes to school when I was in high school so I never did.  Didn’t want to draw too much attention to myself.  I did, however, wear tube tops with overalls because somehow that outfit was “cool” and I would wear just about anything to fit in.

When flipping through scrapbooks from the late 90’s, I don’t see Katie Hardeman, proud individual who knows who she is and doesn’t give a rip about what others say about her.  No, I see Katie Hardeman, still figuring out what’s important to her, best friends with Stefanie Schilling who is popular and cool and therefore Katie’s model for what to wear….no matter how ridiculous:IMG_3336

Tube tops?

Crop tops?

Really, Katie?  Really?

And you roll your eyes at girls today who wear short shirts.  You were there once too.  You weren’t trying to be scandalous.  You were just trying to be stylish and fit in, so you borrowed your older sister’s tiny top. (Sorry, Heid.  How’s it feel under that bus?)

Don’t worry, Katie, you’ll learn.  You’ll learn that showing your belly button in public is only okay when wearing a bathing suit.  And you’ll learn that some fashion trends just need to be ignored.  You’ll also learn to lather on the sunblock.  Was it really necessary to get so tan?

Throughout Spirit Week last week, I was reminded how much high schoolers want to fit in and how much they worry about the haters.  They all WANT to be unique individuals but the fact that they have the same clothes and haircuts as all their friends suggests they have a long way to go before they stop caring about the crowd.

I get it.  I was there not too long ago.  If you stand out too much, people will laugh at you and the fear of mockery and rejection is multiplied by a thousand when you’re in high school.  Kids will do and say and wear ridiculous things just to be cool (see above pictures).  Paul and I witnessed this tendency as we chaperoned the Homecoming dance on Friday.

High school dancing is dramatically different from adult dancing.  The main difference, other than the volume of music being at a reasonable decimal, is that when adults get on a dance floor, they actually dance.  High schoolers jump and push and scream and wave their arms around, but they don’t do much actual dancing.  I took a video of the dance/jump-fest and showed it to my 8-year old nephew who said, “Why is everyone just jumping?  Don’t they dance?”

No, Vander, they don’t. IMG_3320

I’m convinced this jumping phenomenon is because less than 5 % of the population actually knows how to dance well.  The rest of us, and I am definitely in the 95% category,  have no clue what we’re doing with our limbs when we’re “dancing.”  This is why dance circles are created and the 5 % jump in the middle to show off their skills, while the rest of us pray to baby Jesus that none of our idiot friends shove us to the center of the circle.  My.  Worst.  Nightmare.

In high school, you compensate for your lack of dancing skills by copying everyone else.  This way so no one realizes your lack of rhythm or how little control you actually have of your hips.  So when everyone else jumps and bobs their heads and lifts their arms, you follow suit.

But then you grow up and you stop trying to look cool.

Eventually I stopped dressing like Stefanie.  In fact, after college it was comical how different we had become.  We’d go to the movies, Stefanie in high heels and me in sweatpants.  Seriously.  We had both realized who we were by that point and we dressed the part.

One of the great things about getting older is that you can finally stop trying to impress people.  You know who you are so it doesn’t matter what Joe Schmoe over there thinks of you.  This is why parents of teenagers embarrass their children so easily.  This is also why adults who enjoy dancing but are terrible at it (people like me) can jiggle like an idiot on the dance floor, having a grand ol’ time.  At Chris and Lindsay’s wedding, a stranger told Paul and I that we win for “most entertaining couple on the dance floor.”  We knew this was not exactly a compliment.  But we danced hard that night and didn’t care that small town Texas-folks had a good laugh at our expense.

There is great freedom that comes with adulthood (along with laugh lines and poor vision)- Freedom to truly be yourself and stop caring about the haters. Don’t get me wrong, I still care to some degree.  I needed a pep talk from my husband before I dressed up like a fool at work.  But I definitely care less about others’ opinions than I did 10 years ago.

While I miss my teenage metabolism and smooth skin, I most certainly do NOT miss the days when I was still figuring out who I wanted to be and what I wanted to be about.   In high school, it’s easy to let others tell you who you are and who you should be.  It’s much harder to be original and confident and different from the crowd.

The older I get, the more my identity becomes cemented.  I know who I am. I am Katie Van Dyk, lover of Jesus, wearer of costumes.  So I will hold my head up high on hippie day:IMG_3330

and I will ride a tricycle through the halls while wearing a kimono simply because it’s fun.


However, I still often forget who I am and need reminders.

I need to continually be reading the Bible and talking to God to ensure that He is the one defining me, not the people around me.  He tells me who I am and what I’m about.  Not my colleagues or my students.  Not my even my family or my friends.  Only God knows the insides of my soul and only He gets to tell me how to live.

It also helps that when I feel self-conscious, I have a husband who reminds me, “Haters gonna hate.”

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