Dress like a total bum while having shopping and having lunch in Yorkville
Last Wednesday I spent the afternoon in Yorkville (exclusive shopping district in Toronto known for its posh stores, restaurants and conservative people) “dressed like a total hussy”. I observed how other people reacted to me and how they treated me based on what I was wearing, and how I felt dressed in a see-through lace tank, black bra, high heels and shiny black leggings. It was an amusing and scary experience. And I had tons of stories to tell.
This week I decided to repeat the experiment, dressed as a total bum. I didn’t shower or even wash my face. I wore no make-up, except what was left under my eyes from the night before. I wore an over-sized t-shirt covered in dirt (which I got from the plants on my balcony – my neighbours must think I’m crazy, as I stood on the balcony rubbing soil into my clothing!), cut-off jean shorts and my old running shoes. I used an old plastic bag as my purse.
I expected to have a lot of reactions, perhaps opposite to what I felt last week. The actual experience was not what I imagined it would be. I felt gross, dirty, and unattractive. I wanted to hide. I was embarrassed. I felt horrible. And other people treated me as such. They ignored me. They didn’t want to see me. A quick glance and they averted their eyes. I was invisible. I wasn’t asked to leave anywhere. I was smiled at in a pitying kind of way. I expected people to react, but instead they tried hard not to. No one wants to see the people who are falling apart. And the more people treated me this way, the worse I felt. The more I wanted to go home and shower and clean up and put on make-up and wear clean clothes.
But what if I didn’t have anywhere to go to clean up? What if I didn’t have clean clothes to wear or a hair brush? How much is it a spiraling cycle where what you look like dictates how you feel? And how other people react to you changes the way you feel about yourself? How much does our outward affect our inner?
When I went to try on clothing at one of the nicer stores I got a few weird looks, but no one told me I couldn’t – they just kept an eye on me. The same lady who told me my outfit was “in” last week hardly glanced at me. People stayed away. I was sad and dirty and needed to go home. As I was on my way to leave, a lady looked at me disgusted. I finally got the reaction I was looking for, but I was so bummed out by that point I didn’t really care. If my confidence fell that much in a few hours, I can’t imagine what it would be like after years of living on the streets and being either ignored or sneered at.