Picture Perfect For Prom
April 16, 2019
A month and a half ago, I ordered 20 prom dresses.
Now, two days before prom, I’m awake at 1am, hand-sewing my dress to fit perfectly.
On my phone, there is a list of things I have been and will be doing day by day in order to get ready for the dance. The list is dated, and numbered in the exact order in which I’ll do them.
Place order for boutonniere
Shower (30 min)
Whiten teeth (1 hour)
Pick up dress from dry cleaners
Nail appointment (1-1.5 hours)
Spray tan (30-45 min)
Pick up shoes
Fix dress if needed
Shower tan off @ 9
Pick up boutonniere @ 1
Whiten teeth again
Firstly, I don’t actually know how to spell boutonniere: autocorrect is truly amazing.
Secondly, I admit that I know plenty of people who make lists on their phones, but for me, I can’t relax
without them. Because I have OCD, everything I do has to be done a specific way, and getting ready for a dance is no different. Unfortunately, when I put myself in the hands of other people to get my nails or hair done, as one usually does, 90% of the time I end up hating it.
OCD, for those who aren’t familiar, is obsessive-compulsive disorder: obsessive, where you can’t stop
thinking about a certain thing or in a certain way, and compulsive, where these thoughts drive you to act a certain way, usually using rituals, in order to calm yourself down. It’s not an adjective; you’re not “OCD” about having your room organized, or color coding your binders. I understand that parts of the English language often morph into slang, and aren’t necessarily meant to be taken literally, but for a disease that once made me lay awake at night for weeks, so afraid that my house would catch on fire that I slept on the hardwood floor, where it would be easier to get up and run, I think there’s plenty of ways to say what you mean.
And this is just one symptom of many: when I don’t like someone, I can’t be physically near them because I
feel like they’ll “infect” me; when a piece of clothing doesn’t fit exactly how I want it to, I feel extreme physical discomfort throughout my chest. I sound, even to myself, like a crazy person, but I often wonder if I would have this specific of an obsession with the way I look and the way things feel on my body if not for magazines and the outside world telling me it’s important. I honestly can’t tell.
A few years ago, a hair stylist told me she needed to cut off 5 inches of hair in order to style it the way I
wanted. I immediately felt uncomfortable, but since I have a hard time saying no, I relented, telling myself she’s a professional, she does this for a living.
Yeah, I hated it.
When I got home I broke down in tears, and barely stopped crying the entire weekend. As this was pre-
OCD-diagnosis, my mom was pissed. She had paid for this haircut and styling, and I was breaking down as thought they shaved my head.
This was nothing new: thinking back, I’ve always been extremely “picky” about the way I do things, and
even more so about what I put on my body. To the outside world, though, I’m a drama queen - the same kind of out-of-touch-girl I watched on MTV’s My Super Sweet 16 and laughed at. It was, and is, embarassing to care so much about something as superficial as hair and clothes, but my illness makes it extremely hard to let go.
Yet what this experience has showed me more than anything else, is that there’s no right way to be a girl.
We’re told, on one hand, to be beautiful, to have fit bodies, and good style. But we’re also supposed to not care: we should understand sports, be funny, understanding, down-to-earth, not too loud. These two expectations are contradictory: if I worry about the state and length of my hair, I’m automatically superficial.
There is nothing wrong with wearing no makeup, just like there’s nothing wrong with going full glam
anytime you want, and this realization has taught me how to be kinder to myself when my OCD makes it difficult to let go of the little things. At the very least, I make a concerted effort not to be judgemental of other people’s insecurities and pet peeves because I know what it feels like to be really really bothered by things that, at times, make me seem like a ditz - especially to guys.
At the end of the day, it’s fun to dress up and look nice. It’s fun to be tan, have your nails look polished, your
hair shiny, your dress perfectly tailored. Maybe getting ready for big events with OCD is harder for me than other people, or maybe it’s not. Food for thought.