A girl was walking down Amsterdam Avenue with an old-school Adidas duffel bag and a big hankering for a soft pretzel. She was wearing a skirt that looked more like a T-shirt. Her glasses were big, clear and plastic; similar to something you'd see a nut-job scientist wear in a movie. The oversized gray hoodie she wore to cover her matted hair had a Yiddish saying scribbled on the back. As it turns out, that girl was me.
This weekend I went to New York City to visit some friends from abroad. The city always seems better in warm weather. Street vendors are yelling to grab the attention of kebab-seekers, children on leashes shriek with laughter - completely unaware of the towering buildings that shadow them and the amazing outdoor markets that are alive with fresh flowers, fruits and people.
As I walked down Amsterdam Avenue on this particularly sunny day, I noticed something was very strange. I was completely aware that I looked like crap, but I didn't seem to care. Was it because I had gotten four hours of sleep? Possibly ... but more so than that, I think that I didn't seem to care because neither did anyone else. And yes, maybe it's because, as often seems to be the case in NYC, people don't care who you are or what you're doing, as long as you don't bother them or walk too slowly.
It was a strange feeling because I didn't feel ignored. I felt like people were aware of me, but they simply weren't judging me. And why should they? I think the lack of judgment, in general, is a product of living in a big city. It seems funny to judge people by what they wear, even the girl who looks as if she woke up on the wrong side of the stable, let alone the bed.
Riding the subway in NYC is a unique experience that helps destroy one's impulse to judge someone based on what he or she looks like. The subway is littered with people whose personal style seems to radiate a confidence that, whether you would personally dress that way, creates an inexplicable mutual understanding of respect.
It's almost out of a movie because there are so many people constantly flowing in and out of the station, none of whom seem to look even remotely alike. There are people performing in various pee-ridden corners of the station that provide an amazing soundtrack to the somewhat movie-like experience of using the subway system.
With all of those things said, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that I would not feel comfortable wearing my Amsterdam Avenue outfit in public on the University of Richmond campus. It seems to be a rarity here at Richmond to actually find anyone looking disheveled, let alone sloppily dressed or "gross" (Note: This does not include the weekends between the hours of 11 p.m. and 4 a.m.).
I distinctly remember being blown away by how many people dressed up for my 8:15 a.m. class freshman year. Hadn't these people heard of sweatpants? I certainly had, and was well aware of the looks I got for my messy hair and grungy attire.
You see, I had left my Longchamp bag and Patagonia vest at home. And as distressed as I absolutely was not, I soon began to realize that this campus was judgmental, with regard to material goods and personal style. Furthermore, I began to realize that there was no such thing as personal style. There was simply Richmond Style.
Maybe we need to start considering why we judge others (and trust me, we're all guilty) based on how they look and conclusively re-evaluate what qualities we find important in others. Because giving people the stink-eye, just because their Tory Burch knock-offs are from Payless, is rude.
I say screw the knock-offs. I say screw the Tory Burches. You could feed a starving village with the real deal, and as for the fakes, well, I'm not sure if you like bunions, but hey ... I'm not judging.
Contact staff writer Liz Monahan at email@example.com