The title speaks for itself, really.  But the experience is one to write on.  I was invited to an Ugly Sweater Party, of course assuming it was an Ugly Sweater Party.  In preparation for said party I realized I did not have in my wardrobe an Ugly Sweater.  Being that it is the Christmas season, my assumption was that the theme was based on the Holidays.  A reasonable deduction I thought as i found myself in a consignment store looking for just the right thing to wear.  As I walked into the store I immediately located the “ugly sweater” racks.  Hard to miss as they were located strategically at the front of the store.  I scrolled through the racks until I found just the right horrible one.  A tunic.  A busy one at that.  If you looked at it long enough, I am fairly certain it would have given you a headache.   Small little Santa’s dancing around  peppermint candies and candy canes on a green velvet background.  It was horrible and also three times my size.  As I walked to the register to pay the $10 it cost,  the clerk looked at me with eyes of wonderment, and I said I was going to an “Ugly sweater” party.  With that, her eyes relaxed acknowledging this hideous purchase.

The day of the party came.  As I  entered the house with my food preparations I  Immediately made contact with the hostess busying herself with last minute preparations.   Upon seeing her I immediately realized that this was not, in actuality, an  “ugly sweater” party, but a beautiful people “ugly sweater” party.   The differences you may wonder, are plentiful.   Her sweet little tunic was just that, sweet.   A simple sweater that looked like a Santa suit.  Sweet and  simple.  Although I knew SHE would not wear that in pubic, someone would.  Stylish and beautiful I thought of her as I stood there with my oversized tunic that was beyond an eye sore, when her husband walks in  with his reindeer sweater and says to me “that is scary ugly, like one of those girls on the tricycles in the movie The Shining.”   OH MY GOD I thought to myself, solidifying this was not an Ugly Sweater Party after all,  but a Beautiful People Ugly Sweater Party with sweaters bought from Nordstrom Rack!    I stood in the kitchen as others arrived  in their socially appropriate “ugly sweaters,”  while others decided not dress the part at all.    Cute and sweet outfits while I was there with an outfit that reminded people of a scene out of a Stephen King horror flick.  I could not help but feel like Bridget, in the first Bridget Jones Dairy movie where Bridget, played by Renee Zellwegar,  shows up to a party with a playboy bunny suit on because she has been told it was a costume party themed “Priests and Prostitutes,” until they changed the theme, but did not tell her.

“As usual,”  I socialized and maintained an evening of conversation with various people without them knowing that a feeling of foolishness persisted deep inside of me.  Later, at home, in another “as usual” moment I pondered why any of it would have mattered.  Why did it matter that I actually wore an “ugly sweater” to an “ugly sweater party?

On the surface it did not.  The party that is.  But the experience inside the party did matter.  The feeling of foolishness mattered.  Why?  It mattered because it made me feel vulnerable at a time of year when I feel vulnerable already.  A time of year where I feel exposed.  Much like a stray dog is exposed.  The Holiday Season.  The happiest time of the year thus says the Christmas carols.  Well, I am not sure who some of those Christmas songs are written for, but they are not written for my experience, and I am guessing many other people’s experience.

It is this time of year that exposes a lack of family for me.  Not that there are not physical people still alive, there are,  but the dynamics are so toxic for me that it makes it impossible for me to have relationships with some of them.  The hard lines I have had to draw for my own mental health have been hard ones to draw.   To some I am the mean one.  The one who won’t just “let it go.”  (a topic I have written on previously).   Choosing to be the person who refuses to place band-aids over the very evident, and  gaping problems in my family of origin has in some ways left me “alone.”  At least in the context of “them.”   But somewhere along the way I realized I had to choose “me.”   I had to consider my own mental and emotional health first, finally.  I had to detoxify from the toxicity.  Although I have no regrets in my decision for my own mental health, to choose otherwise would have been my demise, for whatever reason that night the party exposed some deeper set feelings.  I, the single one, the one with no kids, the one that wore “the ugly sweater” to the Ugly Sweater Party.   The “outsider” because of those choices that I had made both consciously and unconsciously throughout my life.  As I stood there socializing, the old, unsettled wound echoed throughout the cavities of my soul.  The voice that tells me I am not good enough, that I am not pretty enough, that I am “outside.”      I can not tell you why the voices paid a visit that night.  My hypothesis is that I generally feel vulnerable at this time of year and so I am susceptible to these most familiar old voices.  The season represents them in many ways.

There is much more to say on this subject and my feelings and why they surfaced that night and the hardship of this season in general for me and many others.  But for now I say that as hard as growth is, I would not go backwards.  And in moving forward I hope I can take my pain and make art out of it instead of it swallowing me up.  And in the words of Bridget Jones learn to like myself, just as I am.