3 April 2013
“You Only Need the One Dress”
It was my first day visiting Tunbridge Academy and my nerves were getting the best of me. I was undergoing the continual torture of the many “what if’s” that were relentlessly occupying my mind. Would I be able to carry out my contractual agreement with the school? Would the teachers like me? Would the students think I was cool? After exhausting every possible scenario involving my first day at Tunbridge going awry, I bravely and boldly took my first steps into Mrs. Metzger’s pre-Kindergarten classroom.
The classroom was colorful, vivacious—fearless; I could feel the energy of the twenty-seven little ones even in their absence. Mrs. Metzger warned me that the classroom would not be empty nor quiet for long—it was time to pick the children up from dance class. After climbing several staircases we finally reached Miss Rachel’s dance studio. I took a deep breath and opened the door with confidence, out they came: guns blazing, screeching, with open arms offering big hugs of welcoming. Everything was going to be just fine.
While reading Eat, Pray, Love, I found myself stuck on the words that Felipe shares with Liz. After Liz expresses her concern in potentially re-wearing the same strappy dress, Felipe states, ““You’re young and beautiful, darling. You only need the one dress”(269). This quotation really spoke to me because I could not agree more! Aside from my obvious passion for fashion, I genuinely believe that the most fabulous item a woman can wear is her confidence. Although Felipe is referring to Liz’s physical beauty, I think that he is also urging her to realize her internal beauty as well; he urges her to be confident. Similarly throughout my childhood and adolescence, I often found myself having frequent conniptic fits over finding the “perfect” dress or outfit to wear. Although this was very typical behavior for a girl my age, my mother (and biggest fan) always told me, “Catlin, you could wear a potato sack and still be the prettiest girl at the party”. Let me just say that I was FAR from being referred to as pretty at that point in my life, so my mother was definitely just doing her job as a mom—that is, to tell her creature-like looking daughter that she was beautiful. Regardless of what I looked like, my mother always put emphasis on my internal beauty—beauty that will always remain even after old age and wrinkles. And that internal beauty was impossible to attain without a strong sense of self-confidence. Knowing that, I knew it was integral to build this confidence if I was going to have any shot at being beautiful, at being happy, and most importantly—at being at home within my own skin.
In Gilbert’s novel, she writes: “Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it”(260). Although in my life, I have not found it necessary to travel the world to find happiness thus far, I do believe this statement holds a lot of truth. Just as my mother ingrained in my mind, it is up to the individual to build confidence and to find happiness. Thinking back to my first day at Tunbridge, this quotation especially resonates. Despite being extremely nervous, I was able to separate myself from my nerves and open the door to meet the kids with confidence—my BEST accessory (which is saying A LOT because I was wearing a killer new pair of shoes). Anyway, I took control of my own personal experience at Tunbridge; I took control of my happiness, just as Liz did.
I also found it insightful when Liz’s friend Darcy tells her, “that all the sorrow and trouble of this world is caused by unhappy people”(260). Gilbert later adds: “The search for the contentment is, therefore, not merely a self-preserving and self-benefiting act, but also a generous gift to the world”(260-261). Universally this implicates the idea that as humans we are all emotionally interconnected. In this moment, Gilbert is urging her audience to search for individual happiness for not only selfish reasons, but for the good of humanity.