Julia M. Dendinger
Assistant Editor

It was difficult not to notice the little girl ahead of me in line at the pharmacy. She was chatting with her dad and older brother, bouncing up and down, wanting to see over the counter.

She wasn’t being obnoxious but the exuberance of her actions and her fashion choices for the day were hard to ignore.

Rocking a dress with pink flamingos, sparkled leggings, pink shoes and a black beanie with a pirate patch, well … she was hard to miss.

She was 3, maybe 4. I’m a bad judge of ages; just ask my own kids. The idea of “style” and what was on trend was most likely the furthest thing from her mind. She was simply wearing what she liked.

I admired her spirit, her commitment to the pink, the sparkles, topped off with the sharp contrast of the black hat.

Her carefree outfit made me contemplate my own enjoyment of pink and sparkles. Yes, I’m admitting to an appreciation of the stereotype. More the sparkle than the pink, but it’s hard to separate the two most of the time.

As a kid, I didn’t have a lot of either in my life. Not that I was deprived or anything. It’s just that I was the wearer of a lot of homemade clothes.

Now most of you are probably envisioning a lot of gingham, but that’s another stereotype of handmade clothes from the Ozarks. And my mother couldn’t line up the pattern of the fabric to save her life.

So, there were a lot of flowers — tiny, pink flowers on navy blue, yellow flowers on beige, daisies on white. You get the picture.

Handmade jeans with elastic waistbands were also a staple. Mom never did get the hang of zippers and button holes, so bulky-waisted pants were the consequences.

Not that I’m complaining really; not like my brother anyway. To hear him tell it, those jeans were the cause of all the trauma in his life; leaving him a broken, scarred man.

While my early years were filled with mom-crafted ensembles and thrift-store finds, as I entered middle school, I put my foot down. I needed cooler clothes.

My middle school years landed hard in the late 1980s. So there was a lot of pink and purple. Scrunchies, oversized shirts, leg warmers and knotted T-shirts were all a thing.

Given the financial constraints of the family, I had to give and take on the wardrobe front. Maybe one pair of semi-cool jeans and a couple of shirts. I could mix things up with a 24-pack of fun colored knee highs!

Yeah … don’t judge me. You weren’t there. After a rough entry into high school, where the clothes that were cool at the end of my eighth-grade year were so not the following fall, I was pretty sure I was doomed.

My best friend was so cool, so well appointed — in that late ’80s, big hair and neon accessories kind of way. Oh dude, I can smell the Electric Youth from here. It still burns.

Somewhere around the end of my sophomore year, I had an epiphany — high school isn’t forever. With that realization, I stopped worrying about what I wore, how high my bangs were or if my jeans were rolled correctly.

It was rather liberating. I nerded out on drama and Shakespeare. Failed chemistry but still had fun. Spent too much time alone in the darkroom and in the publication lab in general.

For decades I shunned the sparkley, pretty, pink, popular styles. College was a very flannel-based period for me. I embraced practical and comfort.

Eventually, college ended and I entered the “real world,” which seemed to require clothes that at least seemed adult-ish. Buttons and such were de rigour. I stuck to black and tan. Grey to mix things up.

Then, when I hit 40 something kind of clicked. I mean, black and tan and grey are fine. But red is nice, too. And pink and purple. Oh and some turquoise. Oh, oh and that one sparkles.

Maybe I finally reached the age where I didn’t care, or was at least comfortable enough in my own self to just wear what I liked. Not to an extreme though. Pajamas in the office are frowned upon.

While a dress with pink flamingos might not be in my future, I deeply appreciate the look on others.

So, to the little girl at the pharmacy — living her best life on a Sunday morning — sparkle on my little friend.

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.