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Combat Boots & A Possible Haunting




I bought a pair of combat boots today, and it’s one of the most defiant things I’ve ever done.


That may not seem like much to you. But to me, buying these boots goes against every single thing my mother raised me to be.


Because she raised me to be someone I’m not.


My mother had a vision of who I should be – someone demure, soft, quiet, without any real opinions. She wanted me to be a people pleaser, who always puts others first, and never thinks of myself or what I want.


And she really succeeded. I have spent almost every waking minute of my life trying to be what she wanted me to be. In junior high and high school, I wore the closet full of plaid Ralph Lauren shirts with the designer jeans and the Dottie Smith belt. I wore my hair long. I wore Top Siders or loafers. I wore tasteful makeup. I wore conservative clothes.


I kept this up long after I moved out of the house for college. Well, I did saunter into a Super Cuts my freshman year and chop off my long hair into a bob, which just about gave my mother a stroke. I think she even cried. But damn that was a cute haircut and the first thing I ever did on my own.


Hair aside, I never really stepped out of the box she drew for me. I put others ahead of myself to a fault. For example, I was waiting in line at a burger place today. I stepped out of line to go to the ladies' room. When I got back, I went to the end of the line, which was really one guy who was already there when I stepped out of line. He looked at me and said, “What are you doing? Get back in your place in line.”


See? I was raised to never be demanding of anyone’s time or space. Not even some stranger at a burger place.


Anyway, I never wanted to wear any of the clothes she bought. I really wanted to be a little goth. I wanted to wear black and dye a blonde streak in my black hair and wear combat boots. I think she would have rather shot me herself and buried me in the backyard than to see me dress like that. What would the people think if Jane Hanchey’s daughter looked...goth?


That was her primary concern in all aspects of her life. What would the people think? I don’t know who the people were, or why they gave a rat’s ass about what we did, but they were all she thought about. I wasn’t allowed to work at an outside job – what would people think? I could only babysit for money. I could not speak my opinions on anything out loud anywhere – what would people think? I could not appear strong or independent – what would the male people think? I could not infringe on anyone, anywhere, for anything – what would people think? I could not even leave the house without lipstick on, for Christ’s sake.


She would have been 75 this coming Sunday, although we would probably not be able to say that number out loud to anyone because really, what would people think? Well, since I’m 51, almost 52, and I don’t lie about my age, the jig would be up.


Today, for the first time, I said out loud the most liberating thing I’ve ever said or felt – I don’t care what she would think about me, or my actions, my career choice, or the way I dress. It’s none of her business.


Also, she’s dead so what’s she going to do about it? If she hasn’t haunted me for some of my other life choices, she’s not going to start now over a pair of combat boots.


I don’t think.

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