1. When you wear a home-made, puffed-sleeve, colonial-esque, lace-front dress, styled after your Felicity doll, to every Bible study your mom attends in the 3rd grade and wonder why the other kids aren’t taking your suggestion to form a Harriet-the-Spy spy club seriously.
3. When you rip the whole length of the butt seam in your rainbow-striped capris while failing to complete a backflip on a trampoline at a cousin’s birthday party in an old abandoned barn in the sticks.
4. When you look in a mirror and wonder whether your 6th grade best friend was lying when she told you violet Wet ‘n Wild glitter on your cheeks and the purple floral-print culottes your mom sewed you look super-cool together. Renate, after all, was only allowed to wear denim skirts that dragged on the ground.
5. When your mother forces you to wear her ankle-length plaid skirts from art school to class and insists your aunt, who is the vice president of design at Ann Taylor, would think you look chic. This is 7th grade and you are taking only band and computer science at the middle school on your military base in Germany. You don’t believe her.
6. When your friend confesses to you that several kids think your dad must be enlisted (read: poor) because your jeans are all highwaters. Also 7th grade. Rough year.
8. When a notoriously scary counselor at your grandfather’s conservative Christian summer camp disciplines the other girls in your cabin for dressing inappropriately and tells them you are a good example to follow. Even then, you are acutely aware this is not a compliment.
9. When you get your period for only the second time ever at a different summer camp, during the trust exercise where you have to scale a 15-foot wall, so there’s no doubt the entire mixed-gender group saw your shame. You exclusively wear long t-shirts the rest of that week.
10. When you wear sparkly, Powerpuff Girls-emblazoned overalls to your 9th grade youth group hay ride and yell, “Hey, where’s my hot dude, [crush’s name]?” as soon as you get to the meet-up point, only to find your crush is right behind you. In that moment you know you are way too old for Powerpuff Girls clothing, but you are still too young to understand that this pain, too, shall pass.
11. When you wear a baggy neon orange t-shirt to match your youth group cohort on a missions trip to Tombstone, Ariz., and several airport officials mistake your group for a bunch of delinquents en route to juvie.
12. When, on the same missions trip, the group videographer catches you tugging your jean shorts out of your butt on film.
13. When you wear an olive green, long-sleeve shirt from Arizona Company to school in the 10th grade and this Methodist cheerleader keeps loudly announcing to everyone in your journalism class that you bought her used clothes from the on-base thrift store.
14. When you make the mistake of wearing a puka-shell necklace one of your first pseudo-camp-boyfriends bought you in Hawaii to camp the year after he gifted it to you, when you are decidedly not friends anymore. Your little brother tells you the boy informed him the necklace only cost $5 anyway.
15. When your male best friend looks at some prints from your “Paradise”-themed junior year prom and tells you your ivory silk column dress makes you look “weirdly lumpy.” You retort that maybe it was because you had to get there 6 hours early to blow up hundreds of metallic balloons and construct a dozen gold foil palm trees.
16. When you buy a pair of tight red, knockoff track pants with Hollister emblazoned across the butt at a Korean night market. Nothing bad comes of it, but still.
17. When your favorite pair of faded, old Sofee-style shorts disappear in the freshman dorm laundry room and six months later you find them taped to the wall on one of the males-only floors at your evangelical college. Even though people are watching, you take them back.
18. When the manager of the Baskin Robbins on the military base in Germany where you work between your freshman and sophomore year of college tells you he wishes his legs looked that good in shorts. And you wonder, “Is this sexual harassment?” Then you go back to taking evidence photos of the ice cream melting because Germans don’t really do air conditioning.
19. When your little brother gets irritated that you have permanently commandeered his long, khaki cargo shorts for the rest of the summer.
20. When you borrow a brilliant emerald green, polyester, spaghetti strap dress from the “ecotique” where you work as a shopgirl and look quite sophisticated at a sophomore year college banquet. Downside is you get tear stains all over the dress because that day your student ID was confiscated for stealing cucumbers from the cafeteria and the cafeteria manager threatens to revoke your student meal plan and it’s only October, so that means you might have to starve for two months.
21. When you notice a kid who is notorious for being a proto-hipster wearing a striped v-neck shirt you are 90% sure you donated to the undergrad co-op. Once again you question whether you know the difference between male and female clothing.
22. When your skirt flies up while you’re walking just off campus and a woman in a passing car screams, “Put some pants on, you whore” and you think, “I’ve come way too far to go back to wearing pants under my skirts, lady.”
23. When you ask your college roommate years later what her first impression of you was and she says she thought you needed a different bra because your nipples were poking through your thin t-shirt.
24. Anytime someone says, “Only you could pull that off.”
Meghan Williams is a former military contractor, former homeschooler and current writer living in Austin. Her #1 piece of advice is do as many embarrassing things as you can now, so you can write about it later.