I Woke Up Like This: Death by Comparison

In Louisiana Ladies, Payton Denney by Lola Magazine

I own a fake Louis Vuitton handbag. My sister calls it the “Flouis.” It came to live in my closet a few years ago when a friend gifted it to me. I’m positive that she was tired of hearing me lust over the authentic ones. I was enamored by them. Other women looked legit sporting them. I was too cheap to shell out the cash for an authentic one, so I decided to fake it while I test drove. The counterfeit purse was so realistic that my friend and I were the only ones who knew the truth. I overcame the urge to purchase the real purse on the same day that the handle broke.

I’m not sure what I thought owning the handbag was going to do for me. Louis Vuitton makes beautiful products, and there is nothing wrong with owning them. But presenting a counterfeit front ultimately makes me the real fake. I’ve always prided myself on offering up nothing other than my authentic self. But truth be told, I’ve pretended more than I would like to admit.

As a young adult entering the professional arena, I was invited to attend the Provisional Party for the Junior League. I arrived at the party raring to go—ready to make new friends and embark on philanthropic adventures. I parked along the street as other young women clicked down the driveway in their summer sandals. As I was three feet from the front door, one of the leather straps on the top of my shoe snapped. There was no time to react as more recruits closed in behind me on the front porch. Just then, the host opened the door and ushered us inside.

The foyer of the grand home was so large that I could have parked my car in it. The décor was breathtakingly beautiful, and everyone agreed that a home tour was in order. I looked down at the frayed fragment of shoe strap saluting me from atop my big toe. “Maybe no one will notice,” I told myself. But as I began to follow the crowd into the next room, my shoe swung out and then snapped back into place making a loud clapping sound. Taking steps forward created an awkward gait and an echo. My only option to keep from interrupting the tour was to slide my foot along behind me as we progressed from room to room. When someone would turn to engage me in conversation, I stood in third position attempting to hide my situation.

For an hour, I conversed with other Provisionals and party hosts. No one mentioned my predicament nor did I. Once I was back outside heading to my car, I slipped the perpetrator off my foot. I could hear my college roommate’s voice in my head, “I told you to throw those shoes away!” 

I never became an active member of the Junior League. 

I would like to say that today, 15 years after my self-conscious charade, I am much more self-assured. I would love to tell you that today, given the same circumstances, I would double over with laughter and ask the host for some slippers, but I’m not sure that would be accurate. The thing about authenticity is that it involves vulnerability. And to be vulnerable is to be brave—to laugh at your shortcomings. I’m not sure that I always have what it takes to be 100% myself. 

Regularly, I get hijacked by the social media highlight reel. I tell myself ugly things about my lack of talent in certain required areas, such as “My skin should be clearer. My cellulite should vanish. Our family should travel more.” Then, I start to notice things I haven’t before. My wardrobe needs refreshing. My home décor is outdated. My kid should play travel ball. Shortly afterward, I embark on an unintentional proving contest, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t avoid the eventual emergence of my authentic self. Those are the days when my shoes reveal the truth about who I really am.

My authentic self wears leggings that are past their useful life. I clean out my handbag once a year. Sometimes I don’t call people back. If my family didn’t wake me up, I would sleep the entire day. After years of practice, I’m a mediocre cook. Sometimes, at social gatherings, I say inappropriate things for the pleasure of experiencing the other person’s reaction. Embarrassingly so, I derive a large amount of my self-worth from my work.

Often, when I’m lost emotionally, I look to the lovers of the real me to get me back on track. They can see through the smoke and mirrors of my latest charade. After listening to my struggling rant, they effortlessly hand back to me the reality of who I really am at my core. To them, it’s clear.

At the end of the day, I’m still that little girl who entered this world late in July 1980. My heart still belongs to the man who raised me on butterfly kisses. I still value birthdays because my Mama made them so very special. My sister is still my best friend.

My most difficult trials have been shared with my high school sweetheart. He is my safe place, my happiness, the love of my life. I don’t sleep well when he’s not home. My world is in balance when we are together.

With every year that passes, I realize the magnitude of life’s trials. The responsibility and the honor of raising three kiddos is overwhelming. But my hope lies in the fact that my Creator is the one true lover of the real me. The relationships that support me in my weak times are of His making. 

Every day, we have a choice on how to handle our circumstances. We can fold and become victim to them, or we can dig deep into who we were created to be and plant our heels. My reality is that I’ll be holding my ground in baggy leggings and outdated shoes. Maybe I’ll post that on social media.  

Make no mistake, there is death in comparison. The result is the loss of the best parts of our authenticity. That’s a loss I’m not willing to accept. I say that we start by turning off the filters on our lives. If we can do that, our emancipation from self-destruction may just be at the tipping point.