When I was twelve I wore extra-long-length Bongo jean shorts. Proudly.
For those of you unfamiliar with Bongo shorts, they were the defining item of a 90s middle school girl’s wardrobe. They came in dozens of colors and had shiny buttons climbing up, up, up to and beyond the belly button. Also, they were impossibly short, extending far more above the waist than beyond the rump.
Mine, as I said were extra long length, a reasonable solution to a modest girl’s dilemma. At the time, I loved those shorts and prided myself on their length. I remember telling a girl in seventh grade Spanish class, “I ONLY wear the extra long ones,” looking at her bright red ones with disdain.
Recently I found a picture of myself in a safety-patrol-orange pair. I’m sitting with Justin on a bench, my long, tan legs taking up most of the frame. What I notice now, now that I’m old and Bongo shorts aren’t all the rage, is that my shorts, my extra-long beacons of modesty, are actually, well, short. Really, really short. So short, in fact, that I can barely see them in the picture.
At first I was shocked, thought maybe the photo’d been altered. My shorts were long. But those shorts were short.
It’s easy to see now, but then was different. Then, every girl in school wore Bongo shorts. Then, nobody’d ever heard of capris or bermuda-length. Then, my shorts were, honestly, the longest in school.
Compared to everyone else around me, those shorts were long—exactly two inches longer than culture dictated—and I felt like a spiritual super-hero.
Today, you could put that picture of me next to any picture of a young girl from the 90s and you’d struggle to see any difference at all.
Sometimes, I go out of my way, really work, to be “two inches different” from my peers—even now at almost 30—and the truth is, nobody notices. I might brag about it, try to get some credit for my sacrifice, but no one will care.
In order to be truly different, to be perceived as different, to look back on pictures and see the difference, I have to stop measuring myself against people I don’t want to be like. Sure, I may be nicer or happier or more modest, but I might never be genuinely nice or happy or modest.
The truth? When the world is my standard, I’ll never look Jesus.
If I want to look like Jesus, I need more than long short shorts, I need radical, revolutionary difference.