Here’s yet another example of the teachings we used to say “Bad Girl/Bad Boy” to ourselves.

A lovely lady I know sat down next to me on a NYC bus.  She looked dejected.  She told me she was ready to slit her wrists.  I asked her, “What happened?  Why are you so outraged and sad and angry? Did someone hurt you terribly?”

She answered that she just spent a lot of money on a new formal dress to wear to a good friend’s New Year’s Eve party.  It turned out to be the exact same dress the hostess had bought to wear to the event. The rider’s eyes began to fill with tears as she told me her story.   She sobbed:  “I wish I could have gotten a heart attack and been carried away before I went into Lord & Taylor!”

Sounds ridiculous, right?  Originally, I was going to ask her why she was so angry with herself, because I know that’s usually the cause of our feeling awful. However, I didn’t want to sound like I was being an analyst, which I’m not.

In a previous column I wrote about allowing the weather to affect your happiness. The truth is you can choose to say YES to yourself on any given day, whatever the weather. This week I’m talking about breaking old rules that have no real meaning — rules we’ve used to beat ourselves up — rules that keep us from saying YES to ourselves.

I thanked the lady on the bus for giving me this new realization.  It dawned on me:  We put onsensical negative meanings on things that don’t need any particular interpretation. The “not wearing the same dress rule” is a perfect example of how something neutral can keep us from saying YES to ourselves.  Why hate yourself or feel gloomy if you’re at a party in the same dress that a friend is wearing? What makes one person in the dress great and two people in the dress a terrible faux pas?

Why should this have affected the woman’s joy?  Who originally made up the idea that it is wrong to wear the same dress as a friend at an event?  It may have originated in a past culture where it made sense, although I doubt it.

Once again, I’m taken back to Oscar Hammerstein’s brilliant song, “You’ve Got To Be Taught!”  If you weren’t taught it was “yuchy” to be wearing the same dress as someone else, would you feel bad about doing so?  Men: I can hear you clacking away as I type this; but I bet there are inconsequential things you hold as  “no-nos!”

Why must you think you’ve committed a horrible error even when you can’t explain what it is that makes what you’ve done an error?  Couldn’t you just as easily say ”Wow! How great to wear the same dress? I actually used to do this on purpose with my songwriting partner. We purposely worked hard to find the same outfit to wear to gatherings because we decided to look like festive twins. We dressed alike in style – with different colors for each of us – because I have warm-toned skin and she has cool-toned skin. Of course, we look nothing alike; but we wanted to make a statement. At any rate, we got a kick out of looking like we worked hard to find similar looking outfits, not only for our onstage appearances, but for every party we attended! People would say they had so much FUN with us.   We were the “Glitz Sisters.” It was a great and memorable look for cabaret. Most important, we had FUN!

I just got an idea! Why not dress the same as a good friend for New Year’s Eve – even if it’s an elegant formal party; I bet it could be FUN! I’m spending New Year’s Eve at a New York restaurant with wonderful neighbors who live down the hall from me.  Our doormen are going to get a good giggle! Best of all, the lady I met on the bus gave me her card. I’m going to call her and suggest the idea to her!  I have to admit that she scared me when I met her. I doubt she was truly going to kill herself, but even saying that to yourself can reinforce thoughts that can keep your star from shining.

Have Fun! Happy New Year!