Saturday, September 26, 2009

Dressing, Gender, and Sexuality

Probably not what you're thinking, but basically, I don't know how to get dressed. It's not that I can't put one leg and then another through a pair of pants without falling over- I know *how* to get dressed, physically, it's that I can't put together an outfit, and that I don't really care about putting together an outfit. (Don't worry, this isn't really going to be one of those self-revelatory posts that I have intentionally NOT structured this blog around.) I've been thinking about the roots of this, a lot, partially after my extreme reaction to having my eyebrows done. Also, there's this wedding. Today. And I'm wearing a dress. A party dress. And whenever I have to go to an event, something I studiously avoid, I have a freakout, because I have to dress, which is something I loathe doing, because I'm so piss poor at it.

So I've come to the conclusion that similar to my eyebrow issue, I can't dress because I never learned to dress. And I never learned to dress because I Just Don't Care. This probably started for the same reasons as the eyebrow thing: I was a Young Feminist, who believed that dressing for other people to judge you on appearances was so wrong. So in my "crucial" pre-teens (i.e. crucial for learning how to "look good") I didn't spend a whole lot of time "learning" these skills. I did read the relevant magazines- "17" and "YM" but I think I just was more into other things. I'm into what's comfortable, and I don't like to throw old comfortable clothes away. I don't like to look in the mirror. So I wear jeans, tee shirts, tennis shoes, and flip flops a lot. You'll know me when you see me by the messy hair. I love having a job where I wear a uniform and don't HAVE to think about what I wear every day.

Enough about me. The point is- society says that women need to dress for success. Don't believe me? Want to argue cultural norms in the US? Try being me. When you don't know how to dress for success, it's ultra-obvious that that women are expected to know certain things: how to comb your hair into nice smooth "dos;" how to pick an outfit for each occasion; how to shave in a pinch; how to "adjust" your breasts; how to purchase the right clothes to "flatter" your figure; etc. And there's a twist to this, which is just as insidious, and as frustrating for me: if a woman either don't know how to do these things, or don't care about these things, or opt out of these cultural norms, said woman is considered to be a lesbian. I haven't quite figured this out: does it come from some residual stereotype of a bulldagger lesbian who wants to be a man? Is it an idea of a butch lesbian who wears pants all the time and fits into some idealized roll of the man in the relationship? Is it just that if you don't want to be societies image of a woman, you can't possibly be normal, i.e. heterosexual?

I don't care about how my boobs fit in a bra (I know, too much information). I don't really want to wear a lacy dress ever again after today. I also don't want to be the center of attention. My goal in not-caring is not to stick out like a sore thumb. The goal is not a goal at all- it's just who I am. My mom wisely pointed out a few years ago, though, that I *do* want to be appropriately dressed at events for people that I care about, because the event is definitely not about me, and if I dress how I normally dress, people *will* look at me, and it's not my event. So, for this kind of thing, I suck it up and dress appropriately, which today, includes shaved legs, and a lacy dress.

And no, there will be no pictures!


Kevin-John said...

doh... and I was going to ask for pictures.

How about a general location so we can send out spies?

KHB said...

"I don't like to throw old comfortable clothes away" may be the understatement of the year. I love this post becuase your butch heterosexual style is always a favorite conversation topic. And please save the dress? Maybe this one can be an actual hand me down??

thb said...

If there's no pic, how can the blog be trusted? Another "column" purporting to be accurate...I don't think so. C'mon, even a pic from the back will be enough for you to stay anonymous...

vianaturae said...

You're a good friend.

And according to those cultural norms you reference, you are naturally physically attractive. I've prepared a list of reasons why but won't post it here so please ask me.

Seeing you in the dress was similar to seeing an amazing piece of artwork, a photograph let's say, before it's been framed. And in some ways before it's been cropped.

That dress accentuates you in the same way.

Therefore, seeing you in that dress was a pleasurable experience, and I feel very lucky to have been allowed to see it. So thank you, it was a lot of fun.

Xposure120 said...

If your bra fits well so will your shirts. In additional a good bra will make you look slimmer. Also I never saw you look butch.

harleymom said...

I think you and Jenna have a similar outlook for clothing. I bought her some pants yesterday and wasn't sure about the size and she really wanted me to just buy whichever ones "I" thought looked better on her. Her life is easier if I just pick out her clothes for her. I guess you need "someone" who cares about your clothes for you.

She is just realizing now that middle school/HS was hard for her because she dressed strangely. She didn't even realize it. She just wore whatever her mom bought for her and I guess sometimes those clothes were not what the other girls would wear. She also didn't want to go to the mall and such so didn't have a lot in common with a lot of the girls she had been friends with when she was little.