No, not that closet *cheeky grin*
I’m going through certain … changes … which makes me sound like a 33-year-old adolescent. And I suppose in some ways, I am. These … changes … are perfectly normal in a woman my age. In fact, once I tell you what they are, you’ll roll your eyes and wonder what the big deal is. You see … I want to start wearing dresses.
I’ve had this impulse before, and have had three failed makeovers. Failed because they each lasted two weeks. Then I was back in jeans, hoodies, and sneakers. And so, once again, I’m thinking of playing a little with my feminine side, adding some skirts and dresses to my repertoire. I’ll probably wear them with sneakers, but hey, I have to start somewhere.
So I logged on to all-knowing Google and highlighted designs that I like. I printed them out and took them to the fundi. My daughter and my best friend bumped into the photos – which I had (not) conveniently left on the sofa. They both burst out laughing and took bets on how long this phase would last. Well okay, they didn’t take bets exactly. But they’re pretty dubious.
In fairness, I don’t know why I think this dressy trip is different. It could just be another case of hormones, like the one that made me shave my dreads and try the natural look. For a month. I’m back in purple dreads now, thank you very much.
And I don’t want to to explain why I’m suddenly into dresses. My baby thinks it was someone else’s idea, and has offered to beat them up for me if complying makes me uncomfortable. I think it’s because I’m battling femininity even as I try to define it, and so it seems logical to – you know – try on a few dresses.
I know people who are like, “It’s about time you started dressing like a grown-up.” Yes, in those exact words, which have been said repeatedly since I was 24. Others will throw my words back at me, “I work in an office where I’m allowed to wear jeans and hoodies. Why would I wear anything else?”
Some smartass might even pull up quotes from right here on this blog, quotes about being true to the rebel inside me, and finally conforming to the standards of the world by dressing ‘age-appropriately.’ There’s a loudly whiny voice inside that says this very thing every day.
And then there’s the people that will claim it’s a new man, or the search for a new man, or just me being my sensationalist self, taking something perfectly ordinary and making it sound like a purple braided unicorn. I’m sure a bunch of people will stop me on the street, in the office, even at family functions. They will ask what my latest phase is all about. And I will refuse to respond. Or maybe I’ll install a pony app on my phone, and it can neigh my reply.
So … if I don’t want to answer the question IRL, why am I answering it here? And what does any of this have to do with closets? I’m not sure. But listening to Ash’s TED talk touched me. In case you didn’t watch the video or click on the link, she discusses how hard it is to come out of any closet, even if it’s not a gay one.
She talks about being a girl dressed like a boy, and having kids ask her which one she was. She says how at first, she would seethe in silence, but eventually, she answered one little girl, explaining that even though it’s confusing, sometimes, girls like to dress up like boys. I guess I was one of those girls.
Science – and society – chalk this up to lots of different things. Penile envy. Lesbianism. Growing in a house full of brothers. Being raised by single parents. Rape. Body shaming. Insert inaccurately relevant rationale. Whatever the cause is, there are girls who like to dress like boys, and boys that like to dress like girls, and people that think there’s no such thing as clothes for boys and clothes for girls. To the latter, this entire discussion is moot.
For a long time, I worried that I was clouding my child’s perception of femininity, because I wore jeans and hoodies and clothes that hid my curves. Other times, I worry that wearing ‘girly’ clothes exposes me – and her – to harassment and sexualisation. Here’s the thing though. We have boobs and vaginas, and those will attract male attention no matter what we choose to wear. For example: Jade, the super-smart, super-stylish diva from Bratz.
There is a place for discretion in clothing. All these cases about school dress codes in the west and how they’re teaching girls that their bodies are dangerous … their bodies are dangerous. Their bodies can draw men to hurt them. Not because of what they’re wearing, but because of what they are. Their bodies are dangerous because their bodies are female.
Knives are sharp. They can cut meat to feed a family, or they can murder an innocent being. And sometimes, they can murder an innocent being to feed a family. That’s just how nature works, and nature is a bitch. A woman’s body is dangerous because her body is prey and his body is a knife. He can use it to protect, or he can use it to hurt.
And it’s not the girl’s fault. It’s the man’s fault. It’s ALWAYS the man’s fault. So I teach my daughter that what she wears affects how people perceive her, and that sometimes, it can make people want to hurt her. I teach her to defend herself when people do try to hurt her, to never give in, and to never give up. And I teach her to take all these things into consideration … and then decide for herself what she wants to wear.
I suppose that’s the closet that I’m coming out of. Allowing myself to be a girl. This probably sounds ridiculous because I know from experience that responses will be largely positive. But when you’ve built your entire identity around being unwanted, unattractive, unhappy, and unloved … then actively looking pretty can be a very scary thing.
I’m going to come out of another closet. A rather expensive closet. *deep breath* I’m currently in therapy for clinical depression. My baby knows about it, as does my best friend, my siblings, a few people at work, a few other friends online. Come to think of it, a lot of people know about it. I guess it’s one of those badly kept secrets. *sheepish grin*
Their reactions have been surprising and typical at the same time. Some told me to pray, because God fixes all things. Yeah, me and God aren’t on the best of terms … which is what those people blame for the depression. Some people guilt-tripped me for wasting money. There are children dying in Africa (pun intended) and I’m paying someone to listen to my problems?
Others – the most progressive ones (or so I thought) asked why I would share problems with a stranger. Don’t I have friends? Or a boyfriend? Or alcohol? This from someone who has relatives that are psychologists, relatives that they would never talk to about ‘these things.’ My supporters said it really well though, maybe because they’re familiar with my journey through depression. They said, ‘Good. Do what you need to do.’
First, my therapy sessions do not involve couches, and she has never said, “Tell me about your ch-a-i-ld-hood,” even though it does get discussed. And I’ve learned that when depression lifts, it is typically replaced with agression, which I suppose is I’ve been so angry lately.
I’ve also noticed that I’m starting to tackle things I’ve been running away from. Like listening to rhumba and enjoying it. Or buying a washing machine. Or baking three different cakes last night. Or suddenly wanting to wear skirts.
I’ve recognised that it’s gradually getting easier to know what I want and don’t want. In the past, I’ve mostly rebelled against things. I know my mum wants my hair long, straight, and tongy, so I keep it short and dreadlocked. I know my dad wants me in senior marketing management, so I get an artsy job in advertising.
I know my pals say I have nice legs, so I keep them shrouded in loose-fitting jeans. I know that people in studios are fun, happy, party-people, so I avoid all office-related functions. I know PTA members are all pants-suits and shiny cars, so I show up in sweatpants and a bandanna.
These choices are more conformist than I realise, because while I imagine I’m being true to myself, what I’m doing is living for other people by active contradiction. I am living my life based on their opinions, even though I’m acting against said opinions. And yes, that part of me that is loudly whining feels like I am betraying this core part of my personality.
But another part of me, a calmer, older part *shudder* admits that maybe I’m finally growing up, and that maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Yes, I will miss standing out, miss the sideways glances from a meticulous high-heeled mums as I saunter in with a hoodie. And I will cringe at the knowing grins from relatives, teachers, and peers who finally ‘approve’ of me for conforming. It will probably be a while before I stop feeling like I’ve lost a major part of myself.
Which is probably why I’ll still be in jeans and hoodies two or three times a week. To quiet my loud inner teenager. I think it’s cool though, that I’ve finally freed myself to add bits and pieces to my nature. To try out new things and see if I like them. I’ve been so scared of losing the ‘real me’ that I forgot to discover who ‘the real me’ is. I finally accept that who I am can change, grow, adapt, develop, and that even though adulting generally sucks, growing up isn’t always a bad thing.
♫ Blank Space ♫ Taylor Swift ♫