(Guest blogger! Happily giving the floor to Princess McDowell, who has a bone to pick with people who think her bow ties negate her femininity.)
When I was a kid, my favorite shirt was a white tee, received free from some summer camp or extracurricular activity. I don’t remember what was on the front of it, but I do remember a unique feature: my chew marks on the collar.
I know. Sounds gross. In hindsight, it was. But at the time you couldn’t tell that to the full-fledged tomboy I was. What I remember most is that I always felt comfortable, safe in that shirt.
Flash forward a few decades, and my favorite is a collared button down shirt that I can pair with black or corduroy pants depending on what accessories I want to rock with it. Oh how things change.
My current wardrobe is filled with these singular pieces – button downs, sweaters, neck ties, bow ties, suspenders. I mix and match them together. I never feel safer than when I’m wearing my fit at a poetry reading or restaurant. Oh how things stay the same.
I was lucky. I was never made to feel like exploring who I was or what made me feel most comfortable was anything other than necessity. The emotions I attach to dramatic events in my life don’t keep me from being who I am. Again, grateful.
However, now that I’m wearing the outfits of my dreams, the people who don’t understand or wish to compartmentalize me into some mold where I don’t belong make regular appearances. There are the women who avoid me in public places for fear that I will attempt to convert them, or see me as the smooth-talking con-men who are simply trying to get in their pants. There are the men who view me as a threat to their own masculinity or, as if I inadvertently met a dress code, invite me into their boy’s club of misogyny and filthy mouths.
There are the women who get turned on by men (but really, just anyone) in a suit. The men who catcall because what’s between my legs is (presumably) still the same. The people who’ve decided they don’t want to figure out what I am and, by default, who I am, so they look away and hope I don’t engage.
Most damning of all is that in these interactions, I am no longer a woman. I am some other, not quite male, not quite female walking around in dress up clothes. I am enough for you to know you do not want to deal with me.
[typography font=”Josefin Sans” size=”24″ size_format=”px” color=”#ff0f0f”]Luckily, I’m not here for you.[/typography]
[typography font=”Josefin Sans” size=”24″ size_format=”px” color=”#ff0f0f”]My boy clothes don’t make me any less of a woman.[/typography]
Let me pause and say that I hate how we’ve gendered fabric and colors. Can we just unlink girl–and princesses for that matter–from pink and be done with it? (Dara’s note: yasss, please!)
I always knew this was how I would dress. I loved the style of TV men like Dwayne Wayne and Kyle Barker – sleek, distinguished, sexy in sophisticated type of way. The clothes that fill women’s and junior’s sections in department stores don’t fit me any more than they fit me. (Long arms and short legs can be hard to accommodate.) So I’ve chosen to look elsewhere and piece together clothes that stay true to who I am fully. Some folks don’t necessarily like that or even understand what to do with it.
That’s cool. Ain’t my responsibility to inform you of that anymore than it’s my responsibility to teach white people the damning effects of racism or white privilege.
I love my body. My long torso is a reminder of my heritage. My ass is an unopened Christmas present at the top of your closet. My shoulders and feet are as much my mother as they are my father.
More than that, I’m happy with who I am. Just like every woman, I have particular feelings and ways in which I like to have my dealings. I can be sensitive and guarded, or open and accepting. What I wear gives no indication to our future interactions, if we so choose to have them. Some people need not be so caught up in appearances.
I heart bow ties. And I need you to get over it.
Princess McDowell is a journalist and poet from the Dallas area. She’s also a pretty dope writer. Read her blogs at bfsjournalist.blogspot.com.