WHY ARE YOU DRESSED LIKE A BOY?
Let me start off by saying that men’s clothes are by far more comfortable than women’s clothes. I think many women would agree with me. It is amazing to me that with all the physical materials that women own (wallets, lip gloss, jewelry, make-up, etc.) we rarely are able to find items of clothing with pockets. I’m still pissed at all the jeans that have a sewn-on line rather than a pocket, and a purse section near the jean aisle, because let’s face it, consumerism is a nasty beast, but I digress. This story, I suppose you can call that, is not about my rant over budget-friendly women’s clothes, but rather one of a body realization and wearing fashion as a form of defense.
My entire first year in high school I wore high heels. I wasn’t trying to impress anybody or rake up attention, I genuinely loved high heels, especially wedges. I loved the way my calves popped, the way my legs lengthened in height, and the click of the heel on the floor like my own alarm system. For that year it made me feel seen, to myself, in a new and unfamiliar world full of people figuring themselves out in a claustrophobic and systemized building that is Americanized education.
I don’t remember when, but somewhere later that year I remember shrinking in size. Not physically, but internally…I suppose I can’t find a better word for it right now. As I walked the halls, I only remember the highly sexualized comments from boys plastered on the walls about girls’ bodies as they made treaded to class; comments “she’s like a 10, I’d f*** her”, “Nah she ugly bro”, “her face at ain’t all that, but her a** is perfect”, and so on and so on. In the beginning, many girls would cower, or walk a little faster, smirk or walk faster, but as the year went on, some hallways were transformed into walkways where the girls pranced in their tightest jeans, lowest cut tops, they’re sashayed walks and put on a show in front of the commentators. Sometimes it seemed like a contest, others a need for survival to control some piece of the narrative on the way to 3rd period. Now, how other girls at the time felt during those moments, I am not in any power of authority to say. There are always multiple sides to a story and this is simply mine.
However, while I witnessed less and less clothing during the endless months, I traded my wedges for my sneakers. Hearing comments about a body I was still getting to know, a body I still felt unfamiliar with, was not on my agenda, and I certainly didn’t want anyone touching me without my permission just because I wore a tank top and they could see my breasts. So, instead, I used fashion as my personal shield. I wasn’t interested in skinny jeans; I liked the way baggy jeans or sweatpants hid the shape of my legs. I traded tank tops for normal t-shirts, and I absolutely adored cargo shorts (sooo many pockets lol). With my hoodie and baggy pants, I melted into something invisible, “one of the guys”, a girl that wasn’t on the list…my appearance caused no noise, rather it faded into silence and I preferred it that way. In fact, there was one instance where a boy looked at my appearance and we had a similar outfit on, in which he responded “you’re dressed like me, why?” in which I responded, “I am, except I look better in it". I knew exactly what I doing— what I had to do to control my narrative. I was able to walk in peace down the halls while boys ran past groups of girls, smacking their butts and laughing like hyenas; or while comments like “she’s a slut” were spoken as easily as “what’s for lunch in the cafeteria” were made as a girl walked by in see through leggings. And for the record, this is not a commentary on little to no clothing, but the undignified response that is an uncontrollable vomit, when doing so.
I decided that I was going to “dress like a boy” during my high school years until I felt comfortable with my body, not until someone made my body convenient for themselves as a piece of meat or item of the day. Changing the very nature of appearance, I believe, helped me heal, even a little more from being a survivor of sexual abuse. I tell you this now, dear reader, at the very end of the story because no matter if a person is abused or not, we all have the right to own our bodies and control how we want to feel in them. As a person who has gotten to know her body extremely well both outwardly and inwardly, I wish nothing more than that for others.