Can’t find the other pictures just yet.
Can’t find the other pictures just yet.
There is a logic to the men’s section of a department store that is largely missing from most women’s sections. Take shirts, for example. short sleeves are over here and long sleeves are over there. In the women’s section, this is not necessarily the case, except maybe during late spring/early summer when we are expected to shop for summer. The more formal “dress” shirts are often separated by color, or at least light from dark, and usually by material (smooth vs. rougher). You can easily find what you are looking for without having to look at all the shirts in your size on seven different racks.
And color! Men’s shirts have sensible colors: cranberry, navy, loden green, chambray blue. Black with pink flamingos. Purple with white bicycles. Stripes that usually don’t clash. plaids, the same (except for Madras plaids; there’s just no accounting for those). women’s shirts are a riot of colors: orange and pink paisleys, or jewel-tone flowers on a tomato soup background. Gaah. And turquoise, that irreparably iffy color that can make your skin tone look healthy in one light and fatally jaundiced in another. Sure, in the 1970s even men wore colors and patterns like that, but if the 1980s did nothing else good besides massive benefit concerts, it put to rest that particular sartorial nonsense.
And then there are the pockets. Men’s shirts (and pants and coats and vests) have pockets. And pockets are liberation. It is no mistake that the Nasty Woman Perfume mock ad video that came out back in November put clothes with pockets in the same category as reproductive healthcare and equal wages.
In comparison, the problem that men’s shirts always (if they are long-sleeved) have sleeves that are too long for the average women. But, you can always just roll them up; in fact the kind of women who are likely to shop in the men’s section are exactly the type to roll up their sleeves and get to work.
Well, 2016 was a year of many things, most of them pretty bad. We lost Prince, and Princess Leia, Colonel John Glenn and Major Tom. Voldemort and his chess set of white supremacists gained entry into the White House when Russia took a page out of the US playbook to help make that happen, putting immigrants and queer folks and women and people of color at even greater risk of the kind of things that made Germany into an object lesson eighty years ago (one we have ignored, it seems).
In the midst of all this darkness, it is difficult, but not impossible, to light a few candles.
Now, when I originally started writing this post, I had some vague idea about writing about the tradeoffs a gal makes shopping in the men’s section, but my pen had other ideas. Still, I stand by my title.
Because we could look back on 2016 as the year we lost so many of the best and brightest: Leonard Cohen, Muhammed Ali, Janet Reno, Richard Adams.
But I will look back on this past year as the year my sock drawer–that oft-ignored repository which, like a bookcase, tells the world through its changes how one’s life is changing–got a little fabulous.
So yes, 2016 will go down as the Year of the Fabulous Socks. And as God is my witness, 2017 will go down as the Fabulous Year.
And when that starts happening, I will get back to talking about traversing the men’s section.
So I have been thinking hard about the safety pin thing this week.After the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, where a majority of voters voted for the UK to leave the European Union, an uptick in race-based and other hate crimes was followed by people wearing a safety pin somewhere visible on their clothes to show that they were allies and willing to help people facing such crimes and other harassment. Similarly, after this recent election in the US, we are seeing an uptick in hate crimes and the stepping forward of people willing to stand in the way.
I have read pieces, both for wearing the pin and against it, and this is what I have come up with. I am not going to wear one on my coat. Thirty years of on and off again martial arts training is a fine thing but what I really need is some serious training in de-escalation tactics, and I do know there are some places in Boston where I can get some. This will happen soon, but not this week. I am still struggling several times a day not to vomit when I think about my fears for our fascist future. Presumably, this physical response will go away in a few days or weeks. I really hope so. Or at least that I could just literally vomit and get it over with.
But I have put a safety pin on the lapel of each of my blazers, because I want my students to know that I am a safe space and a resource. For now this seems like the best compromise I can come up with.
Gosh, postcard, you say that as if it’s a bad thing.
In case you weren’t sure, this will be a not-entirely-aimless post about my first out Pride and all the thinks and all the feels. Be warned.
In preparation for my first (real, not as an ally) Boston Pride, I looked for rainbow-striped socks. It took me five places and the one I just randomly thought might on the off-chance have them, Party Favors, did, although the socks have piano keys on them, but who is going to notice that?
Tonight was the Boston Dyke March. We gathered on the Boston Common, women wearing their hair in ways from the sublime to the ridiculous to the fabulous and EVERYTHING in between. Rainbows everywhere, including the flag under which we, the lesbian dodgeballers and friends, gathered (after five women figured out how to enlarge the holes in the flagpole with keys and make the zipties smaller with the same tools. I knew I should have brought my pocket knife, but there you go).
About twelve or so years ago I went to an arts conference that had Adrienne Rich as the headlining speaker. I thought then that I was seeing a lot of lesbians. Wrong. I have never seen this many lesbians in the same place, and even weirder (queerer?) that the same place was a place I have lived, studied, worked and shopped: Boston Common, near Emerson College, the Back Bay, and environs.
I never thought I would be the sort of person who would find herself chanting, “We’re here, we’re queer. We’re fabulous, so don’t fuck with us.” But life, as it turns out, takes you in directions you could never have anticipated. This is not a bad thing.
Strange, sure. Surreal, absolutely. But bad? Hell no.
One of the things that made it surreal was the police detail directing traffic around our march. Being Hermione Granger, she who “when in doubt, go[es] to the library,” in advance of my first official pride weekend, I went to the library and borrowed David Carter’s Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution. (Well, honestly, I am hardly going to celebrate a holiday I don’t understand or know about, am I?) Reading about the police entrapment that led up to the Stonewall riots and police brutality that occurred during them and then seeing the Boston cops waving at cars, waving at us, smiling at us: wow. Just wow. I was barely one when Stonewall happened. In my lifetime, all these things have changed so much, not just going from riots to parades, but going from the social stigma of same-sex couples holding hands or dancing together to the Supreme Court ruling for same-sex marriage…it’s all so overwhelming and fast.
A friend of mine tonight said that the difference in speeds between the struggle for rights for gays and for racial minorities probably was caused by finding gays in one’s family and neighborhood, something that is less likely or impossible to happen with people of different races. I had never thought of it in those terms, although certainly my sister being a lesbian started me off as an ally in the first place, and my older parents as well. (My brother was a theater major, so he didn’t probably need the family thing. Also, he is straight enough to make up for both my sister and myself, and that has to help too, I suspect.)
Still, I have only been out for five months. And before that I had no idea that I was in. When I was growing up straight was the default font, but not the way Microsoft Word makes, say, Cambria 11 point default and then you have a hundred options. When I learned to type, I had a Royal manual typewriter, that had Courier font in only two sizes, 12 and 10. Being straight was default: Courier 12. Being gay was not default: Courier 10. If you were not one, you were the other.
And maybe that is one of the coolest things about the rainbow: it’s not so fucking binary. It is by definition Both/And rather than Either/Or. It’s All Of The Above and Multitudinous and We-Are-Fucking-Legion.
So even though I still don’t feel 100% that I belong in this really amazing huge parade of women doing themselves in their own very particular ways, I have friends who say, “Oh no, you totally belong here.” And that makes me feel a little bit more okay with all these recent changes.
Which is, let’s face it, kinda fabulous.
Weird Day #179. Today I got four different compliments on my clothes. As I was heading off to work, a (presumably straight) guy complimented my grey straw Fedora. At work, one of my straight female colleagues complimented my, what,”ensemble”? On the train home, a young Asian man (probably straight) complimented me on my earrings and asked if I worked at the museum. This felt much more like a “my girlfriend would love those” rather than “they would go SO well with my silver lamé” to me, but who knows? Just as I was getting off the train to go to the gym, a large almost definitely straight woman said she liked my outfit. She was wearing a loose tank top, cropped jeans and flip flops.
This is so, so weird, children. I was wearing black brogues, grey pants, a purple/lilac striped shirt with silver cufflinks, a blue chambray blazer with a purple paisley pocket square, silver necklace and earrings, and the Fedora. I am pretty certain that at least three of the comments were completely non-ironic. I was a trifle overdressed for the job we were doing at school. Two of the guys were wearing T-shirt and jeans. Most of the women were wearing pants, blouse, and sandals/flats/sneakers. But I felt spiffy. Just not spiffy enough for anyone to be anything except confused, I guess.
So all of this would be strange on its own, but the day didn’t end there. (That only happens in deep December in the wilds of Canada. This was barely 3:00 after all.)
I will skip the part where I checked out the very hot personal trainer at my gym who is almost certainly straight or how her being in the building motivated me to sweat a lot more than usual.
I will skip to 6-ish, when I was looking at my very quiet OKCupid profile, recalling a conversation I had with a friend before dodgeball this past Saturday about how nobody is really engaged with their profiles/interested in people like us/whine whine. And I saw a profile that didn’t have much to say but had a cute picture. So I took the bit in my teeth and messaged, “Hey Cutie, Write something so we can find out more about you besides your winning smile!”
Now normally, when I have tried to message anyone, lo, these last two months, I have either gotten complete radio silence or a thanks, but I’m not interested message.
Four minutes later, she messages back, “LOL. What do you want to know??”
Now here’s the thing. Just then I get another message from OkCupid with a tagline that sounded familiar and a greeting to me by a nickname I only went by once, Freshman Week in college.
It was my sophomore year roommate, a woman who came out six years ago and has spent the time since figuring out divorce, child custody arrangements, new work arrangements, two girlfriends, and a new house still up in Maine. I am not in regular contact with her outside Facebook, although when she came out she came down to Boston and we spent the day with me telling her she was still a good person and Jesus still loved her. I even gave her a book of gay icons painted by a monk, which I had originally bought for my sister. So it is not so surprising that she would contact me on seeing my profile.
But what this means is that I spent two hours alternately flirting with one person I didn’t know anything about and having The Conversation with someone I once knew fairly well and with whom I have a lot in common (introverted Leos, birthday twins, etc.).
I may see the one at a party after the Dyke March on Friday. The other may come down to visit sometime this summer.
How does everything seem to happen all at once?
Vivienne Westwood says, “You have a more interesting life when you wear impressive clothes.” Now, Westwood is an old British fashion designer, apparently known for bringing punk clothing into the mainstream, so on the one hand, she would think this. On the other hand…I dunno if it’s true, but it sure feels true.
This also reminds me of the last time I wore a necktie, around 1986 or1987. It was the eighties, so I was not being ironic or gender-bendy in any way. I think I wore jeans and brown Oxford bucks, a light blue button-down Oxford shirt, my jeans jacket and a narrow light blue necktie with pink flowers. My hair was short, just as it is now. I was singing the final song at the top (bottom?) of my lungs, as I always do. Afterwards, the little old lady standing next to me patted me on the arm and said, “It’s so nice to hear young men singing in church!” That was the last time I wore a necktie.
I often get “sirred” at the grocery store. I don’t really care, but it always makes the person who says it get embarrassed in the following moment when they take a closer look at me and focus less on my fedora and more on my earrings, etc. I recently bought three modest neckties at SkinnyTies.com (one black, one navy, and one powder pink), but I don’t think I will probably wear them, or at least not until I learn how to do my makeup better. I don’t think I could pull off true butch, and I don’t think I would want to. But when I look at something like Katherine Moennig or Julie Andrews just looking so darn cute in a tie, I wish I could carry it off.
At their best, men’s clothes have advantages over women’s—admittedly with grave exceptions. To my mind, good men’s clothes are structured rather than droopy. (The unfortunate trend among young men lately of wearing sweatpants with ankle cuffs is probably caused by a huge bribe to fashion designers from the Center for Population Control. Even my eighty-year-old father knows better than to wear pants like that.)
Another thing I like is that the colors are generally less saturated and more muted (think of a standard box of eight Crayola crayons. Add pale grey to each color). Such shades are kinder for my Celtic/Polish complexion and I find them much more restful most of the time.
The last advantage is the patterns, which are often calmer. If there are flowers, they are either on tropical shirts and the particular type of flower is recognizable, or the flowers are tiny, almost like irregular polka dots from a distance. None of this Women’s Section Let’s add flowers! And paisleys! To the same shirt! And matching skirt/jacket/pants! And you are much more likely to see geometric patterns as well.
But up until recently, it would never have occurred to me to attempt to shop in the men’s section (although in high school I bought my sneakers and Oxford bucks in the boy’s section; the sizes were better). But I recently bought some shirts in three different stores in the men’s section, to replace a bunch of shirts that I got rid of a while back because they either were too small or had been worn to rags.
And all these advantages in clothes even pertain to socks, which is good because the vast majority of my socks are fairly boring. And if I am going to be playing dodgeball once a month in my socks from now on, I am totally going to require New & Improved Sockage.
No thank you.
No, really. I’m fine.
No, wait, go back a bit.
Sense and Sensibility, 1995. Titanic, 1997. Luomo Vogue, 2015. Divergent, 2014.