High-Maintenance Butch?

I came out about three and a half years ago, and not much later realized that I was butch and probably always had been, even and possibly especially during the two years or so when I tried to grow my hair out and meet more guys and yeah, that. I’ve read about quite a few butches who went through that stage.

And then there was this Facebook quiz that showed up on my feed about two years ago and made me laugh, because, before I came out, I would have scored a perfect zero.


Nowadays, I am clearly much, much more high maintenance. Now, I score a grand total of four points. Yeah, not the hair extensions four points, or hair is dyed+nails are painted four points. Nope. Owns 20+ pairs of shoes.

Given that there was a time in the 1990s when I owned one pair of shoes for work, a pair of sneakers, a pair of snowboots and a pair of either flats or low heels for emergencies such as weddings, it still boggles my mind that I might own more than twenty pairs of shoes.

And I thought I owned only twenty pairs of shoes, including sneakers and boots. Nope. The other day I pulled all of my non-sneaker, non-boot shoes out into the living room to get a good look at what I had.

Pretty much, it came down to short boots,


Oxfords (bucks, brogues, wingtips and monkstraps), in black




And other exciting colors


And girly shoes.


The total came to thirty pairs. Who the hell owns thirty pairs of shoes? And when I think that most of them are made of leather, and I do know the problems with the leather industry, how did I manage to accumulate all of these? Or, to put it differently, how did I manage to eat this particular dinosaur? Sigh. One piece at a time. Okay, maybe a pair of pieces at a time. And that means, I suppose, that I can also reduce the excess one pair at a time, right?

To be fair, there is a real reason that I ended up with this many pairs of shoes, and if I look at the shoes I’ve got, the answer is pretty clear. Once I recognized and embraced myself as more of a masculine kinda girl, I wanted to express that through my clothes: blazers, cufflinks, vests, shoes.

Two years ago, I did a purge of all of my clothes. I got rid of 117 items of clothing, including shoes, socks, shirts, skirts, dresses. Things that were worn out but I was still wearing, I threw out. Things that no longer fit me physically, I donated. Things that no longer felt authentic, and probably hadn’t even when I thought I should be more feminine, I donated.

117 things. Gone. But we know that nature abhors a vacuum. (I know my cat does.) Apparently I filled it. With, among other things, shoes.

So this week, as part of a new purge, I tried on all thirty pairs of shoes and managed to winnow it down by one-sixth. One pair, the black oxfords, were simply too small. I was able to give them to a smaller friend who has been pulling together a working wardrobe for her post-graduate degree present. The others, all bought online even though I know that I have narrow heels and usually can’t wear shoes that don’t tie in some way but I was trying to have better girl shoes… Yeah, that didn’t work.


So now, I am 58 pieces of clothing down (including five pairs of shoes), in part because I just ordered two vests and yeah, another pair of shoes. I never meant to be a horrible consumeristic person, or as my sister called me a while back, God forbid, “a clothes horse.”

Life leads us in really strange directions.

Styling Saturday: Dashing Owl

1dashing owl_n

Vivienne Westwood says, “You have a more interesting life when you wear impressive clothes.” Now,  Westwood is an old British fashion designer, 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.

Maybe the part that needs teasing out is what do we mean by impressive? Webster’s Dictionary tells us that impress means “to apply pressure so as to imprint,” which is actually kind of accurate. People we are attracted to get sort of imprinted in our heads, like an afterimage that we carry around. I am not sure how being noticed and remembered by other people leads to an interesting life, and I also recall that “may you live in interesting times” is a curse in a few cultures. But being relatively invisible does lead to a less interesting life, so let’s assume she is right.


Dashing Owl is Dashing


Having always previously thought of clothing as a way

To keep warm and unembarrassed, having always

Considered the idea of using uncomfortable clothes to attract

A man to be ridiculous, patriarchal and based only

On the law of the jungle, which I never comprehended,

I suddenly find myself reexamining the idea of style.


Nature is teeming with style. Just look around. Is it

Superficial, a coating on the outside that hides the truth

Of the inside, like the blue that makes the robin’s egg seem

Like a stone? But that blue egg hides the baby robin, so

This is a kind of protective coloration, as the chameleon

Embraces his possibly hostile environment with such


Fierceness, predators can’t even see him. But what about

The opposite, the birds who need not even open their beaks

To proclaim who they are? Parakeets imitate the jungle

Flowers, and peacocks preen their rainbow bodies, spread out

Their brocade mantles to win the peahens: their attention,

Their approval, their love—things that all of us want.


Finally, I am learning to dress to win my own attention,

To carry an image of my variegated self, so I will know

My own true value, approve, then shoot my cuffs.