The other day, I had to go get some blood drawn. Because of the bizarre way my medical provider structures itself, the immunology clinic is in the children's wing. As a result, the latest chapter in my "why-do-I-get-mono-so-often" detective mystery takes place amidst Disney characters, cartoon trains, and primary colors. It's far cheerier than adult hospital, plus you get to choose a sticker before you leave.
Anyway, after the phlebotimist works his or her magic, they usually press a little square of gauze against the place where the needle went in and tell you to hold it there for a minute. Then they wrap it with that self-adhesive rubbery wrap stuff. But since the office is so child-friendly, instead of having plain old boring beige gauze, they have waaay cooler ones. Check out the types below:
Specifically, my office had the hearts, the dinosaurs, and the race cars (pink, green, and blue).
So my own, personal, bearded, honey-haired, thirty-something whippersnapper of a phlebotomist has finished the draw, and I'm dutifully holding the gauze, and next thing I know, he's lassoing my elbow with the pink one. "Why did you--" I sputtered. Then I smiled and chuckled. "Oh, I see," I say. "Girls get the hearts and boys get the racecars?"
...To which he replied, without irony, "Yep." Not being able to let it go, I said, "Wait, really? Blue for boys and pink for girls and green if you run out of either?" "Yeah," he said again, at this point seeming a little puzzled at my inability to grasp the concept of gendered self-adhesive medical wrap.
"Well, if you would have asked, I'd have preferred the race cars, or even better, the dinosaurs," I said. I grinned, hoping to convey that I didn't actually give a hoot what was on my arm at the moment, but that he might want to ask kids their preferences. "It's just like when I was a kid," I continued. "They gave me the pink, but I wanted the green or the blue."
At this point, he gave me a look that--albeit not the least bit mean--made it clear he had more useful places to be, told me to have a great day, and headed out of the room. I didn't stop him, but I hope that next time he phlebotomizes a wee one, he thinks twice before slapping on a gender-normative wrap. Is one wrap a big deal in the context of things? Of course not. But these little signals add up. They are the stuff of society, and they are the stuff of gender normativity. They are the way, brick by brick, we come to build the beliefs we hold about the way men and women "are."
Yeah, I'm butch enough to sport pink hearts around my left elbow. But just the same, I made sure to conspicuously choose a big ol' Spiderman sticker on the way out.
One of my favorite newish bloggers, A Lesbian in Pensacola, contacted me and said she'd like to post on BW about suitable butch beach gear. I agreed; it's hard to get more beach-experty than Pensacola, after all! Here she is:
Memorial Day Weekend is almost here, and tens of thousands of queers will head down to Pensacola Beach for a massive party. Whether Pensacola is your destination or you choose another beautiful beach this summer, a few essentials will keep you happy and healthy while enjoying your vacation.
[BW note: Pics like this make me rethink my resolution never to live in Florida...]
The first rule of beachy butchness: nobody likes the boiled lobster look. Wear sunscreen (regardless of your natural skin color)! The beach is a lot more fun if you can go back the next day instead of lying in bed with ice packs and Ibuprofen.
[BW note: Not all tankinis suck. See?]
If you're a softer butch, your style options have expanded in the past few years. Tankinis
that used to consist of generic-looking shorts and squared off tank tops now run the gamut of triathlon-ready to super femme. Athleta
offers tons of sizes, and while a lot of them might be too femme
for some, I love the running-ready variety
. The tops fit like sports bras, and solid colors abound. [BW note: what do you wear under that for a bra? 'Cuz my girls aren't gonna be tamed by that tankini alone.] What we call the "
classic Pensacola dyke" look is easily achieved with a women's bra-style top and men's boardshorts.
[BW note: I have this one.]
Rashguards will keep your skin burn-free and scrape-free. If you’ll be surfing, snorkeling, or on a boat, a good rashguard will be your friend. Rashguards are also a stylish way to cover your upper half, if you’re not excited about any of the bathing suit tops.
[BW note: Non-pastel colors!]
For butches who hate wearing women's swimsuit bottoms, the ever-present boardshorts are still ragingly popular. Women's boardshorts
are often short, fitted, and involve pink
. But there's been a lot of color and style progress recently, though most men's boardshorts
will do just fine, as long as they're not so
long as to inhibit your knees when you're playing in the water. It's maddening to try to stand on a surfboard and get stuck in a squat because your knees are locked in your shorts.
Other beach necessities include:
- Any of the Dykes to Watch Out For books make great beach reading. The comic compilation books are fairly small and easily tucked into a beach bag. Dykes to Watch Out For is like an illustrated soap opera, and strikes a good balance of humor and activism—just the right mix for a long day in the warm sand.
- Sunglasses are a must. Oakley Frogskins have made the rounds back to popularity, and there are myriad color combinations. I remember begging my parents for a pair in middle school, and now I can buy my own if I want to represent my 7th grade self (I'm tempted, minus the braces and long hair). These days, I prefer Oakley Bottle Rocket. They're lightweight and reasonably durable, plus, they wrap around the sides of the eyes, providing extra protection from glare off the sand.
- Flip-flops! Butch styles abound. I've had the best luck with Teva and Reef. Plain black flops complement every type of swimsuit, but plenty of cool designs are out there to give you a little extra color.
- A good beach towel goes a long way. Since your towel is likely what you’ll be intimately familiar with at the beach, don’t skimp. I have yet to find a rainbow towel of any decent quality, but I know they’re out there somewhere.
- Frisbees are perfect for the beach. They don't weigh much or take up a lot of room in a bag, and water and sand won’t ruin them. There’s not much hotter than a beach butch doing something sporty.
- A waterproof case for your phone is a great asset. As long as your phone has a decent camera, you'll probably want to leave your heavy photographic equipment at home. I'm too nervous to dunk my phone regardless of the case, but waterproof protection will definitely come in handy if you get splashed while documenting favorite beach memories.
- Most beach towns don't allow glass near the sand. But one bonus of a developed beachfront is bars. A local drink in a to-go cup—in Pensacola, we chug Bushwhackers—will be fresh, cold, and readily available. For the sober butch, coconut water makes a nice alternative to plain water, and it's available in plastic, cardboard, or aluminum containers.
- If you'll be hitting the sand for more than a couple of hours, you'll want a cooler. All are bulky, so a small, manageable one is your best bet. In addition to drinks, snacks will help you play longer. Even though everything will be on ice, pick something that has a low likelihood of spoiling or melting. Mixed nuts, oranges, and granola bars should hold you until it's time to explore the local restaurants.
Safe travels, and see you on the beach!
[BW note: Thanks for those awesome recs, Pensacola Lesbian! You've not only inspired me to consider putting a "beach" section in the Butch Store, but you've made me want to visit Pensacola!]
Mad 4 Equality is on! I'm partnering with Bess Sadler
and the Feral Librarian
(pictured left as a sports-loving dyke-in-training) to run a women's and a men's tourney to benefit the Trevor Project
and the Campaign for Southern Equality
Fill out your women's bracket before the first game on Saturday
, and the men's before Thursday's game tips off. Winner gets 1/3 of the pot!
Things You Need to Do for Entry:
- On the PayPal links below, buy an entry ($10 minimum, but you can donate more; it's for LGBTQ equality and youth suicide prevention, after all!). Be sure to name your bracket!
- Sign up for a free ESPN account and fill out your bracket using the same name you typed into PayPal.
- Join the Mad4Equality and/or Mad4Equality Men's group.
We'll also be giving prizes for creativity, so don’t be shy about entering your best theme-based bracket (e.g., cutest mascot or gayest coach).
Yay! Let's go @mad4equality!
This is a hard entry for me to write, since it's perrrrsonal
, but it's important.
A lot of women hate going to the gynecologist. But when I say that I hate it, I mean, I HATE
it. As in, I would rather get a cavity filled, clean my toilet, or run a mile with my old PE teacher screaming at me. A few years ago, I finally found an OBGYN whom I love. (I'll call her "Superdoc.") Superdoc is a lesbian, was wholly unassuming when I was asking about lesbian sexual health while trying hard not to seem (or be) gay, and best of all: she has very small hands.
But Superdoc is on a long medical leave, so I had to see someone else. Alas.
As soon as the new doc came into the room, I knew I'd made a mistake. (Also, she looked like an old-timey schoolmarm, so I'm going to call her "DSM" for "Dr. School Marm.") She didn't shake my hand (bad sign), and sat at her computer while I sat naked beneath my dopey little robe. Then she started asking me questions. The conversation proceeded thusly:DSM
: When you came here last, you and Superdoc talked about PCOS
?BW: Yeah. But I think I don't have it, because I got an ultrasound and they said my ovaries weren't polycystic. DSM: That's not the only way we diagnose it. Do you remember what Superdoc said would happen if you didn't have a regular period?BW [more subdued]: I had a CAT scan for an unrelated reason and I asked about my ovaries and they said they were OK.DSM: [laughs consescendingly]: well, if they didn't look specifically at that, then they can't tell you. You have to do calculations. BW: [very softly, looking away] Oh.
I... I don't know, then.DSM: Look, I'm not trying to convince you that you have PCOS. I'm trying to make a diagnosis here!BW: [even more softly] Oh, yeah, I--I don't... um... Yeah, I mean, I'm not saying I don't have it, I just thought... Well, one thing is
my hormone levels are normal. They took blood and--uh--they're in the normal range. I--uh...DSM: That's not dispositive. BW: Oh.
[Feels small.]DSM: It says here you had an IUD.BW: Yeah. I did.
Maybe five years ago? Six? Or four?DSM: What was your per
iod like then?BW: I don't--I'm not sure.
It was, um, I... I don't know. [Melts into a puddle of shame, embarrassment, and discomfort.]DSM [incredulous; annoyed]: You don't know?At this point, I am looking away, basically mumbling softly and incoherently, and--I kid you not--very close to tears, which DSM does not notice.
I decide I'm not going through with the exam. Then I think about how folks in their 30s can
get various kinds of nether-region cancer. And then I feel worse. And then DSM tells me that irregular periods put me at risk for endometrial cancer. And I think about dying. More awkward conversation ensues. Some highlights:
When she gets up to do the exam, Kelli Dunham's refrain keeps going through my head: Get your bits checked out.
- DSM asks me what kind of birth control pills I've taken in the past. I say I do not know.
- DSM asks me when I got my IUD removed. I say that it was somewhere between two and six years ago.
- DSM asks me whether I filled the prescription from Superdoc last year. I admit that I did not. She gives me a withering stare. I look away and mumble about "logistics" being "hard."
- DSM asks me if my "current partner is a woman now." She asks it in a way that makes it clear she knows from my chart that my former partner is male. For no good reason, I feel dumb.
- DSM continues asking about my past periods. I continue not knowing the answers except in the broadest sense. She continues becoming frustrated and shooting exasperated, piteous looks at me.
I will mentally dissociate, I think. I'll pick a spot on the ceiling. I will notice absolutely everything about that spot. Bit-checking will be over before I know it.But while conducting the breast exam (which, yes, I also loathe), DSM asks if I wax or pluck. I tell her that yes, about every other month, I get my upper lip waxed (I don't have a lot of lip hair; I just don't want any).
Then, she asks if, although she can't see any facial hair, do I ever have to pluck a hair from my chin. I say sure, sometimes. She says it isn't normal for women to have hair anywhere besides their heads, and that this is probably because of PCOS (which, it is now clear, she has affirmatively decided I have).
Because my brain clicked off, I neglect to point out that countless businesses are sustained by the presence of hair on women's faces. That "lip-wax" and "chin wax" are actual menu items
at many beauticians'. That this fact is excellent evidence that I am not a freak of nature for having unwanted hair.
So instead, I say nothing. I am silent. I imagine a carnival barker yelling, "Get your bits checked! Get your bits checked right here, folks!" I find a spot on the ceiling. I stare at it. She conducts the exam. It is uncomfortable, but lasts five minutes, tops.
My bits check out fine. She leaves and I put my clothes on and get out as fast as I can.Basically, it was an awful morning that reduced me nearly to tears, and I had to be consoled by my DGF (lucky for me, I was seeing her right afterward). But I did it. And now I don't have to think about it, and I've taken care of myself, which is an excellent feeling.If I can live through that whole freakin' ordeal, you can, too (and chances are, your experience will be better than mine!). Get your bits checked out.
I promise you'll live through it, and it can save your life
A number of you have asked what you can do for your butches to let them know how special they are. Here are some sweet everyday gestures that say "I love you." Though the list was written with butches in mind, most of these apply to pretty much any object of your affections. (And thanks to the excellent BW Facebook fans who contributed some of the ideas on this list!)
#1: Love Notes
I don't usually pack my DGF's lunch, but when I do, I like writing a little note or silly poem for her. My mom used to do that in my school lunches when I was a kid, and the idea stuck with me. It just makes a girl feel special.
You can also leave a note around the house for her (e.g., fridge; bathroom mirror), or send her an email in the middle of the day mentioning something you love about her. If you go to sleep after her, leave a note for her to find in the morning. If you get up earlier, leave one she'll find later that day.
#2: Food Many butches say they love when their DGF cooks them a meal. Whether it's beef bourguignon or peanut butter and jelly, there's something special about being cooked for. (I swear, even coffee tastes better when my DGF makes it for me.)
One butch wrote, "I get a special little tingle when I come home to the smell of fresh baking." +1.Not a kitchen wonder? Check out some food blogs, starting with A Butch in the Kitchen (pictured above, right is her latest creation, low-calorie blueberry scones--yum!). You can also have a picnic in the middle of the living room, complete with blanket, bread, cheese, and music.
For many of us, being pampered is awesome. This might take the form of a foot rub (with eucalyptus lotion, mmm), a back massage, a bubble bath (for one or for two...), or a scalp massage.
Of course, while I love all of these things (as did most butches I asked), not every butch is cool with feeling passive, so know your boi or grrl before plunging in.
Pampering can also take other forms: making a batch of hot buttered rum and sipping it together by the fireplace, insisting she play one more round of Angry Birds while you bathe the dog, or doing a chore she usually does but dislikes (hm, I bet my DGF would love if I dealt with the recycling for once).
This post is about gestures you can perform, not stuff you can buy. Still, a small, thoughtful gift can be a gesture in itself--especially if it's something you make for her.
Some cool stuff to give your sweetie:
- Homemade coupons for things she'd love: breakfast in bed; an at-home movie night where she gets to pick the movie (yes, even if Jonah Hill is in it); a foot massage... use your imagination!
- A surprise detailing of her car or truck.
- An interesting new kind of beer, coffee, or whatever she likes to drink.
- Get some pictures--yes, physical photographs--of the two of you developed, and make a surprise collage on the fridge.
- A behind-the-scenes tour of a place she really likes (e.g., the stadium where her favorite team plays, her favorite theater company, a wildlife refuge, a concert hall).
- Flowers! Yep, some butches like flowers (or other plants), too--if yours does, don't forget it. My favorite is orange tulips, though I also have a weakness for (read: obsession with) succulents, and my DGF made me swoon a couple days ago by bringing me a cool little aloe when I'd been in a bad mood.
#5: Adventures, etc.
More than anything, we want to do (1) stuff we love doing with (2) the woman we love. Sometimes those two things don't mix--so mixing them is a surefire hit.
Offer to go somewhere with her that you'd usually turn down (and don't complain while you're there). Does she love action movies, but you hate 'em? Take her to "Skyfall." Does she like arcades, but you think they're dull? Take her to an afternoon of video games and air hockey. Dates like this are a big deal; they tell her you're willing to do things you don't normally like just because she enjoys them.
Other ideas for adventures include high-adrenaline stuff (like skydiving or off-road quad biking), activities that will make her feel like a kid (think laser tag, paintball, sledding, or batting cages), or something sexy (e.g., go on a blind date: tell her where to be, both show up separately, then hit on her!). (Some smash-hit sexy ideas if you guys have the butch/femme thing going: new lingerie for her to see you in; a lace bra/garter belt set; a sexy lap dance; picking her up from the airport in a trench coat and stiletto boots. Are you a butch-butch couple? Awesome: two pairs of silk boxers!)
The bottom line? No one knows your DGF better than you do. Especially if you're not naturally observant, pay attention! Make mental notes about what she likes, stockpile your ideas, and brainstorm ways to make her feel special. Even if your idea isn't a home run, she'll love the effort. One reader put it perfectly: "Simply having the woman you are with think that you are amazing just as you are and precisely as you are is the best gift of all."
What have you done to make your butch feel special? What has she done that's made you feel special?
I'm excited to share this guest post from a BW reader who's working as a Peace Corps volunteer. I hope you enjoy her insights as much as I did! For reasons that this piece makes clear, she's chosen to remain anonymous. Discovering the Lesbian Underground in Rural South America
Peace Corps is a two-year commitment to do development work in impoverished countries. I am an Agricultural Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) in South America. My site is a very rural, impoverished, and conservative village in a conservative country.
I generally present myself as androgynous. Short hair, comfortable clothing, and a slim build make this easy. I didn’t tell my Peace Corps recruiter about my sexual orientation, but I scoured the internet trying to find information on queer life in the small, culturally isolated country to which I was assigned (and on the experiences of queer PCVs worldwide). To my dismay, I found little information. The Peace Corps welcomes queer PCVs, but warns that in many countries they will have to stay closeted—sometimes to work smoothly with host country counterparts, but frequently for the safety of the PVC.
In my village, miles away from paved roads, surrounded by banana and pineapple crops, I am very deeply in the closet. I still dress androgynously, but I have not, and likely will not, tell anyone in my community the direction in which my romantic interests generally lie – the señoras
trying to match me up with their sons don’t know how much of an uphill battle they face. Due to my unfeminine hair and clothing, I also receive far fewer cat calls and less sexual harassment than other female volunteers.
After working with men in the community to rebuild a wall of my house, someone joked that a "man"
would be moving in: me. This comment from a community member made me anxious, and led me to worry about every interaction—to an unhealthy extent. Indeed, my self-censorship has been one of the most stressful parts of being here. I am fearful that they will “guess,” but I actually haven’t altered much. I don't change my appearance or flirt with men, though I certainly don’t flirt with women in my site either. My second year, I’ve loosened up because I know the people in the village, and they know me. For example, when señoras would ask me if I had a boyfriend I used to say, “not right now,” but now I say, “I don’t need a boyfriend.” It’s a small, but significant, difference.
One of my queer volunteer friends says that this is a country of “open secrets:” Secrets everyone knows, but tacitly agrees not to talk about. It makes me wonder, am I living an open secret too? Is it possible everyone in my site knows and are electing to keep quiet?
One of the biggest personal changes I have experienced here is the role my sexual identity plays in my sense of self. Like many people in their mid-twenties from accepting backgrounds, I never viewed my orientation as a big deal. However, here in rural South America, I needed to hide this part of myself for the first time in my life… so it has become more important. I am open with other volunteers and the Peace Corps support staff in-country, but I miss being in an active queer community.
Once every month or two, I travel to the country’s capital to get mail and to socialize with other PCVs. If possible, we visit one of the few gay bars in the whole country. Unsurprisingly, it’s usually full of gay men. However, after a conversation with a posse of local gay men looking out for me, we got directions, scrawled on the back of a napkin, to a rumored lesbian bar. It was months before we found the place. When we finally did, we discovered that we had to get past the guards, ring the bell, and wait for someone to come unlock the door. They’re only open one night a week, but have information regarding human rights campaigns, queer film festivals, and Pride activities. Despite their limited hours, it was nice to know that such a locale existed.
However, I still needed a queer community closer to where I live, and as luck would have it, I stumbled across one! There is a town an hour and a half away, and during my first few months, I traveled there frequently to buy supplies to build my house. A PCV there introduced me to a friend of hers (I’ll call her B), a female firefighter. This PCV told me that B was a lesbian and told B the same thing about me. A few months later, B invited me to a secret, underground drag show! Out here, in the middle of nowhere, there was a community! The event was invitation only, with the location announced a few hours ahead of time. Secrecy was a big priority. Drag queens from all over the country performed, and under a blanket of stars, the rest of us queers watched. It was great! But the most valuable part of the experience was finding out that there is a network, even out here in the rural countryside. However, it’s distressing that such a high level of secrecy is necessary.
Now I find myself dating B’s ex (I guess lesbians are the same world over). This
chapter is unfolding day by day…Our interactions are full of cultural misunderstandings and poorly translated endearments. (Also, how on earth does one discuss strap-ons in a country without toy shops?) She is closeted even to those in her family who would be accepting. I worry that I overestimate the level of acceptance around her, and thereby put her in danger. Her internalized homophobia and self-hatred is another challenge altogether.
I am pleased to have been admitted into the secret lesbian underground of this country. I’ve never met any established lesbian couples, but supposedly several pairs live together, frequently raising children from their past relationships. One of the pairs was comparatively wealthy and lived somewhat more openly, and the other pairs just quietly lived together as “housemates.” I never heard of couples in the countryside, only in town. I also met people who had been part of the lesbian community but ended up marrying men. For some of them, marrying was one of the few avenues of independence they had. Outside of the capital, most people don’t leave their parents’ house till they get married.
I can be an example of a happy, queer, woman within the underground lesbian community. Their eyes went wide when I mentioned that my mother once asked my (ex)girlfriend which of the states with legalized same-sex marriage we would be moving to. I’m not sure what blew their minds more, the fact that marriage was an option for us, or that my mother treated our relationship legitimately. I introduced terms like “family” and “gaydar,” and exposed the underground to television shows like The L Word
and Modern Family
. Seeing queer people on TV just like any other telanovela
was a very significant, empowering experience, especially for my girlfriend. It’s been powerful for me as well: by seeing it from the outside, I truly appreciate the strength of the queer community in the US.
Clearly I can only base this off of the lesbians I know, but but at least in this country, there seems to be less gender nonconformity than in the US or other South American countries. But maybe that’s because all the lesbians I know are from the countryside (the town is in the middle of nowhere. The only real “city” is the capital.
Lesbians here either never find each other (sad but true), or find one other lesbian or gay man who introduces them to her or his friends (like what happened to me). Some of the most important work I’ve done my last few months in the site, has been introducing a few teenagers (males) who came out to me to the community in the town. Additionally, I introduced the community in town to the resources and clubs in the capital.
My Peace Corps experience has changed me in many unexpected ways, including strengthening my identity as a queer person. But more importantly, it has highlighted something else to me, the fact that who I am is not just for me alone. I'm a member of a beautiful community, not just underground in a small country and not just causally out in my hometown: it’s a community that's everywhere, worldwide, where I'd most and least expect it. When I pack my bags, say my goodbyes, and leave this country, I'm taking that lesson with me.
Many thanks to the guest poster for sharing her story. She also wanted me to pass along this link for LGBT Peace Corps Alumni. Do you have an experience worth sharing? I welcome guest post submissions; email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
I've talked often on Butch Wonders about the difficulty of defining "butch," my distaste for policing "butchness," and the value I find in labeling myself "butch." I've been communicating with some of my dear readers about these and related questions, and I'd like to put a call out there for YOUR answer to one of the following:
Over the next month or two, I will post several of the most interesting, thought-provoking answers I receive. Please email me your entries, along with the following information:
- How do you define "butch?" Does butch necessarily mean "female?"
- Write a letter from your 2013 self to your 2003 self--maybe to give younger self some insight; maybe to prepare you for the next decade.
- Would we all be better off without any labels?
- What is your butch "style?" How is it different (if it's different at all, which it needn't be) from being a man?
- Describe how some other identity you have (race, religion, social class, whatever) interacts with your sexual orientation.
I reserve the right to edit these as I see fit for grammar, length, clarity, etc., but I'll do so as sparingly as possible.
- Which question you are answering
- How you'd like your name to appear (if at all--anonymous is fine)
- A link to your website (optional--I'll publish it with your entry)
- Your mailing address (also optional--a few lucky folks may win a prize)
No minimum or maximum length, but anywhere between 150 and 750 words is great. You don't need to identify as butch, or as gay, or as anything else, to submit an entry. I can't wait to read these! (And yes, if you'd like to answer more than one, feel free--just make sure to send each answer in a separate email.)
Possibly the most depressing "welcome" sign in the history of the world.
As if that wasn't bad enough, one of the council members explained that he didn't want Grand Island to become "gay-friendly." Riiiight. Like all the queers were suddenly going to flock to Nebraska if this thing passed.
So I have an idea. I would LOVE to mess with them by showing them how doggone gay Grand Island can be. If you're in Nebraska (or anywhere near it), I would LOVE for you to drive to Grand Island and do or put something super gay and rainbow-y in front of their stupid-looking "welcome" sign.
In fact, I would love to do this for ANY city that's passed anti-gay ordinances, or that has refused to pass laws giving --gasp!--equal rights to LGBTQ folks. I'm sure there are a whole bunch of other cities we can target. What are they? And should we plot to get back at them by fomenting a big ol' pro-gay movement with them at the center of it? E.g., Grand Island is for (Gay) Lovers? What do you think?
I just went shopping to help a male friend of mine buy casual clothes for work. I learned that I am not alone in having difficulty finding menswear that fits me well...
My friend is a small guy, but not tiny. He is probably 5 ft 6 or so, and very slim. Men's shirts with a 14.5 collar simply didn't fit him. For the most part, the sleeves were way too long — even the 32–33's — and so were the shoulders. The Banana Republic smalls were even too big, which I didn't know was humanly possible. He was a good sport about it, and he and his girlfriend and I were eventually able to find a few — but just a few — shirts that fit.
Of course, I couldn't resist trying on a some shirts myself, whereupon I was once again confronted with the all-too-familiar problem of having boobs and hips. My neck is a 15.5, but if you have ever tried to button a 15.5 — or even a 16.5 — men's shirt over a pair of size Ds, you know how impossible it is. The 17.5 fits fine around the chest and hips, but is just way, way too big everywhere else. Of course, some brands work better than others (CK is my current go-to for shirts), but overall it was just one of those days where nothing fits quite right.
On days like this, sometimes I wish that I didn't have boobs or hips, or at least had less, um, ample ones. But my boobs and my hips are a part of me, and I feel comfortable with them; I just wish that the clothing I like worked for the body I have. Sigh.
I was also "sir'd" twice. (Usually, clerks aren't sure what to call me, so they don't use a pronoun at all.) One of those times was particularly awkward today. A salesclerk said, "Can I help you sir?" I turned around and he said, "oh, ma'am, I'm sorry." I said, "it's okay." He apologized again, and to try to make him feel less awkward, I said "I have a men's shirt on, so I understand." He looked at me a minute and then said, "Well, your haircut confuses us."
What?! Who is this "us?" And what is so incredibly confusing about a woman with short hair? The "confusion" point annoyed me in a way that being called sir never does. Grrr!
BW NOTE: This is a guest post by a reader who wanted to remain anonymous. She recently faced the dreaded decision of pissing off a friend or wearing a (ugh!) dress...
A few months ago, my cousin cast me as a bridesmaid in her wedding. Sensing my possible reluctance in the wardrobe department, she immediately informed me that I would be wearing a dress. Period. Because my cousin and I grew up together as friends, I made no verbal protest (BTW: This BW post is a must read for any straight bride with a lesbian (non-femme) bridesmaid
As details of the dress leaked, my dread grew. The bride had selected a purple gown with "challenging" qualities from top to bottom. On the bottom, the bridesmaids would sport a train (i.e. a bunch of fabric dragging behind us). On top, we would endure a strapless bodice with boning. For those unfamiliar with boning, a little history lesson: Boning (in the context of fashion) refers to the straight-jacket-like metal that serves to hold in your fat and position your breasts appropriately yet provocatively. Historically, dress designers used actual whalebone.
When the bride began sharing details of the dress, I might have failed to exhibit the requisite level of enthusiasm (one of my flaws is an inability to conceal disdain). When the bride inquired, I politely reminded her of my hatred for dresses, lace, and frilly things.
During the early stages of the engagement (a year or so before the wedding), I felt comfortable airing my concerns to the bride. During one conversation, my cousin pointed out that I had worn a dress to her sweet sixteen and to our high school homecoming dance. I had indeed. I went to a very homogeneous high school and dared not defy convention during my tender adolescence. The bride failed to grasp why, 10 years later, I couldn’t again conform for the purposes of her happiness.
Because I’m petite and naturally pretty feminine looking (though I definitely err on the masculine side of clothes, hair, and shoes), I think my cousin had trouble understanding why a dress would pose such a serious hardship. Had I presented in a more masculine way, she might have more easily seen how dresses don’t fit with my gender identity. I could have explained, but in the context of her wedding planning, it didn’t seem like the right time to delve into the intersection between my sexual orientation, gender identity, and wardrobe choices.
At one point, sensing my lack of enthusiasm for her dress selection, the bride proposed that I just rent a tux with a vest to match the bridesmaids' dresses. Now we were onto something! But before I could enthusiastically assent, she continued, more outlandishly: "While you’re at it, you could stand with the groomsmen, because that
wouldn’t look weird." Her final suggestion—that I attend the bachelor party—made her sarcasm impossible to ignore. When I persisted in expressing enthusiasm for her suggestions (minus the strippers—she knows I find female strippers unappealing), she ended the conversation with an abrupt, "You’re wearing the dress and I don’t want to hear another word about it."
Even when I stopped complaining to her face, the bride continued to worry about my ability to function as a bridesmaid, inquiring as to who would handle my makeup on the big day. When I responded "me," the bride proved unsatisfied, correctly assuming that I lacked the materials and the will to adequately cake myself. Earrings were also strongly recommended to counter my short (read: dykey) haircut. I borrowed some from a co-worker, and with a running start managed to re-pierce my ear hole in a bathroom stall (only my left one had closed over the years).
I tried to respect the "no dress talk" rule, opting instead to write whiny entries in my journal and complain about the cost and fittings to my friends. As the wedding neared, my friends advised me to keep my big mouth shut and let the bride enjoy her big day.
On the eve of the wedding, the bride furnished each bridesmaid with a gift and enclosed a note. Most notes recognized the bonds of friendship, and the affection she had in her heart for each of us. My letter simply thanked me for not leaving her side even if it meant, wearing a bridesmaid gown. I felt a huge wave of guilt. The bride had been a good friend to me in other ways, and had welcomed my girlfriend at the wedding. Couldn’t I just have dealt with the fabric monstrosity, the bloody left ear hole, and the caked-on face for her special day?
At the wedding, I dealt with my suffering in the form of liquid relief, dancing the night away, and tying my train into a tail with a rubber band (and perhaps slapping my dance partners with it). With the help of only seven vodka-themed libations, I did have a blast. I wore the dress for 10 straight hours (I was given instructions not to change out of it at the reception), and I survived (though the tight bodice did a number on my back).
Post-wedding, when I think back to the note, I shudder. I have no idea how I could have handled it better. I wanted to be her bridesmaid, and I certainly didn’t want to ruin her special day. Had Butch Wonders posted this article
a bit earlier, I might have sent the bride the link. That way, she’d have known how I felt and had a few creative solutions at her disposal (she was actually on the right track in her sarcasm). Even though my morning routine allows me to ready myself for work in three minutes or less, on my cousin's big day this low-maintenance dyke made for a high-maintenance bridesmaid.