Last week I had something happen to me that hasn’t really happened in a long time. I was harrassed by two middle aged men. In broad daylight. Repeatedly. What started them off was my hair. They yelled ‘Check out the hair on that!’ and then followed me into the building. I was waiting for friends, but as I’d turned up early I had to wait alone. No problem normally. Plenty of people to look at and plenty of thoughts in my head.
The guy who’d yelled at me originally came up to ask if the carpets match the drapes. My response was ‘Please go away’.
“Come on, it’s just a question. Do you like it? Dying your hair like that?”
Stupidly, I snapped: “Of course I do. I wouldn’t do it otherwise.”
“Do you dye your pussy then?”
“Your tits look great in that dress by the way.”
“Fuck off or I’ll call that security guard over and you’ll be kicked out.”
“Ooooooh, I’ll leave you alone then. No need to be a bitch, I was just making conversation…” BLAH BLAH BLAH
He and his mate walked off, back up the escalator and out of the building. My friends arrived. I felt immediately relieved and decided not to worry about it. Why let that crap fuck with my mood? Said goodbye to friends and started making my way home. I was glad I’d worn such a light floaty dress in 40 degree heat. But by now I was second guessing my decision. If it’d worn my usual black and covered up, would those guys have said anything?
“Hey fashion police! Aren’t you watching the movie?”
They’d waited out the front of the…wait, what?
Hey fashion police?
Look. Dudes. Up until now I was ready to paint you with the creepy sexual old guy type but now I see that you’re just neanderthals. Fashion police? Because I’m wearing a nice dress? Because I’ve got purple hair?
Anyway, long rambling sob story aside, this little incident is one of many that occured last month whenever I busted out the colours and the dresses. When I wore darker colours, when I blended into the usual workaday world of Melbourne town, I received no looks, not a glance out of the ordinary. This was my normal world.
Every. Single. Day. that I wore florals or brights, I got a slurry of attention. I had blokes smiling at me, women giving me the up-and-down, people at work and out and about commented on how nice I looked. I imagine this is what all the lovely women I know experience every day.
Here’s where it gets tricky. Because either I’m being all ‘boo hoo poor ugly me’ or I’m being ‘effin people. What a bunch of bastards’ or I’m being vain OR I’m being smug OR I’m asking for people to comment with ‘Oh but you’re so pretty!’ OR OR OR I don’t know. I can only tell what I feel about it.
I staunchly don’t like being ‘pretty’, because that’s what my Mum wants me to be. I like being scary or brave or funny or fiesty or maybe festy but tough at least and a bit of a boy (albeit a boy with large tits and hips made for babies. I weep for my inability to look good in a suit) I want to be the hero, not the damsel. This dictates what I wear or at least, how I mentally see what I wear as an outward projection of how I want people to see me. Phew! So by wearing black and boots and stuff, I want to be seen as COOL and FIGHTY and BRAVE. When I wear dresses or ‘girlie’ things, I feel intensely uncomfortable and swear 8 times as much just in case people think I am a GASP! Girl. Woman. 32 year old female who should know better. Whatever. I’ll fight you.
When I started Sewvember, I really wanted to push myself sartorially as well as with dat sewing machine, because I’ve come to terms with my lumpy space princess of a body and decided that summer was the time to start wearing things that didn’t absorb the sun so much. I wanted to be happy and colourful and feel like a 1950s movie star. I wanted that very much. So I did it.
What scared me originally was the years of women, some friends some not, who felt they could comment on my appearance in those mothering tones that indicate that dress I’m wearing would look lovely on someone else. THIS is what I was afraid of. A thousand judgy judges, judging the fuck out of me.
But oddly, I didn’t even contemplate the male side of it, mostly because I’m ‘one of the guys’ crossed with ‘the fat friend’, right? The other women in my social group get the adoring hordes. I get things like video games and D&D and pints. I like this trade. I’m not saying that the adored ones don’t get alllll that, they certainly do, and they certainly should do, but I never felt like I had the pressure of being attractive. And it IS pressure.
I am/was protected by a little bubble of being blokey and rude and schlubby. Easy!
So when I stopped wearing my Jess Uniform of tshirt/skirt/boots and started putting myself in things like COLOURS and MOTHERFLIPPIN DRESSIES, taking photos of myself and allowing people to comment on here, I remembered the real life stuff. How dressing in colours means you get attention, that colours draw the eye, especially when they’re on boobs and arses and stuff like that.
To be honest, the little altercation above made me want to shave my head and move to a yurt and grow horses in pots and eat cheese.
But I decided that I would just ignore it and enjoy wearing colours. Because this is the NEW JESS who gives THE ZERO AMOUNTS OF FUCKS ABOUT WHAT ANYONE THINKS. New Jess TOTES wears dresses and fights and swears and it’s ok. I keep reminding myself about it, when I pull out the things I’ve made and choose to wear them. This is just a dress, it is not a comment on who I am, other than someone who makes their own clothes.
New Jess still gives fucks about how I can’t stop people from looking at me when I wear a nice dress. Or commenting. Or being disgusting pigs. Or being nice.
New Jess probably needs to give zero fucks about that too, I guess.
Much harder to do than just giving up the blacks for colour.
MOTHERFLIPPIN PERSONAL STORIES YO. I feel like I should be saying ‘And that’s my Australian Story’ now, or something.