I Put on a Pair of My Father’s Jeans and My Mom Lost Her Cool

I’ve always somewhat struggled with femininity, and what it means to me. I’ve never been a very “traditionally” feminine person, I think? I don’t like tight clothes, not into pink or purple and long hair has never satisfied me.

I was never a girly girl as a kid either. The only time I emulated that was when my mom dressed me. I mostly stuck to shirts and jeans, real chill. Which isn’t inherently not feminine! I wasn’t a tomboy either...I don’t think. Sure, I liked playing outside in nature but it wasn’t a defining moment. What I’m getting at is, I have no clue what feminine is.

I had a typical “ugly ducking” puberty, I was really pre-teen awkward and then I shot up and lost about twenty pounds. Slap a pair of braces on me for a year and by the time I was in the 10th grade I was a pretty girl. At this point, I didn’t understand puberty was hazing into becoming a sexualized woman. I understood I didn’t like it when boys yelled at me from their cars when I walked home, but I didn’t know how deep it would go.

Flash forward to college, where I went to Greek Life central. The typical girl was a Southern belle combined on the set of Mean Girls. So hey, at least there was a little variety. The Gretchen Wieners were brunette. I once again lost control of my body and gained about 20 pounds within my first two years. I was still at the mercy of boys yelling at me in cars, but now they were buzzed off of frat beer and misplaced internalized homoerotic feelings. Or something like that.

I was fighting with myself about the kind of woman I was, who I was and how I wanted to portray that. All my stimuli told me I was hot, sexy and “smash” worthy and it made me feel gross. My body wasn’t mine anymore, and being a woman wasn’t a momentous occasion like puberty taught me. It sucked. I couldn’t try to figure out who I was because I was constantly being made into a conquest, or a bitch. Maybe I was a bitch! Just let me figure it out first!

It came to the point where I needed to take back myself and my body. To do something that would take me out of the running for people to judge. So, I cut all my hair off. Which ironically wasn’t scary for me, but liberating. I finally shed a part of this sexuality put upon me.

I finally felt like I could dress however I wanted, without feeling placed in a box. I took an androgynous approach to how I presented myself. The more masculine I looked without clothes, the more feminine I could dress. For the first time, I liked dressing like a girl. My mother wasn’t suggesting I wear skirts or dresses, I liked the way my body looked in them and put them on myself. By now I had little curves on my plank body and combined with my hair, I was comfortable. Finally.

When I left my small college town and lived in a city where people actually dressed themselves (big shirts and tempos aren’t appropriate. @ me), I explored my style. It was exciting for me to put clothes together that felt unique to me. Now that I felt like myself in my style, it was time to cut my hair again. It was almost shoulder length and I cut it even shorter than before, pushing myself a bit farther.

A little context about my mother: she was a beauty queen, military brat and small town dweller. It is almost cruel that she got me for a daughter. I love my mother something fierce, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve had some really eye-opening conversations about her identity. It’s been amazing to connect with her on that level.

But today, I put on a pair of my father’s jeans. He was getting rid of them and joked that “I might be able to fit in them”. My dad, the ex-military straight laced man surprisingly doesn’t care how I dress. I don’t think he even knows how to unpack that can of worms, so we agree on the things we like and don’t discuss the things we don’t.

I pulled on these men’s jeans and did a little fashion show for my dad. He loved it, said I would pay “$50 at some hipster store” for those jeans. My mother walked in the room and grimaced, squished her face so hard it seemed like her lips might tear off. It was like I had poisoned her and then slapped her in the face.

She responded like I slapped her in her face, arguing with me about wearing these jeans. I looked like a boy in them! She was worried people might confuse my gender if we were out together! Aren’t I embarrassed to want to dress like that!? Gasp!

I told her this wouldn’t be an issue if I had long hair. Because I look too much like a boy already, wearing boys clothes is what pushes the line. That I don’t care what people think about the way I dress, and I especially don’t care what the people here think about the way I dress. I have accepted the standard ideal of “lady-like” isn’t me, and tough tomatoes if people don’t like it.

I want to say this is the first time we’ve had this conversation, it isn’t. And when I walk around my small hometown of Madison, Alabama, I see the double takes of people questioning if I’m a boy or not. The only women I see with hair my length are 60+. Townies don’t know how to process someone who would willingly do that. A lot of people in my life don’t know how to process it either.