30 December 2010

"There is a delicious garden!"

I've talked a bit about my history with clothes intended for men before. What I don't think I explored enough was the pleasure I still get out of dressing in whatever way appeals to me -- I'm not a femme, though I enjoy taking a cue from femmes in regard to outfit construction when the mood strikes. I just, I guess, have different moods on different days (sometimes weeks), where different aesthetics appeal to me and make me feel good. "Flattering" clothing, I think, is a myth. There is no universal perfect bodily state to which we can all strive, nor are there universal rules about what shapes and styles look good on other people. Certainly, we all have the right to an opinion, but only when we are responsible enough to regard our opinions with a healthy measure of self-awareness. Why do we feel the way we do about how certain bodies (and the clothes on those bodies) look? Rarely is the answer a simple matter of taste (although certainly that can be a factor); often it is a matter of socialization and the ubiquity of the media, the influences of which can be difficult to deconstruct on a personal level. I can't remember which theorist we read who said this -- or said something like this, but to me, in my experiences, the self is never completely transparent to the self.

And now, clothes! I fiddled around today a bit with how to wear my jeans, and which pair of specs (super cheap specs, by the way, which you can find here) I liked better. My partner was getting a real kick out of taking photos today, so there's a few more than usual.

Everything here is thrifted except the cat necklace (from Etsy)
 and the jeans (Calvin Klein via Nordstrom's clearance online)


The pipe was Jack's idea -- both the one I'm leaning on and the one in my mouth.

I quit smoking about 4 years ago, but I sneak a hit every now and then.

Our neighbors leave the best messages.

[title quote from "The Yellow Wallpaper"]

20 December 2010

Thriftmas, re-gifting, and a little beth ditto... plus somehow a little jesus and patriarchal santa talk.

Me, this morning, before the outing, waiting for my partner to finish up his Arabic final. We're both finally done with all work this semester -- he'll be going back after the holiday for a few more, but for now, I'm trying to rustle up some gainful-type employment.

(If Santa talk/Jesusy stuff bores you/doesn't apply please skip the next couple of paragraphs. I realize Christmas isn't ubiquitous.)

I've been a little stressed about the holidays. Primarily religious holidays weird me out because they mean such different things of such varying intensity to people. Religion and consumerism all tied up and messy together -- almost vying for dominance. I get into the holidays in what I think is, now, a pretty secular way. I like to decorate (with as few Santas as possible, and pretty slim chances of a Jesus sighting) and make things cheerful because I was socialized to do it. We're don't really "do"Santa with our kid, and at this age, that's something of a concern for his grandparents (one set, I think, is more worried about the lack of Jesus than the lack of Santa). Don't get me wrong, Santa is a part of Christmas: I think, in a way, it would be pretty foolish of me to think I could totally isolate Baby J from a culture that holds a particularly strong regard for that specific fairy tale. Plus, I'm not advocating this decision for everybody with kids. It's a choice to be made, as any other. But, for me and mine, it's a story, you know? I never tell Baby J that Santa's coming to our house or bringing us presents, but neither did I set fire to the little wind-up marching Santa my mom gave him last Christmas. The family and friends in our lives who are so good to us (and who we are, in turn, hopefully just as good to in our better moments) work hard to give gifts to each other, and to us, at Christmas. I don't want to belittle the work they do, and the meaning of those real gifts, by perpetuating this unnecessary myth of a patriarchal figure who has the resources to give "every" kid in the world Christmas gifts. (Every meaning ... not every. Not by a long shot.)

Plus, we're not particularly religious people. I think of Jack, my partner, as being incredibly spiritual--more than I am--but we're not church-y, and  I am strongly not Christian-y. I dig on Jesus because he had a strong political message that I can almost totally get behind (I mean, specifically, Jesus; not the followers who developed the church, but the man himself). But I hesitate to overtly connect Jesus to Christmas right away; I want Baby J to have a chance to learn about Jesus without thinking he's the reason we all get presents and cookies and time off work. I mean, that's kind of strong marketing to kids, isn't it? Once a year (if you're lucky and have particular class/financial privileges required), you get all these presents and tasty foods, and your parents get to actually spend a little time with you. To a lot (though certainly not all) kids, that's an appealing premise. It's just such a huge facking world out there, and somehow I want to show Baby J as much of it as I can as clearly as possible.

Anyway, the title mentions thrifting and I said something up there about an outing. My faboo little brother took me to Goodwill so I could try and get in on a little 99 cent action. I have a tiny budget, but I was able to pick up a couple of things for my mom and a super awesome friend of mine. (I call her my patronus. Yes, she is that awesome.) For better or worse, my mom is a bit of a pack rat. I hesitate to call her a hoarder, but she's got a pretty serious stuff-collection. I was able to find things (a lot of them new/barely used) to re-gift for my partner's family -- plus all the giftwrap/bags/ribbons necessary to pretty them up. I had a good time, but all the stores close early here on Sundays, so brother and I (and possibly partner and sprout) are thrifting yet again in the morning.

On another note, I set foot into a Faith 21 for the first time today. Please do not think me a snob, but hot googly damn, that place isn't for me. Could be my ugh-a-mall syndrome speaking to me, though. Either way, I made it out without buying anything (even though lots of the clearance was comparable to non-sales day thrift prices, it was just such a mess and the music was so goozy I couldn't hack it; I'm a wimp).

This is what I wore today - my thrift tribute to Beth Ditto's most recent season at Evans. Please excuse my photo-awkwardness and defensive slouch. Everything here is thrifted besides the tights and the skirt, which is from Old Navy's cretaceous period.



The solstice is upon us! So happy whatever-makes-you-happy this time of year, or just, you know, hope you're doing well regardless.

nly

15 December 2010

pretty colors gone ugly

everything pictured is thrift-scored
with the exception of the tights.
I love the way these We Love Colors tights (the shade is kelly green) look with the multiple browns and tans and patterns in this shirt/skirt pairing. I like ugly, though -- so that might just be me.

The tights themselves, sadly... unf. They had a little hole in them before I put them on, but I dig the sliminess of the color so much that I hate the idea of sending them back; plus, they were a gift. To me, these seem to snag a bit on the easy side, too. I'm wearing a size C/D, and while I have lots of room in the tummy, hips, and lower legs, my thighs make the tights go all twisty. Perhaps if I had a more uniform leg, these might fit a bit better - my calves are way small compared to my thighs.

Anyway! Tomorrow is my last exam/paper of my undergraduate degree. Because I have a toddler and pretty much no desire go to a huge public event, I'll probably be skipping my graduation ceremony. I think I'll spend this Saturday (the "official" date of graduation) vegging out on movies and spending some less distracted quality time with my family.

Speaking of family, it's also my 4-year anniversary today! Jack has been laid off and we've both been in finals-mode, so we didn't do anything spectacular. We did get to put up some curtains (behind me in the picture) my mother has lent us for the winter, though, and it makes the living room very cozy.

Stay warm (if you're too cold) or, you know, cool (if you're too warm).

nly

26 October 2010

because today was full of tornados:

True fax: I will go barefoot until it starts icing over
I'm going to document a bright and pretty Fall day to try to shake all the storm and all the gray out of my eyes.

Do you think it disgusts Maura Kelly when fat people love their kids?  
Sandboxes in October.

The view.
No make up and dirty hair happy.

25 October 2010

wrock me like a hurricane (you know, the mixed drink?)

In a stroke of total crap, all the photos I took at the wizard rock show Friday night came out to be totally useless. So, I'm tossing you a few links to get the general idea, if you be interested.  The good news? While being deeply situated in nerddom and audience-specific in-jokes, the performers and the fans were so incredibly sweet and excited that it was almost impossible not to have fun. I'm not normally very comfortable in any kind of crowd (even if the crowd is, as was the case at this show, in a living room), but everyone was nice, and everyone was there to have fun. What I dislike and what bugs me out the most about seeing live music at small pubs and house shows is that noxious and obnoxious "look at me look at you" tension. I'm giddy to report that there's none of that bad noise at a wrock show.

Some of these acts would not normally be acoustic, I think, and I'd love to see all this over again at a real venue with much loudness and some electric implements of major ka-pow.

The performers were, as follows,

Armoured Bear Cub: Repping deep nerdcore with songs about everything from Buffy to John Green's young adult novel, Paper Towns. (Basically, this a side-project of Lauren Fairweather and Matt of The Whomping Willows... so, they were opening for themselves, I guess you could say.) My favorite: "Peeing In A Bottle"

Justin Finch-Fletchley and the Sugar Quills: The first real wrock act. Mr. Finch-Fletchley broke about 12 and half thousand e-strings, but was kind of adorable about it. I think I would've liked his set better electrickafied and with a full band, all things considered. The girls (and they are mostly girls at these wrock shows; as a side note, I'm sure I was the oldest one there) loved him. He was hocking some pretty hilarious "JFF is my BFF" pint cups at the merch table -- I wonder how many folks were old enough to drink.  My favorite: "Expelliarmus"

Lauren Fairweather: Lauren played songs from her other popular wrock act, the Moaning Myrtles, as well as songs about other geektropes and life--presumably life as a nerd--in college. I think it would be fairly accurate to say LF is the Melanie Safka of the wrock scene. My only itch here was with Lauren's "Post-Potter Depression" songs and merch. I get the parody and all, and it sure is catchy, but, you know, eh. It's a turd of a feeling to know that you're the only person in the audience who's suffered the illness being parodied (that's an assumption, I know, but I'm pretty sure I'm right about it). My favorite: I'm Going to Hogwarts

The Whomping Willows: Actually just one dude, Matt, who can write a bitchin wizard song. Plus, I mean, he was pretending to be the whomping willow. And his album is called Wizard Party Forever!!! Even my fairly hep cat little brother, who came with, found himself in the throes of many an unstoppable chortle. I enjoyed this particular shtick the most. My favorite: I Believe in Nargles (this video does not accurately encapsulate how excited the fans get about this, and every, song played)

Anyway, so, basically, this was a good time. A silly time, but a good one. Plus, lots of the proceeds for this tour go to pay for the health expenses incurred by the family of a fan who died of cancer. 

nly channels rita skeeter, rocks out; baby j is embarrassed by his mother 




On an utterly secondary side-note, the second sale at the shop happened tonight! I'm so dorked out I can barely stand it.


yours in albus,
nly

some thoughts on parenting ...

Alternative Parenting and Gender Socialization: Caregiver-Driven Activism

If the gender socialization is of utmost importance, which it is, parenting styles and social tactics have a logical place in that discussion. First, identifying “alternative parenting” means differentiating it as a specific approach to child-rearing: from my perspective, alternative child-rearing sees many aspects of the dominant culture (often via the media, but also as reinforced by other adults in positions of authority) as too invasive, too wrapped up in conditioning “normalcy,” or, to put it quite simply, harmful. Alternative parenting insists that concentrating on a value system that is gender neutral, while keeping biological sex identity in a rational place, is not a radical idea, but rather a rejected one.

Furthermore, alternative parenting is multicultural: it respects and embraces difference as an essential part of human life. For the improvement of the culture, parents should seek out entertainment and education that are connective; that is, they form bridges between cultures and types of people, rather than burn them. This is not to say that parents whose work and attempts to survive keep them from being able to thoroughly examine possible influences on their childrens’ lives are parenting incorrectly or are, somehow, “less than” parents who have the time to devote to such research. Instead, this speaks to how necessary it is for parents to support one another, rather than alienate one another. Indeed, parents should be supported by the culture at large; media geared toward children should not work against parents in this respect. While it’s probably true that media/entertainment cannot be totally “value neutral,” these outlets should strain to avoid outright harm (which often comes in the forms of bias). As a parenting style, alternative parenting relies on community, closeness, trust, and the establishment of meaningful boundaries for children that have their basis in a rational discussion of dominant culture’s effects on children.

21 October 2010

nitwit! blubber! oddment! tweak!

Tomorrow night, I'll be attending my FIRST EVER Wizard Rock show. I'm so excited - not only because going to a show (any kind of show) is a huge treat for me, but because I'll be going with some awesome friends. Plus, you know, it's WIZARD ROCK. (Or wrock, if you want to be cute about it.) I'm going to try and take some photos to post, and I'll supply links and such to the bands/acts if at all possible.

By the way, on a note that is totally unrelated, if you're in school, remember to check near the prof offices (proffices?) for free books and magazines. I love reading glossy rags like New York Magazine, but there's just no way I can afford to subscribe. Magazines are great for cut-em-up craft projects for Baby J too. Thanks to some like-minded professor in my school's English department, I picked up the August and September issues tonight at no cost to me. Hoorj!


Anyway, before I forget again, I wanted to post a few bits from the photo shoot swap I did with Carrie of Sabrosa Vintage. Everything newly posted is size 14+ -- I'm extremely pleased to be able to focus on larger sizes, and many of these new "moonshines" are from my personal collection (either I've outgrown them, or just found that I had two similar pieces).


Oh! I've started one of those dag-blasted Facebook pages for Such Moonshiners -- take a peek if you'd like. I try to feature different sellers several times throughout the week, so please feel free to let me know if you've got a shop I should know about.

cheers!
nly

20 October 2010

"are you made or broken by the birthday cake?"

Thanks Cibo Matto, for providing me my favorite birthday song of all time.

So, on the 19th I hit 26. Rounds up to 30. Fun times! For my birthday this year, several nice things conspired to happen in relation to my admittedly a bit frivolous consumption of purses and clothes. I found the most perfect black buttery, fulla-pockets leather purse of all time (I spent 7 fucking dollars on it at the thrift store -- not that you probably know me well, but spending 7 dollars on one item while thrifting, even for a birthday present, is a big deal for me. Not just because I like getting a good deal, but because I really felt guilty spending money because we're quite broke right now). I spent another portion of my birthday budget on stuff for the store. While I feel less guilty about that, I have to be quite cautious until I get some more action at the shop. I found a real treasure trove of items from 18-24, and although I couldn't get everything I thought other fats might like, I picked what I thought was the most likely to be appreciated. Buying for other people is a skill I don't think I've totally mastered yet. I still have tons of stuff yet to list. There will be time, right?

I'd been holding onto one of those 15 off 15 Layne Bryant coupons which went into effect, cosmically, on the day of my birth. I only really buy occasionally from LB. Mostly because my mother totally traumatized me over LB when I was a fat teenager, but also because their stuff is just prohibitively expensive and not made to fit my body anyway. I've gotten a few cute leopard print tops on clearance, but the bottoms and jeans never fit -- no matter how many little "right fit" shapes they offer me to try and tempt me into thinking they will. I carry all my weight in my lower belly, hips, and thighs, while my calves and ankles are (relatively) skinny. So even their "jeggings" aren't properly snug on me. It's like wearing the weirdest boot cut jeans of all time.

Anyhow, I went in looking to replace some tights (my thighs are tights-destroyers), and planning to spend the rest of my budget on covering the difference in the coupon (usually about 2 dollars over). I found actual leggings on sale, and picked out a pair of pale pink for 5.00 and another pair of black which were incorrectly placed in the sale basket. The awesome employee ringing me up gave me them for the sale cost of her own total awesomeness, which cut sixteen dollars off their price. The coupon covered the whole price, which meant I had some cash monies left over.

Unfortunately, I discovered a hole in the thigh of black pair (maybe why they were in the sale basket?) after wearing them for about an hour today, but maybe I can figure out a way to save them. Otherwise, they are roomy and comfy. I wore them out as pants with my purple flannel for Spirit Day, I'm sure to the horror of the body police (this time, the body police were suited up as two bros buying hot dogs at the grocery store; thanks for noticing me, fellas). Jack and Baby J were sporting their purple shirts today too -- in an otherwise pretty fluffy post, I want to send much love to all those hearts and lives bruised or broken by suicide, and by targeted bullying and a lack of proper care and response from school systems and communities.

Returning to lighter birthday news, my parents took my spouse, kid, and I to eat, bestowed upon me some hand-crafted Day of the Dead jewelry and locally made lavender and tea tree oil soap!

I present to you the best surprise cake of all time, made by my gorgeous, talented, and weird (and by weird I mean amazing) neighbor. That yummy shit's double-layered, too. If you're not as big of a nerdass as I am and don't recognize the cake right off, it's a replica of the cake Hagrid makes for Harry in Sorcerer's Stone (plus strawberries!). I mean. I mean. SO TASTY. I ate much of this cake. Plus, other wonderful friends in general were fun, brought me treats (chocolate treats! Goodwill giftcards!), made snacks, and watched/video recorded some truly brutal stone sober make-do karaoke. This was a birthday to be remembered for its awesome foodness -- my BFF4EVA got me smoked pork hocks from West Wind Farms! (I rarely buy meat to cook, so I am thrilled to have something tasty to make!) Also, another super amazing comrade came up with this beauty:

Do you see Leslie Hall? Because she's in there. Amazing.


I guess fat's all for now. (Did you see what I did there?)

gratuitous shot of my birthday make up


Love,
nly

16 October 2010

my kid is ... a kid.



(TW for gender issues)
Baby J

So, this post has been in the works in my brainmeat for some time. So. I'm a person. I'm a fairly young person. I'm fat. I'm queer. I'm a mama. I guess a student, a partner -- you get it. Lots of other categories are applicable. But to talk about the mother thing. It's complicated. There are so many choices and decisions you make as a parent that don't seem to be, you know, available to the public for criticism. But they are, really. Any time you parent in public. Especially when you're the female parent. Take, as an example, my decision not to put my male kid in sports-themed clothes because I don't want him to grow to think he needs to entertain other people with his body (likewise, I wouldn't choose to dress a female kid in the kinds of clothes that would encourage her to think of her body as some kind of spectacle).

Anyway, people confuse his sex all the time. I don't take great strides to make Baby J look like a girl, and on some days, I'm pretty sure no one would confuse it. But if he's wearing a green shirt and red shoes it seems like no one can be sure, so they look to other signs. Long hair? Yep, Baby J has long hair. Pretty face? Yep, Baby J, like buttloads of other toddler boys I've seen, has a pretty face. Gender neutral clothing, long hair, and prettiness mean, evidently, girl. On the surface, it doesn't bother me. Most of the time I don't even correct people. It's that people feel the need to know the sex of my kid at all that's actually irritating. Not because I think it needs to be a secret, but because people bootstrap a whole bunch of other assumptions onto male-or-femaleness. They can't tell, for example, upon knowing that Baby J is a boy, that he refers to football as baseball (might as well be to us). Or that he probably thinks a soccer ball is a quaffle. Or that he likes to help me put make up on, and that he /loves/ having one of his toes painted. They can't tell that even though Baby J likes trains and cars, he's usually more interested in talking to them and arranging them than he is in racing them or crashing them. His favorite toy? An old school (and I mean /old/) Fisher Price toy house with the little family and beds and chairs and stuff. He plays with that all the time.

 On a side note, we also don't refer to Baby J as a "boy" very often. We don't praise him for being a "big boy" or a "good boy," nor do we admonish him by calling him a "bad boy." (Categorically calling anybody "bad" is probably not very helpful in general. I think it clouds any real issue toward which a speaker might be trying to refer. Instead of associating undesirability with a certain behavior/action, the child/person is likely, over time, to internalize a feeling of just being a bad person. Thus, ya know, you remove any agency they have to modify their behavior in order to effect more positive results, and help them reach the conclusion that they're simply bad people who are imperviously programmed to make poor decisions.) We've decided because we don't want him to associate being good/grown up/bad/whatever with some kind of intrinsic boyness, to instead tell him that he's a "good kid" or a "big kid." If he's making a bad choice, we tell him, "Hey. Baby J. That [specific behavior] isn't good. And here's why." We call all other children, regardless of sex, "kids." (Well, we used to call almost all kids babies. But he's been calling twelve year-olds babies, so we've adopted kids instead since it causes less confusion.) Now, Baby J does have some idea about being a boy -- he knows what his penis is, and he knows that mama doesn't have one (although he occasionally tells me that my legs are penises). Sometimes, he calls dad a "man" and mama a "lady." (Where the hell did he pick up lady? I can't say for sure. I say it sometimes, but not often outside of written communication. He's super-verbal, and once he makes a connection, it sticks for awhile.)

Anyhow. Back to Baby J in public. So, one afternoon not long ago I was using my parents' backyard for to stage some clothes to shoot for my etsy store, and he kept jumping the yards to go see the neighbor. He loves her. He loves seeing her "tractor" (read: lawnmower) and checking the gas in her car. Her grown son was in her garage with her. She's quite fond of Baby J as well, and throughout my dialogue with her grown son, she persistently complimented Baby J, which I think was her way of attempting to diffuse the situation.

I was there, supervising my kid, and talking to the neighbor, when her son observes, "His hair sure is getting long." Why did he need to tell me this? What point did it serve, and why did he feel so powerfully about the length of my kid's hair that he was compelled to comment on it, when he hasn't--if memory serves me--ever spoken to me before?

"Yep. He doesn't like having his hair messed with. He doesn't want it cut," I answer.

Pause. Grownson notices that Baby J's clothes are dusty. This is, shockingly, from playing in dirt. Dirt, which has the confounding tendency toward becoming, dry conditions permitting, dusty. And this dust transfers quite easily from the ground to clothes, a fact of which many of you may have already been cognizant. "You all been [sic] to a fair or something?" Grownson asks. I'd like to note that I'm not a grammarian, and I am not of the opinion that poor grammar necessarily attests to a poor argument/opinion. It's simply how Grownson phrased his question. Nevermind that there are no fairs going on, to my knowledge, in the immediate area.

At this second question, which was, in my opinion, just a bit past unnecessary, I reply, without an explanation, "No." Some more friendly conversation with the neighbor ensues.

Baby J, wth Neighbor's permission, climbs up onto the lawnmower and sits in the seat. His bare feet come into view. Grownson's brow furrows. "Uh, did he bash his toes?"

I look at my little boy's two pretty red toes (he usually only asks for one painted, but we went wild one night) and answer, as cheerfully as possible, "Nope. They're painted. He asks me to paint them when I paint mine."

How did (how could) any of these things about my child effect Grownson's particular well being? I can't even begin to hazard a guess. Were these comments perhaps made with neutrality, even curiosity? I think I can safely say that Grownson's bodying was, in fact, pretty damn transparent. He rarely bothered to attempt eye contact with me. He rolled his eyes too often, in fact, I believe, for him to remotely guess where my face was, let alone my eyes. His observations weren't outright proclamations of my failures at raising a kid, especially a son, but the way in which he called out my kid's appearance was judgment enough. I will go ahead and say that I doubt he would have made the same comments to my (male, white) partner. My partner, or husband, is not culturally determined to be a primary caregiver in our relationship (regardless of how deeply untrue that assumption would be). Thus, the state of my kid--dusty butt, wild hair, red toes--is my problem more than it is my partner's, because our kid's physical well-being (beyond being "provided for" in the fiscal, public-sphere kind of sense) just isn't my partner's "job."



So, why did Grownson feel that he had the right to comment at all? Well, that one's a little easier, I think. In the U.S., and especially here in the South where fuck-offs just aren't very frequent (at least not while parties involved are sober), rarely does anyone call a white man out on such patriassery (at least in a typical neighborly setting), and tell him to shut the fuck up, sir, because it's none of your business why my kid is dirty, why he has long hair, or why he has has painted toes. It's not your place to police my parenting (or my kid's body), or to make sure I'm aware what you think of me. The color of my kid's toenails, the state of his clothing, and whatever length his hair happens to be has no bearing on how well he treats other people, how much love he has for living, or with what kind/level of morality he will approach his life.

nly

p.s. This week Baby J wanted a green toe.

15 October 2010

ootd/10.15.10


Everything I'm wearing was free or thrifted, minus the spex. Don't click to enlarge or you will be totally blinded by my high-beam infored laser eyes. Er, yes, I was sitting on a toy. Yes, that's what my hand is attempting to remedy.

11 October 2010

serious and silly, tossed together so you can think and not-think. also, babyfeet.

An exceptional post about bisexuality and binarism by Kinsey @ Genderbitch.

aaaaaaaaaaaaannddd.......

Betty Boop.

I have a real post marinating in my head. About those feet to the left. It's not at full flavor yet, so back in the fridge.

nly

10 October 2010

harbingers of halloween.




This handsome pair had a spot of possum for breakfast in the neighbor's yard. They were utterly bewildered by my interest in them, but didn't take to the roof until an ice cream truck passed by. I don't blame them. Ice cream trucks in the Fall? I don't even.

Maybe it's macabre, I don't know, but I really like buzzards. And since it's October (the incomparable month of my birth and favorite holiday, har har), having some buzzards in the neighborhood just feels appropriate.

Cheers,

nly
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09 October 2010

in which i post an ootd.


skirt: thrifted; top: borrowed; scrubby, stripey shoes: thrifted

smirky face: trying not to crack up at skeletor. "We'll show He-Man a little surprise of our own!"

nly
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08 October 2010

conflating size and gender and short blurb about vintage clothes

(TW: Post contains discussion of struggles with gender/body image as a teenager.)

A long, long time ago, I wore a pretty strict uniform of men's jeans and men's t-shirts. I had knock-off Docs and wire-framed classes in a really bizarre oblong shape. Oh, and acne. Lots of acne. In short, I was a teenager, and I continually slunk around in dark pit of darkness.

While I enjoy, and occasionally lust over, men's clothing on all makes and models of human beings (because that look is pretty damn hot), the awkward assembly of saggy denim (and, for a rare bit of zazz, cargo khaki!) with baggy t-shirt definitely wasn't doing my 14 year old-self any favors in the bodily confidence department. This had nothing to do with there being anything inherently ugly about "dressing like a boy," and everything to do with my intentions, which were, probably pretty clearly to many, to make myself invisible. I saw boys, but didn't see them -- they mostly seemed like a visually neutral (though certainly very influential and vocal) backdrop for highly visible girls. Socially, I think I was encouraged to see women (and girls) and their bodies, clothes, and habits with a more instantly critical eye than I saw boys and men. [This is not to say men don't find themselves scrutinized; I know they do.] At least partially, my eye had been trained to watch other girls since birth. But what my eye did on its own was find them attractive.

After childhood cuteness evolved into pre-adolescent awkwardness, I was intentionally bodying myself in a particular way in order to divert attention from my size; in my mind, coding myself as masculine visually would prevent--or at least somewhat stave off--the criticism I felt was due (and I often received) for my failure to achieve what my mother, to this day, refers to as a "girlish figure." Because my shape, whatever it actually was way back then, was several sizes larger than what culture suggests is normal, I decided that the best way to go would be to deny myself the pleasurable (to me) experience of wearing the kind of clothes that would show my shape at all. Clothes that display shape, in my media-addled preteen brain, were clothes that were some how essentially feminine. And I, with my big tummy and fat arms, was not allowed to be feminine. I felt, like Hagrid looks: "too big to be allowed."

To sum up a lot of what I've been reading lately [which works on the assumption that the majority of childcare is done by women, while the majority of out-of-the-home work is done by men; we know that, at least in Western culture, this is changing, yet, as a professor of mine put it: "The larger culture still believes in this, even though it's a myth"]: Much philosophical, scientific thought traces our development from "merged with mother" through a struggle to realize the self as an autonomous body separate from her. As our abilities of relation and self-cognition grow more and more complex, we see, as children, that we are either like or unlike our mother. Our autonomous body becomes gendered.
 
If we are female, we understand our gender by associating with our mother -- we're working under the idea that she's the primary caretaker, so we have her around all the time, to model "normal" female behavior. Therefore, female children have a more difficult time separating from mother and expressing autonomy. If we are male, we must attempt to liken ourselves to our fathers, who are more absent from our lives than our mother -- Nancy Hartsock explains this circumstance as "abstract masculinity." In turn, boys have a harder time forming a cogent gender identity; indeed, to be gendered male is understood as oppositional to mother, and femaleness/femininity in general. What follows is the male child having an easier time expressing his autonomy. (So, nly's been reading a lot of object relations theory via Shannon Sullivan, Evelyn Fox Keller, and Nancy Hartsock. I realize that there are lots of real and meaningful problems, especially of the exclusion of the experiences of people of color and over-generalization, with some of the theories and opinions in these works; with this in the forefront of my mind, I have found these authors to be helpful in helping to frame up an understanding of gender and identity theory that is, however, quite incomplete. Plus, I have a deeply rotten soft spot for psychoanalytic theory -- I blame my academic interest in horror movies.) At some point, I experienced a disconnect with my level of identification with my own mother. I felt shame that I wasn't pretty like she was, and I did want to be pretty, but mostly just so she would stop being so critical of me. Toss in marital problems, years of watching her yo-yo diet, and general unhappiness, and I had a pretty damaged idea of what a "normal" woman was anyway.

So. Back to alienated teenage nly

I may be struggling with terminology here. I don't mean to suggest that categories of sexuality and gender can be used interchangeably, but that I was neither successfully nor happily identifying as masculine or feminine, despite being biologically female and raised in a way that encouraged me to act out gender in a heteronormative, feminine way. I didn't understand that clothing and bodying (though I certainly wouldn't have conceived of "bodying" at 14) does not necessarily reflect sexual and gender identity. Skirts aren't sexual beings. Skirts aren't inherently feminine. Culture inscribes meaning on clothing, and I was using clothing to inscribe a meaning, however confused, onto myself. So a longing to wear a skirt shouldn't dictate identity. If I was unhappy in boys' clothing, damnit, I could just take those painter's jeans right the hell off. It wouldn't have meant I was trying to identify as something I not only felt excluded, and also very different, from -- meaning typical a heterosexual woman performing gender in a feminine way, it simply would have meant that I would have allowed myself to wear the kind of clothing I thought was beautiful.

I had no real exposure to queer culture as a kid, and I wrong-headedly assumed there that gay and straight were the only options. I just couldn't figure myself out with such a dichotomous understanding of sexuality and gender. There were some immature fumblings and kisses with other girls, but most of them weren't interested in the kind of relationship that would have sustained me. Most of them, like myself to an extent, were experimenting and playing with roles and boundaries. I thought, typically of me, that no girls liked me because I was too ugly for other girls--even girls who liked girls--to be attracted to; girls, in my eyes, were feminine and pretty, and therefore could only find someone equally feminine and pretty appealing. Although as an adult I identify as queer,  I still carry around a lot of anxiety about not being attractive to other women, even though I'm not actively seeking a relationship--neither physical nor romantic. Being baldly criticized by men is worrisome, too, but I am less likely to be affected in their attention in that particular way. Now that I can dress comfortably in a way I find pleasurable, I'm more comfortable with my "too big" body. I'm not as anxious as I used to be about the limited clothing options available to women of larger sizes because, to me, being able to wear pretty things at all is quite refreshing. Thrifting and finding vintage clothing, for me, is a way to prove to myself that women of my size exist and have existed, and that somewhere, some fabulous woman (or hell, a fabulous man!) wore the same vividly visible polyester dresses that I'm buying from Goodwill for 2.95 a pop.

I know, I know. TL;DR. If anyone makes it this far, you're a damn champ.

nly