Monday, June 8, 2015

Sit Like an Effing Lady

I wouldn’t exactly call myself a tomboy. Granted, I could probably tell you the starting line up for last night’s NBA playoff game or quote every line of the movie Talladega Nights: the Ballad of Ricky Bobby. At the same hand, I’d still feel just as myself dancing ballet or crying through every song from The Way We Were. On an average day, I would say I am confident in my own curious expression of femininity. I love everything that comes with being female right down to the uniquely designed ways in which I was made to love, to be, and to feel. But in my progressiveness, I have never felt the slightest compulsion to wear a dress like this.

As a kid I was studious, compassionate, and mischievous. Yet anytime my mother would force me into a frilly pink frock, all of my endearing qualities were washed away in utter disgust.  What I, and many of my gender associates, endured was the early molding of society. “This is who you are. This is who you’ll be.” Flawed as it may seem, how you dress does shape the impression you first make upon the seeing world. For me, a frilly pink dress never translated into the kind of impression I wanted to make. Until today, I’ve dressed with chicness, toughness, and a stylish sense of that complex little girl I fight diligently to honor. Until today, I made sure my first impression was nothing like this dress.

To be clear, I love dresses. I own many dresses and from time to time enjoy the freedom of a good skirt. But this particular experiment was a jolt outside of my comfort zone and a leap in the trenches of overt femininity. When I showed my best friend a photo of the dress she laughed—hard. I was preparing myself for the viscous complements about how “cute” or “pretty” I looked. Call me beautiful, gorgeous, sexy, a hot stack of pancakes… anything but those words. In my mind, the only successful time pretty was used conjunctively with the word woman was in 1990 when Julia Roberts played a prostitute. The implied cuteness robs me of every scraped knee and thousands of read books. Wearing this dress, I feared, would take away all of my competencies and intellectual gains.

I made sure most of my friends or acquaintances knew that they would be seeing me in a new light come Monday. That my transformation would be strictly temporary and that they were in know way to get used to this “sweet” little teacup. But the night before my girlish debut, I couldn’t sleep. Usually confident in anything, I doubted my ability to pull it off. What if people think I’m a joke? Where do I put my keys? What if it flies up in the subway platform? What if I throw like a girl? What if I’m stuck in a sand trap at the bottom of the 9th with no timeouts on the 10-yard line? What if I like it? Does that make me a liar?

Then morning comes.
I put on the dress.
I take a deep breath.
I face the mirror.

Well, I’m not dead. It feels more like a costume at first. The more I look myself up and down the more acclimated I start to sink to its pinkness.

“I exude confidence and courage in all aspects of my life…” I say several times to myself as mantra to keep from profuse swearing.

If I have learned anything from partaking in my friend Amy’s Confidence Club, it is that brave is who we are in the face of adversity. Courage, however, is intentionally stepping out of our comfort zone. Today I was intentionally ridding myself of everything I had built up against wearing something like this. Upon arriving to work

In Proverbs there is an entire chapter devoted to a Woman of Good Character. It outlines a competent and skilled woman who is attractive not by mention of looks but by mention of her very being. As I sat reading in my frilly pink frock, I found a peaceful chuckle in this verse that I would carry with me for the rest of the day:

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” Proverbs 31:25

No matter what I was to be addressed in, I have already been clothed in a character that exudes strength and dignity. These are the sorts of robes I hope to never take off.

Upon arriving to work I noticed I had become invisible to women. Men, however, were eager to help me with every door, bottle cap, and elevator. People did laugh because of the silly nature of my experiment, but not because they no longer took me seriously. In some twisted pastel way I felt like a volcano of my actual self. Somewhere underneath the pink mountain was a vibrant and fiery pit of intellect and competency. In my twenty-something years I had convinced myself that allowing myself to be pretty was the antithesis of authenticity.  Was I slightly nauseous all day? Yes. Did I forget to cross my legs? No. Did it matter what people thought of me? Yes. But being stuck outside of my comfort zone for a whole 24hrs has given me the reassurance that my dignity is still perfectly in tact no matter what I’m wearing as long as I sit like an effing lady.