All The World's A Stage

IMG_2970When I quit my job in November of last year, I told myself that 2013 would be the year of saying "yes". So, when I was asked to be a part of the BlogHer13 Fashion Show, I did just that - I said "yes".

In the days that followed, I had to have measurements taken, had to figure out dress sizes and ring sizes and had a conference call to discuss bra color and foundation garments. There were moments when I felt that I was visiting a foreign country and didn't speak the language.

On Friday, I arrived at the Sheraton in Chicago for my fitting and the style team went to work. I tried on several outfits before they chose one for me  - a long white suit jacket, a silver, satin fitted camisole, cropped white pants and black and silver oxford shoes. It's an outfit I never would have chosen for myself but, as I looked at myself in the mirror, I did my best to make peace with it but then they added large black earrings and a long black, beaded necklace and I thought for the first time, "I can't do this."

Pushed over the edge by accessories.

I left on the verge of tears.

Throughout the day, I talked with my friends and told them I didn't like the outfit I would be wearing and didn't want to wear the accessories. The conversations were short - quick words in passing, filled with emotion because I felt raw and vulnerable in a way I hadn't in years. It is one thing to step outside the boundaries you've set for yourself. It is another thing to do it in front of hundreds of people.

But quick conversations do not allow for nuance or depth and, without those things, people make assumptions. In this case, people assumed the source of my discomfort was that I was being asked to be more feminine than I normally am, more feminine that I felt comfortable being.

But it wasn't that at all.

People look at me and think that I don't have a sense of style but I do. I care about the fit of my shirts, about the color and feel of the material. I care about the type of cuff and the look of the buttons. I care about the way my shirt looks tucked into a pair of pants, about the way the belt sits on my hips. I care about the way the pants feel when I run my hands down my thighs, the way they fall on my shoes.

People look at me and see my short hair and notice that I wear no make-up and think that I don't care much about my appearance. But let me tell you, I am as vain as they come.

And this is what I know - the world is a stage and we wake each day and decide the character we will play.

We reach into our closets and choose our costumes.  We dress for effect, to project to the world the person we want to be. We dress to impress, to intimidate, to seduce. We dress for comfort. We dress to conform and we dress to stand out. Some people do it without thinking but I do it with great intention.

My objections to the way I was being dressed for the fashion show came down to style. I felt the color was wrong for my skin tone. I was concerned the satin top was not good for my body type. I didn't think the cropped pants were flattering. As for the accessories, they just weren't hip enough for me.

None of those things have anything to do with femininity.

So, there are some things I need you to know...

I told the  woman who was doing the base that I hadn't worn make-up in 30 years and her eyes went wide and she said, "I won't do too much." I told her, "Do what you do. Don't worry."

I told the woman who did my eyes that I would be walking without my glasses and wanted my eyes to stand out. She smirked, "You have beautiful eyes. Let's really make them pop." I said, "Do it all." Her smile got bigger, "Even false eyelashes?" "Yes, even those."

I told the woman who did my lips that I had never worn lipstick in my life and she said, "Well, um, let's go neutral then." I held up my hand and said, "What color do you think you should use? You're the expert." She smiled and said, "Mulberry?" I said, "Do it."

When it came to my hair, I simply said, "If we're going to do something, be bold."

By the time I was done, I was ready - hair, make-up, suit and none of the accessories that had bothered me so much.

I spend too much time worrying about what other people think of me but, by the time I took my place in line and waited for my turn on the catwalk, I was over it.

I'd said "yes" and when I stepped on that stage, it felt pretty damn good. Of course, who wouldn't enjoy hundreds of women screaming for you?

Since then, I've seen comments about me being in drag. If you think I was in drag on that stage, then you don't understand what drag means or don't understand much about me. I am very feminine though the way I present in the world may not fit that image for some. I did not feel that I was performing as someone I'm not. I felt like I was playing with my own ideas about femininity.

Because sometimes, femininity looks like this:


And sometimes, femininity looks like this:


Photo Credit

At least it does to me.

Later that night, when the party was over and we had returned home, Deborah stood with me in the bathroom and we leaned into each other and stared into the mirror at my face that was familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. I will always be grateful that she was there with me in that moment because she knows me and I didn't have to explain why the moment felt both celebratory and sombre, like saying hello and goodbye. I peeled off the lashes and Deborah helped me scrub my face and we took our time and laughed and talked about my hair and what it might be like for me to wear eyeliner from time to time. And when we had done all we could do, there were still faint traces of eyeliner and, somehow, that felt right.

I Wear My Sunglasses

Yesterday, I went to get new glasses. There is no way this could be relevant to you and yet here I am pretending that it is. The first step to getting new glasses is making an eye appointment. Look at me - already dropping the wisdom on you. I hate making medical appointments of any kind and need to strike it rich so that I can hire a personal assistant to do it for me because Luisa is getting tired of doing it. I kid! Kinda. I did make my own eye appointment though and actually went to the appointment so I think I deserve some kind of maybe a personal assistant!

The second step to getting new glasses is sitting awkwardly in a chair while a stranger looks deeply into your eyes and says, "Which is better - one or two? Two or four? Three or eight? One or eight?" Then, for the grand finale, they dilate your eyes and shine lights in them until you are blind. Blinding you guarantees future business.

The third step to getting new glasses is having an intense but short-lived relationship with someone who pretends to know what you are looking for in frames and what looks good on you. For me, this meant that we had several awkward initial interactions during which my pal tried to show me oversized women's sunglass frames. He was teachable, however, and responded well to my declaration, "I really prefer androgynous frames". So, then I tried on approximately 3262 frames while still partially blinded from the dilation. It occurred to me that if I could not see to sign my credit card receipt, I might not be the best judge of what looks good on my face in that moment. But, I persevered and picked out new frames for sunglasses (I'm keeping my frames for my regular glasses).

Fear not! The picture accompanying this post does not reflect the sunglass frames I chose.

At least I don't think so.

I guess we'll see in two weeks.

Shoes Shoes Everywhere

I don't like shopping. Actually, that's not quite true.

I don't like shopping when I am looking for something specific.

I'll be going to BlogHer in August and I'll be reading a piece I wrote and I need to get some decent clothes so that I don't appear on stage in tatters. I don't want people to think that I wandered in off the street, took out all the bloggers backstage and claimed the spotlight as my own. This is completely plausible, by the way. You know how aggressive the poorly dressed can be.

So, last week, I went to the Mall of Shame with a friend to find a some nice clothes. I got two pairs of shorts, a t-shirt and a tank top which was great but I can't wear any of that on stage. Just as I can't appear in tatters, I can't look like  I stumbled on stage after my surfing lesson.

Our time was limited, however, so we had to call it a day. As we were walking towards our entrance, I spied a Doc Marten's store said to my friend, "Let's just take a peek..." We stepped inside and I was met with a heavenly vision - funky shoes as far as the eye could see!

I may not have had any ideas about what I wanted to wear to BlogHer but I did know that I wanted a pair of black and white shoes. I tried on a couple pairs and then found these:

These are quite a departure for me - I don't think I've ever owned a pair of white shoes.

But they spoke to me.

Funky White Shoes: I know we just met but I think we could have something special.

Me: Really?! I've never had white shoes!

Funky White Shoes: Maybe you've been waiting for the right ones. Maybe you've been waiting for us.

Me: That could be true. But maybe I should get the wingtips.

Funky White Shoes: Sure, you could do that but where is your sense of adventure? Tell the truth - you are drawn to us.

Me: I am. It's true.

Funky White Shoes: C'mon baby...

So I bought them because I am sucker for sweet talking shoes. Now, I will look like the Queer Pat Boone and who doesn't want that? I may not have a new outfit for BlogHer but maybe my white shoes will blind everyone and they won't notice that I'm wearing tattered board shorts and a tank top. It could happen, right?