Today in the blog, Morgan shares a story about a chance conversation that presented her with an opportunity to really learn something about her thinking. Go for a ride with her on a wild train of thought.
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I had a conversation with a new acquaintance today and it lead me to some deep thinking. I do not know much about her other than she is a slender black woman who grew up in what she description as a white, financially comfortable neighborhood. She identified as one of the only people of color in the area. She said that she sometimes felt (feels?) somewhat androgynous regarding her personal identity because of the lack of attention she received from boys back in the day. Her comment blew my mind.
A little background. You likely know by now that I grew up fat. I recall wearing lots of dresses when I was super young, including in kindergarten when I experienced my very first bullying. My sartorial expression was not dissimilar to other kids, other than my “designer” jeans were made by Body Lingo (JC Penney’s plus brand) rather than Jordache or Gloria Vanderbilt. I definitely tried to fit in with my outfits until 4th grade. I was wearing a jean skirt with an orange turtleneck in class. One of the boys in my desk grouping leaning over to another kid and whispered in his ear, while making a cupped shaped over his chest. He then pointed at me and they both snickered because they obviously had noticed my newly developing breasts. I remembered flushing red at this and feeling sexualized shame for the first time.
After that, I eased into a less fitted and more boyish leaning looks. I actually wore overalls in my 6th-grade photos; they were lavender but overalls nonetheless. Because of my ever deepening body issues, I tried to be more quirky with my dressing, rather than like sexy or trendy or whatever. It was the 80s and I liked New Wave music so leaning towards androgyny was good. I barely remember wearing a dress or skirt for years but there was no loss of black eyeliner, let me tell you!
I lived in Greenwich Village for my first two years of undergrad and met my first fat femme there. Her name was Stephanie and she was adorable. We were about the same size but she wore little flip skirts with cute tights and low cut tees. I started doing everything I could to emulate her style and it worked. With my curves and my new flair, my confidence took off and so did my social life. I learned this lesson well.
I became a clotheshorse with a big nod to ultra feminine looks. Tights and skirts, florals, décolletage, lace, etc. More makeup and (almost) always long hair. Over time I played with my looks but my identity was always very feminine. I never quite felt like myself with jeans and a sweatshirt. Even today, I love all things femme particularly twirly dresses, glitterly nailpolish, and cute necklaces with owls or kitties on them.
So, back to the comment that my new friend made about feeling androgynous. What I realized during that short discussion was that my predication for being femme is a direct result of feeling that same desexualized feeling I was teen because I was not seen as viable dating material. It is almost like that in the back of my head I said “You don’t see me as a woman! I will show you!” All of the being cast aside back in high school directly shapes my thinking today about the outfits I put on each morning. This high femme identity that I value and thought was a straight up choice I was making actually began gestating years ago.
I am sharing this epiphany here with you for a few reasons. First, it is a great example of how our thinking comes to be and our thinking controls everything in life, how we feel, what we do, and the results we get. By understanding our thinking, we get that much closer to being able to get want it is we want. Second, you never know where a sudden burst of understanding can come from. The more open we are to learning, the more learning will happen. Finally, I think is if fucking fascinating. The ways our brains work is remarkable to me.