This post has been sitting idly in my drafts folder since March 14. I wrote it as a gift to myself, intending to publish it the following day, my 38th birthday. I passed it along to a small handful of beta readers who each offered feedback. I reread it. I slept on it. And the next morning, the day I had intended to post it, I balked. Since then, I’ve done a lot of thinking (and a little editing). And I feel proud with the end result. So if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to rewind time about three and a half months…
It’s that time of year. Connecticut is on the cusp of spring. The days are getting warmer, sunsets are getting later. Now is when those of us with small closets and temperate climates pack away the sweaters and long sleeves to clear closet space for the tank tops and sun dresses that have been lying in wait in under-bed storage since fall. And that’s got me doing some thinking about all the things we wear and what they say about us, the image that we project out into the world.
The Ides of March, 1983. That’s the beginning of my story. I imagine that my first ever item of clothing was one of those hospital-issued pink and blue striped hats. I can picture a nurse tying a pink ribbon around its top. Girl. I can picture my parents dressing me to leave the hospital and go home. Maybe a onesie. Maybe pajamas. Booties, for sure. Probably white and trimmed in itchy lace. The left foot, daughter, and the right, sister. I can picture, too, all the outfits that streamed in and out of our house throughout childhood. The hand-me-downs, cousin. The gifts, niece. The frilly dresses bought special for holidays or events, granddaughter. Each article, a new piece of the image that was me.
On the first day of Kindergarten, I wore a dark blue dress with a tiny floral pattern on it. Its front was graced with a wide, white collar and an oversized bow, the likes of which would stir envy in JoJo Siwa herself. Mary Janes. Bobby socks. Backpack. Student. Then came the leotards and tights. Dancer. The headbands that would hold my hair back as I curved over my spiralbound notebook and penned all the stories dancing in my childlike imagination. Writer. The sparkly, plastic, adjustable chain friendship bracelets that were all the rage amongst grade-schoolers in the 80s; mine was purple. Friend. Gosh, we’d trade and collect and gift those plastic clip-on charms like crazy.
Most of our clothes are chosen for us when we’re kids. But as we age into the pre-teen and teen years, we start to have a bit more say, don’t we? And that’s when our personalities, rather than our parents’ preferences, start to poke through. Bathing suits. Confident. Flip-flops. Low maintenance. Comfy t-shirts. Shy. Leggings. Nerd. I was about eleven years old when I tried on that belt that became a conversation starter for years after. Vegetarian. The apron that was part of my uniform for my very first job. Employee. Those platform velvet heels; wow, did I love those uncomfortable monstrosities. Stubborn. And let’s not forget the make-up; eyeliner and eyeshadow and mascara, oh my. Girlfriend. Baggy jeans. Anxious. Prom dresses. Mature. Khakis. Sensible. The overpriced “class ring” that we’re all duped into buying in high school only to lose somehow within a year–either lost on the bottom of a jewelry box or gifted to the one we thought we’d be with forever but haven’t seen since Thanksgiving Eve the fall after graduation. People-pleaser.
As we age into adulthood, our wardrobe is entirely in our control. We box up the items we don’t wear anymore, the pieces that no longer hang on us right. And in their place, new pieces. Maybe something in a fresh new color or trendier style. Maybe something a little bigger or a tad more form-fitting. Maybe something just different, new, fresh. Hoodies, pea coats, and scarves. Intern. Thigh highs and crew socks. Graduate. Bras, undies, and camisoles. Fiancee. Lingerie and bathrobes. Wife. Sweaters, spaghetti straps, and skirts. Mother. A rainbow of colors. A myriad of styles. All chosen by us for comfort, function, and image.
Thanks to the ongoing pandemic, I wear a lot more pajamas and yoga pants than ever before; with nowhere to go, why not be comfy, right? And with nothing to do, I’ve had lots of time to think. At the forefront of my mind? Jewelry. Shiny little baubles, uniquely my own style, to pull my look together. I’ve scoured my jewelry box, trying on all sorts of accessories, and have finally settled on some statement pieces that feel really great to me. The earrings that I think feel best on me may not be your style but they’re mine. The left, sapiosexual, and the right, demisexual, are equally sparkly. And they look pretty amazing with the necklace that feels best, too. Pansexual. All of which goes nicely, by the way, with my wedding ring. Blessed beyond words. Wearing these, I look in the mirror and feel complete. And let me be clear. I’ve done arguably more than my fair share of online shopping during this pandemic. But these jewels are ones I’ve always owned. Nothing new. Just something I’ve never worn out of the house until now.
To those who may not want to follow the links provided, or who maybe DID but are still confused, let me tell you what those earrings and that necklace mean to me. I like brains. Not in the zombie kinda way but in the “talk nerdy to me” kinda way. And I like emotional connections. And these two proclivities trump anything else about a person, including gender. So together, I hope my jewelry is projecting a “hearts not parts” image.
If I had to name the adult equivalent to the clunky, purple plastic bracelet of my youth, it would be my Pandora bracelet. So let’s pretend for a moment that there’s a charm on it for every single bond I’ve made in life. Family, friends, acquaintances, members of the community around me, you. Everyone. Each bead, each dangly, adding up to the sum total of respect, love, support, and acceptance surrounding me. Each bauble making my life all that much more beautiful. The weight of that charm bracelet on my wrist brings comfort and I think it’s perfect as it is. That said, anyone and everyone is entitled to take their charm back. I’ll give it freely. With a heavy heart, sure, but still freely. Because I’ve let too much time pass not allowing these gems to glimmer in the sunshine and the only people I have room for in my circle are the ones who accept that I love the jewelry I’ve chosen for me.
Welcome back to the now. June 2021. Pride month. I didn’t want to let it pass without pulling out this post. Dusting it off. Giving it a final pass of editing. And finally sharing it. Anyone who knows me knows that I tout acceptance for all. And this post is really nothing more than me extending that same grace, that same acceptance to myself.
I’m prepared for some people to not care; “Why is she telling us this? What does it matter?” But it does matter, to me. It’s a part of me that I’ve only acknowledged to a handful of people, ever. Having never assigned myself a label and having entered into a heteronormative marriage has made it easy for me to blend in. To not be seen as “other.” But by not saying it, it feels like I’m hiding it. And I think that sends a message that I believe that being “other” is something to be ashamed of, that queerness is best swept under the rug and ignored. And THAT couldn’t be further from what I believe.
I’m prepared for some people to care a lot. Maybe even to walk away. I’d like to think there aren’t many people in my life who would do that. But maybe a few. Perhaps even some who’ll surprise me. I realize that probably not everyone is going to be an ally. Still, I’m prepared.
Mostly, though, I’m prepared for people to care just the right amount. To realize that I’m the same me I was before I wrote this, the same me I’ve always been. To maybe offer a hug or covid-approved fist-bump and say something like, “Hey, thanks for sharing a piece of you.”