Beskirted, Befeminized, begendered

I was bored at work yesterday, so I checked out the Flickr photos of all the Fatshionistas in  between the raging debate over good fattie vs. bad fattie. And in nearly every photo, the beautiful fat women were wearing skirts.

Oh skirts.

I have a love-hate relationship with skirts. I love them because they are so pretty. Every spring they beckon me with their whimsical patterns, the way the float about the knees, their promises of coolness in the nether-regions, and the feel of being Another Woman Altogether.

Because this is what fashion is, right? It is about escape. It is about putting on New Clothes and Being a New Person. In a skirt, I will be an artsy, ironic grrl, confident enough in her femininity to rock the frock with Tyra Banks fierce-ness.

So I went out and bought a new skirt, so inspired, and I am wearing it here at work.

I feel Ok. I feel fine. I feel maybe like a new person.

A couple of years ago, pre-queer, pre-divorce, I went out and bought a bunch of skirts because I was similarly inspired. There were so many pretty ones in the stores then. Prairie skirts. Skirts with sparkles. Skirts in gorgeous fabrics. I just had to have them. And mostly, they sat in my closet. One of them still has the tags on it, but I don’t want to give it up because it is, well, too damn pretty.

I didn’t wear skirts for a long time because there were too many issues around it. First, there was the fatness. Fatness has prevented me from wearing a lot of clothes that I have wanted to wear for a long time. When I was a kid in 7th grade, I would stuff myself into my grandmother’s girdles to try and appear skinny. At a size 18 in unfortunately tight-rolled black-washed Lee jeans, I was sporting a secret girdle, which was too small and too tight, which also made it just right to contain the very bad fat. They were the old-school girdles, with super fucking intense elastic or rubber or something not of this world, and it gave me secret, painful welts in between my legs from where the bindings at the leg openings were. Sometimes they’d bleed, but it didn’t matter. I’d wear them day in and day out because I believed that it made me look skinnier, and this gave me a bit more confidence.

Looking back at it now, I realize that the girdle was also containing something else important: My very feminine ass and hips. I don’t have a particularly large belly. Somewhere on this blog, I posted a picture of my naked belly, and in proportion to the rest of my fatness, it’s relatively flat. I am a pear shape through and through. In another good-fatty vs. bad fatty argument, I am a good fatty, because I am a feminine fatty. I am a womanly fatty. Pear shaped fatties supposedly have fewer health problems than the apple shaped fatties. I find it funny that pear shaped fatties are also the ones, coincidentally, that are the more sexualized than the apple-shaped fatties, and sexual currency holds a lot of power in this world.

I have had a lot of problems with my sexual currency, and therefore my femininity, which is the root of what I perceive to be my sexual currency.

Back to the skirts.

When I was in straight relationships, I did not wear skirts. I rationalized it in many ways. First, I said that if I wore skirts, it would mean I would have to wear heels, because I would have to balance the weight of my hips with extra height, because my ankles are skinny and look ridiculous in flats because I look out of proportion, and I have a rule about heels, which is this: They are not sensible footwear.

Secondly, I said that skirts would not allow me to move freely. What if I needed to perform a basket hold on a client? A skirt is not practical for such matters.

Thirdly, there was the issue of chafing.

Now that I am not in a straight relationship, I’ve had a chance to look at such things. I’ve pondered wearing skirts. Because I do actually own a bunch and I like them, and they are, well, pretty.

And I realized this: The skirt, for me, was, and is, a symbol of intense femininity and I did not feel safe expressing that femininity in the context of straight relationships, so I conveniently used my fatness as an excuse not to do it.

Wearing a skirt in a straight relationship, for me, would make me feel as though I would be expected to get my ass into the kitchen and cook; it would make me feel as though I needed to be submissive; it would make me feel like a big fat sex object, and that is something I have been trying to avoid my entire life. And so, skirts were out of the question.

My belief system went like this: Sex objects are weak, women are weak.  And so I spent a long time being in straight relationships competing with the person I was dating to prove that I was not weak. Being not-weak meant I did not engage honestly emotionally. I did not allow vulnerability to seep through. And I definitely refused to engage with my femininity*. Most people who have met my exes would say that I was the more masculine* of the two of us, despite our relative adherence, visually at least, to “proper” gender standards.

In the context of a queer relationship, however, I am becoming altogether girly.

I am sewing. I recently wore a head scarf, something that also would have been too girly for me about two years ago. I have been wearing Mary Janes all winter long. I am chucking out rules about what fat people can and can’t wear. I have added a lot more color to my mostly-neutral wardrobe. I am donning flowing scarves. I am feeling sexually safer. I have cried more in the last year than ever in my life, because I am not sure that I’ve ever allowed myself to be as vulnerable with another human being before. As I learn to engage with this part of me that I’ve been at odds with my entire life, my eating habits have become a lot better. I’m able to stop myself in the middle of eating something that I know is gonna make me feel like shit, and say: Why am I doing this to myself?

I didn’t expect skirts to be such a big deal. I didn’t expect turning queer to open up a whole new perspective on my own gender presentation, and then on my fat. But, it has. And here I am.

*Masculine, feminine: I hate these terms. What do they really mean? I hate that our language doesn’t have better words. I am not fond of the cisgendered-zie-hir line of talking, because it makes me feel like I am speaking of androids on Star Trek. I’ll use them if other people prefer them, but it feels weird.

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7 Comments

  1. pennylane said,

    March 18, 2008 at 11:44 am

    I have the same rule about heels.

    I have had the same feelings/back and forth on the relationship between my sexuality, my feelings about gender presentation, and my clothing. I’ve often felt too sexualized while fat–I am ordinarily rather box shaped and flat-chested but as I’ve put on weight I’ve gotten breasts, etc. And it was uncomfortable. But I have taken to sometimes wearing skirts and even dresses. I wear running tights (like very thick leggings) underneath and find it very comfortable. Also–not as necessary to always police my sitting like a dude.

    Sorry, personal tangent. I really related to your post.

  2. Colin said,

    March 18, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    “In the context of a queer relationship, however, I am becoming altogether girly.”

    I *heart* femmes. With all my *heart*. Not that I’m boxing/labeling you into that as an identity, of course. But when women rock a femme style it makes me want to stretch out on the bed and lisp advice, and then have the two of us go out for a night on the town.

    I used to wear a lot of skirts in high school. I liked them, actually. They made me feel like I was succeeding at the whole “girl” thing, and they also set me apart from the other girls in their hip huggers and belly shirts. Feeling them fluttering around your legs sometimes turns a day into an occasion.

    …I’m so totally going to be a drag queen someday 🙂

  3. thoughtracer said,

    March 18, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    A delightful queen, I am sure. 🙂

  4. RoseCampion said,

    March 18, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    I’ve never understood why women feel they have to wear heels, just because they’re wearing a skirt. I just won’t do it. Even if it looks out of proportion or whatever. But my problematic feet and ankles won’t take a heel, or even a ballet flat for that matter. I wear danskos. Good solid shoes available in many semi cute designs including mary janes and the like.

    Also, I don’t get the whole “skirts are so impractical” thing. For most of human history, women (and often men, for that matter) have worn skirts to do all kinds of dirty, mucky work, like working in the fields, etc. I throw on a pair of bike shorts under all my skirts/dresses and wear them to my work. I’m up on ladders, bringing in freight pallets, tossing around fifty pound boxes, up and down from the floor shelving books. All in a non-bifurcated garment. Bike shorts provide both chafe protection and modesty. I’m not sure what a basket hold is, so you’d have to be the judge of whether you can do one in a skirt or not. But I’m just saying, skirts are more practical than you might think.

  5. lanphuong said,

    March 18, 2008 at 7:25 pm

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  6. Bri said,

    March 19, 2008 at 2:25 am

    Interesting post! I wore exclusively skirts until I was 12 years old. I hated pants. I hated the restriction around my stomach. I finally got a pair of jeans when I was in 6th grade and needed them to go to camp (first school camp I had been on). Until I was about 15 I had one pair of jeans. Then I lost a lot of weight and I started wearing jeans more often after that, even as I put on weight I still found jeans that fit me and I wear jeans or some style of pants most of the time.

    When I did (and when I do) wear skirts I rarely wore/wear heels. I hate heels. They make my feet hurt and I can’t talk in them. Except for platform like heels. I don’t mind those. I generally wear mary jane styles or fancy thongs/flip flops/slip ons

    I guess I have always been a girly girl though. To a point. I don’t obsess about hair and makeup but I was a dolls and dress ups kind of kid and not the sporting type at all.

    Chafing is an issue but there are ways around it for the most part.

  7. hotsauce said,

    March 19, 2008 at 4:26 am

    This is funny because I waaaay prefer skirts to pants. They feel free in a way that pants do not feel to me. I get the mobility thing though. When I was a little, little kid, I refused to wear pants because I grew hair late and because of that people looked at me and thought I was a boy, and I didn’t like that. But when I came home from my first day of preschool, I informed my mother that I would no longer wear dresses because I couldn’t play in them. Now I don’t generally spin around upside down on playgrounds often enough so I can get away wearing skirts most of the time.

    Another part of my skirt thing, a big part, is that they are generally better able to accommodate weight fluctuations depending on the style. Most of mine are A-line, so when I’ve gained they just go higher up on my hips/waist. This is something I need right now in the latter stages of ED recovery because I don’t think my weight has stabilized yet, since I’m still binging occasionally. I’ve gained and lost 10 or 15 pounds twice in the past couple of years, and that’s a couple of sizes on me. So it’s better for me to have flexible clothes than to have two sets.

    About shoes — I like how I look in heels, but I never wear them because I value comfort way more than style. I wear platform wedges and clogs a lot because it gives me height, which I like, while at the same time being comfortable and able to run if I need to. I like Clarks clogs. Mostly I wear those or cowboy boots or knee-high black boots that have secret sneaker treads.


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