15 March 2015

Last weekend, post shave, DKM and her mom and I were in the mall food court, grabbing some much needed food. I don’t remember how the subject came up (because my brain is basically swiss cheese at this stage of my life) but we were talking about the last time we’d worn dresses.

I had to admit…it’s been so long since I’ve worn a dress that if I were to put one on now, I would feel like a cross-dresser.

Later on I thought about that; it’s not just now. I clearly remember feeling like it was all kinds of wrong any time I had to wear a dress. I loathe dresses. I always have. It’s not a feeling that crept up on me with age and lack of wearing. Dresses were a major point of contention between my mother and I when I was little. I hated them, and it pissed her off to no end.

For a short time in 4th grade she instituted the Morning Dress Rule. I had to, no matter what I wanted, put on a dress in the morning for school, and I could change into pants at lunch before going back in the afternoon (yep, in Munich we were able to go home for lunch if we lived close enough to walk. I don’t see that happening now.)

I know now what she was going for, but then it was agony for me. And when I didn’t like something, I was a complete little shit. I think it lasted all of a month, maybe six weeks, before I wore her down. Or it could have been the volume of laundry, but I suspect my shitty little self bullied her into backing down.

I also know what she was afraid of; THAT was not what a kid should become, not in the late 60s and early 70s. All the things I hated—dresses, girly toys, anything frilly or pink or feminine—those all surely pointed to one thing, and apparently by forcing me into clothing that I despised, THAT was going to be corrected.

We can roll our eyes at the idea now, but I’m sure it made sense 40-45 years ago.

I was a hard-core tomboy, sure, but I was not THAT even though she couldn’t see it then.

And now I wonder: if such a huge issue had not been made of my preferences in clothing and toys and even colors, what would I like now?

There was a tipping point once puberty reared its ugly head and I was solidly into my early teen years. We were getting ready to move from Texas to California and it was suggested to me that “this would be a good time to change. You know, wear dresses and be more feminine. It’ll be easier because no one will know what you were like before.”

Surprisingly, it didn’t come from my mother, but she was on board with the idea.

Any inkling I might have had about it died with that. My (admittedly hurt) gut reaction was to wonder—out loud—what was so wrong with me that I needed to change? Why would I want to change? There was nothing wrong with me.

And there wasn’t. But I was just stubborn enough to decide that was it; I was going to be me and not give consideration to anything different. I didn’t have to be good enough for anyone else, because I was good enough for me.

My mother stopped pressing the matter by the time I was 15 or so, probably because it was clear I wasn’t turning into her worst fear, but I wonder now if left to my own choices, would I have gotten over my hatred of girly things and embraced at least a few of them?

I’ll never know, but I’ll probably always wonder.

I clearly got over my hate of things pink, though it still surprises some people to find out I don’t much care for it. Hot pink, I love it; pink-pink…no. Hell no.

I don’t even own a dress now; don’t expect me to, no matter what the event. I still mostly shop in the men’s department but not because of some weird loathing of women’s clothes; pants with useable pockets are rarely made for women, shirts are too short for women with any torso height, and most of them are—by design—clingy and face it, I don’t have the body for anything clingy. If I did, I would rock that chit so hard.

I am most comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt, probably always will be.

My point? It’s not that my mother dropped the ball, so heap pity upon poor me. No, she coped as best she could with a stubborn kid whose tastes frightened her. It’s also not that I wish I were different. I’m fine with me; other people might not be, but that’s not my problem.

My point…let your kids be who they are. Don’t presume anything based on the clothes they want and the toys they play with. Let them explore without pressure to choose one thing over another. Give them the grace to know they can be whoever they think they are, and the freedom to change that without feeling judged.

And if they wind being something other than what you expected or hoped for, freaking embrace that shit, because life is hard enough as it is and not giving a damn about the little things makes it just a bit easier.

I will never know if I would have been any different if I hadn’t felt like I was expected to change the person I fundamentally was; there’s a whole other can of worms there I haven’t yet opened up to peek at, but the crux of it is that I spent a lot of years railing against what someone else wanted, even after she no longer wanted it.

Take a good look at your kid.

She’s fine just as she is, whether she’s pretending to be a princess or Ironman. He’s fine even if he wants those pink shoes and a tutu. Those choices don’t mean anything beyond this is what I like right now.

And even if they do, so what? You had a kid, not a promise.

You will love them no matter what.


Thumper’s unsolicited advice for the day.


Angel, Kirby and Max said...

I grew up in the 50" and 60's in small town Texas. After 5th grade, girls had to wear dresses. School policy1 I hated it. My senior year may not my last tine to wear a dress, but it was close. We walked to school! Period, no discussion. It was a block away. the wind blowing up those skirts in winter was not fun! but we did it. Now, I do not own a dress. If I have to dress up, I have nice dressy pant suites! We did walk home for lunch, too. Yes, as soon and my sister and I hit the front door, out came the jeans! I did have a mother that preferred pants and later in life, shorts and tee shirts!

Random Felines said...

well said....I often wonder if my parents didn't feel strange about my brother and I growing brother would spends hours picking out his clothes and getting his hair just right. Me? I am a wash and go kind of girl...still am to this day. I will clean up and wear a dress, but much prefer not too. And I can only hope that the things my SIL "impresses" on my niece don't necessarily stick (thankfully she has me hanging around screwing with her's mother's world view).

Unknown said...

Sounds like a lot of the things I went through with my mom, Karen. I went through periods where I didn't mind a dress once in awhile but I grew up mostly tomboy and my mom and I had lots of the same issues.

Taz's mom Meg said...

I don't remember, Karen, when you first came to our little corner of Texas. Had you been here while we were in grade school, you wouldn't have liked it: dress code said girls had to wear dresses. Elementary girls COULD wear shorts under our dresses, and indeed, we HAD to be wearing shorts in order to play on the monkey bars. Some time during junior high the dress code was relaxed enough so that we could wear pants. By the time we got to HS, we could even wear JEANS!! As for parenting, our daughter is a real girly-girl. She never liked wearing pants as a child. Now she doesn't like wearing dresses (to school) because she has an insulin pump and dresses make it harder to reach her pump. But she doesn't mind wearing dresses when we go out. However, her interests tend toward the performing arts, which is driving my husband crazy. Heaven forbid she should want to major in music when she gets to college. Or worse, be AN ACTOR!! (I give you permission to laugh now, as the proud mother of The Boy!) I just want her to be a happy, well-adjusted adult, and to find a way to make a living doing what makes her happy.

Just Ducky said...

I too was and probably still am a tomboy. BUT, we had to wear dresses or skirts to school. It wasn't until college where I could do the jeans/shorts and tshirt routine.

I do own a couple of dresses, but probably haven't had them on in years.

Anonymous said...

Never had trouble with clothing because when I was a kid, dresses were all girls had unless you went in baby coveralls! Pants were not even sold for girls! I never had a choice till I started working and then pant suits became a style and we were allowed to wear them. Now I almost am forced to wear skirts or dresses since I have a yeast infection that gets really bad when I wear slacks or jeans. Somehow I prefer to not have to itch constantly which can be absolute agony! This happened after catching bronchitis 2x in 6 months and coughing off 17.5 pounds. The massive antibiotics gave me the yeast problem! Glad I'm alive though.

Thumper said...


When I got to Duncanville (7th grade) we could wear jeans...just not jeans with a double seam on the outer seam. I never figured that one out. I was really comfortable in D'ville, and don't remember ever being teased there. Well, not for that. My over the top love of Star Trek, that got me teased ;)

Mighty Kitty said...

To paraphrase a Shakespearean quote....To your own self be true and as night follows day, you cannot be false to anyone else. That pretty much says forget the kind of clothes, wear what is most you! (I hope I got it right! lol

Lynn said...

I grew up when you had no choice, girls wore dresses. You couldn't go to school in anything but a dress. There was an experiment in allowing pants on Fridays but administration objected to the tight jeans some of the high school girls wore so it was dropped. I went to a country school which had all 12 grades on the same campus.
My daughter insisted on dresses in all kinds of weather until she started grade school when she switched to pants and I don't think she wore a dress until she got married at 22. Now she mostly wears pants because of her job but she will wear a dress for some dress-up occasions.

DILLIGAF said...

Good job it's unsolicited ....Soliciting's an offence tha knows ;-)

4D ;-) x