Halloween of 2015, I was in the height of my 19-year-old teenage-dream romanticized obsession with a skater boy in a band. His cool aura was the most magnetic sensation my heart had yet to experience. I decided to dress like him for Halloween. I borrowed his hat and sweatshirt, I wore my own version of his beat-up Dickies, and I thought I was being really cute by posing like him in pictures—even holding his guitar the way he does on stage.
Later that night, my girlfriends and I walked to CVS to grab some tall cans of Arizona Iced Tea (my dream boy’s favorite casual beverage). The feelings that followed were entirely unexpected. I found myself walking through the dismal night streets with a confidence and authority I had never felt before. For once I didnt feel like prey. The doors opened to the CVS, and it was like the building existed solely for me. I strutted down the aisles like a rock star on a mission. I didn't give unnecessary smiles to strangers. I minded my own business. I was no longer dainty and fraile (the way I was used to seeing my 5’3” body).
“Is it weird that I feel so powerful being dressed like a boy? I feel so in control.” I said in reflection while holding my can.
“You need help.” My friend laughed and rolled her eyes. I suddenly felt the weight of casual insecurities once again.
I thought, “Well, maybe she’s right—maybe I am being crazy. They’re just clothes.”
But deep down I knew they weren’t just clothes. I thought how sad it was that I could only feel that power on Halloween. I channeled my feminist agenda and blamed the patriarchy for my inability to feel like a person who has control and dominance in public settings. I blamed the patriarchy for my inability to feel strong and in-control on days which weren’t Halloween. I wasn’t wrong at all. I still do think the patriarchal idea of femininity has trapped so many women—but I wasn’t seeing the loophole in my patriarchy clothing crisis. Why not dress like a dude whenever I want?
It took me years to feel okay with that concept. I was trained to believe that the way I dress should attract and perhaps even seduce men, never emulate them. But emulate them I did. I slowly gave up shaving my legs—not for statement purposes but out of sheer laziness. When it comes to shaving, I found so much freedom in laziness. I am allowed to not shave my legs if I don’t have time or don’t want to. It sounds like a simple concept, but it took me years to get to that point. Fast forward from that Halloween and that boy who ended up being a heartbreaker, I find myself still thinking about wearing his clothes. It wasn’t a romantic sentiment. It was a power move.
The construct of it all was hard for me to swallow. Why was I so attracted to the boys with beat-up sneakers, fanny packs, and rolled beanies on their shaggy heads? I used to joke that I wanted a boyfriend so that I could have a guy to dress in that style I loved so much. One day it hit me: why did I need to have a boyfriend who dresses like a punk? Maybe I could dress like that myself. Each year I kept cutting my hair shorter and shorter until I had the shaggy length I’d fawned over. Why shouldn’t I embody every boy I ever let break my heart? Wearing those clothes was like harnessing their power for good. I was able to leave the house feeling the confidence I felt in the CVS on Halloween. I felt so free knowing that I had no one to impress.
I looked like my own definition of hot.
It’s more than just clothes. I promise it is more than just clothes. Clothes carry a weight we don’t even realize; they’re an unspoken language. I used to use that voice and language to say “Hello, here I am, a beautiful young lady. Do you not desire me?” Now, the language of my clothes says, “Hello, here I am, fully my own.”
It is the gift of relieving oneself from the pressures patriarchal femininity places on us. It is the freedom of looking in the mirror and saying “I like what I see, and it doesn’t matter if he does or not.”
I still see myself as divinely feminine. I still love my soft heart, my freely emotional mind, my womanly curves, and my acrylic nails I get when I can afford them. But my femininity is expressed in ways I’d like to express it now—it is no longer a harness which controls me. My femininity is my natural body hair growing the way it has grown on women for centuries before me. My femininity is the nurturing way I love my female friends. It is when I decide to get creative and follow those YouTube makeup tutorials before going out dancing. And yes, I want to be the skater boy from Thrasher Magazine, but I also want to be the goddess Venus. Are those two things polarizing? I actually have come to believe they aren’t opposing one another at all. I feel like the goddess Venus also lets her body hair grow and also channels aspects of masculinity in order to be the most authentic goddess she can be.
At the end of the day, I want to be the most authentic goddess I can be. I know I cannot be Her without a sense of confidence and power. I know I cannot be Her while being controlled by societal standards. I know I cannot be Her when trying to appease anyone else. I am Her by being only myself—and sometimes, that self wears men’s pants and baseball caps. Yet I am a goddess still.