Just a little girl in men's clothing: Growing up in bowties, suspenders andsuits
I like men's clothing.
I wish this were a big Ed Wood-like announcement in writing (rather than a poorly shot and performed film about transvestism), but it's not. Everyone in my life knows that I've liked men's clothing for a long time.
I've never thought strangely of wearing a bowtie, suspenders or suit. If I spot a colorful tie or loafers while thrift shopping, I must add them to my collection — a collection that also includes top hat (collapsible), fedora, two tuxedo jackets and several fitted pants.
This love of men's clothing could have come from the fact that my family owned a casual and formal apparel store, but they specialized in women's clothing, not men's. My comfort in wearing men's suits could have been cultivated by my mother's encouragement to be whatever I wanted to be and not let anyone make me feel bad about myself.
Or maybe it's the sheer joy I get from adding a tie or suspenders to an outfit could have come from the love of my idols who are mostly old Jewish men: Four out of five Marx Brothers, Rod Serling and Leonard Cohen. My idols inspired me so much that I figured the best way to channel them was by dressing up as them. Even to this day, new interests in artists such as Warren Zevon or Danny Elfman may dictate what I wear.
Do I have any female idols? Yep, the ones that dressed the way they wanted to: Frida Kahlo, Georgia O'Keefe, Patti Smith and Marlene Dietrich. All women who have tested the boundaries of gender norms in society.
Where did I learn to love men's clothing? Maybe it's the sheer joy I get from adding a tie or suspenders to an outfit could have come from the love of my idols who are mostly old Jewish men: Four out of five Marx Brothers, Rod Serling and Leonard Cohen.
Androgyny is something that has fascinated people for a long time and over the past century has become commonplace in fashion. I can tell you from personal experience that on Halloween I typically go the opposite route from the "slutty nurse/cop/car mechanic/dragon" and dress up as a man's man — chest hair, facial hair and all. While dressed as Freddie Mercury two years ago for Halloween, I shit you not, it was nearly impossible to get curious men away from touching my chest hair.
(Note to ladies: If your goal is to attract men on Halloween, forget the short skirts and boobie tops; just glue a wad of what looks like the inside of Alec Baldwin's nose to your chest. It's like moths to a flame.)
This sort of behavior was more confusing than intriguing to others in grade school, and I distinctly recall that day in eighth grade when I came to school dressed up as Harpo Marx and the drama that ensued. A Harpo Marx outfit required more than just a men's ill-fitted suit and top hat; it also included a blonde curly wig and horn.
The pride I felt flopping through the halls in baggy slacks, an untucked tuxedo shirt, badly tied bowtie and top hat was quickly deflated by a peer who sneered, "What are you, a dyke or something?" I had never heard the word "dyke" used derogatorily before and had absolutely no idea what my classmate was referring to other than a drainage system. When I asked a friend to explain to me what the phrase meant later, I was crestfallen.
In eighth grade, striking comments towards one's sexuality were particularly crushing, since we were all stumbling through a funhouse of gender identification on a daily basis. Thinking back, it makes me laugh. Now, I wouldn't give a flying rat's patootie what that kid thought — gay, straight, transsexual? You can just keep on trying to guess what I am, because who the heck really cares?
The roller coaster that was high school was rocky at times and soon after that incident I tried wearing what "normal" girls wore, like jeans and sweaters from Old Navy. But I never lost my love of the man suit and it was shortly after I moved to Los Angeles that I picked up my old habit.
In my adult life, it's never crossed my mind that wearing men's clothing means anything other than a) I like men's clothing or b) I feel comfortable enough with myself to wear men's clothing. And fortunately in my adult life, I've only encountered people who've thought the same way.
If I ever have a daughter and she tells me she wants to wear tops hats and ties, I will encourage it. Though getting made fun of at 13 kind of sucks ass, being teased for being myself has only made me more confident in who I am.