“I love your androgynous style.” This is something I have been told on more than one occasion. And I am happy to use hashtags like “genderbender” when posting pics of myself in a suit because I realize suits for women aren’t the quote-unquote norm for a fancy occasion. When people think red carpet women, they immediately picture a dress. I, however, more often than think pant suit. It’s not a comfort thing. I love dresses and have many comfortable ones. It’s not a statement about my sexuality, my gender, or me taking a stand against how women are treated on red carpets. Though they are often treated like a mannequin with no talent beyond wearing a designer dress, but I digress. For me, it’s as simple as this: I feel sexy in a suit. And powerful. And clean. And head-turning. I do it for me, because that day, I want to wear a suit so I’m gonna to wear a fuckin’ suit.
And I know you have the best intentions when you tell me I’m “androgynous.” But effectively what you are doing is robbing me of my femininity. The suit does not do this. You do this. You and your ideas of the suit. Your ideas of fashion. Your ideas of what you feel welcome to comment on. My “genderbender” is mine. And you commenting on it is for one: unsurprising, but more importantly: unwanted.
Confused about where to go in this “new” politically correct world? Let me help. Consider noting the feeling evoked by the look that the person has thrown together. “You look commanding.” “I love your presence in this outfit.” “You look radiant, powerful, unstoppable.” Or perhaps the person looks delicate, full of grace, classical, poised, fierce, inspirational, mysterious, confident. Trust me: if you cut through the outfit itself and opt for what is inside instead, I guarantee that that person will remember that compliment over the thousand other “you look beautifuls.” And they will definitely appreciate it more than “I love your androgynous style.”
There are many things I am sure of: my favourite colour is purple; my favourite song is Mr. Big’s To Be With You; I prefer cats over dogs; I have an unhealthy relationship with food; I love to laugh more than most anything else; I’m stubborn; determined; a feminist. I could go on. Despite being able to make such a list, I still get blindsided every few months by how little I know myself. And not like, “oh, that was weird” when acting in a way outside myself, but more like “WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED?”
The most recent moment of pure confusion came when I was talking to a friend about what my perfect guy looks like. I couldn’t answer. I mean, I could: long-haired, bearded, tattooed, burly, glasses a bonus. But running through the list of men I have been with would suggest otherwise. No one on my list fits that description. Oh no wait, there is one. But he only achieved said look after we first slept together. Ain’t that the way?
If none of the people I have slept with fit my quote-unquote ideal, then am I actually really attracted to what I think I am? Or have I just been perpetuating this idea because I hadn’t stopped to ask the question in so long? I’ll take this opportunity to stroke my own ego and say that I’ve never dated this guy because at the end of the day, I care less about the wrapping than the gift itself. I know, I know – I’m a really good person. That must be the reason. Yeah. Well. That OR men that look like that tend to be assholes. It’s definitely one of the two. Probably the latter.
But really I think it comes down to the fact that I am a queer woman that has dated mostly men. The lumberjack vision is antithetical to the parts of me that are attracted to strong, empowered women like the Cara Delevingne, Evan Rachel Wood, and Janelle Monae’s of the world. And until I fully explore that wonderful world, my idea of what I am attracted to will remain just that: an idea. A shoulder shrug. A moment of pause followed by an, “ummm… they just have to be able to make me laugh.” At the end of the day, that’s what I want. And it’s okay to not know the rest.