Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Goodbye, Church Lady Stuff & "Non-Sexist" Gifts

When I was trying to put insoles in my heeled boots for my show performance (discovered I already had some in there but used them in a different pair of heels), I decided to do something my husband had been bugging me to do for ages: clean out my shoes & closet!

Now, with all my talk of clothes you probably think I own 100 pairs of shoes at least. Nope, not even close. I own less than 30. Most of those shoes weren't even bought or selected by me, in fact. I also have a decent amount of clothing that wasn't bought or selected by me. This is despite being the oldest in my family: my mother managed to get hand me downs from other people's older kids. My mother's resourcefulness is legendary, to say the least. She probably inadvertently taught me how to persuade others & definitely taught us how to stand on our own two feet.

As an actress/creative type, I've been big on having diversity in my clothing. I don't fit one style or one type & have different moods. You can't just stick me in one box or say "Oh, she'd never wear THAT!" I've done many things in life & you never know when that evening gown or cheerleader outfit will come in handy. I've bought dresses I just liked the look of & then wore them to events later on, leading to raves over it. My eye for dressing myself is something I take pride in & it doesn't seem to have dulled at this point.

Another thing about my clothing: I bought a lot of it in the late 90s since I didn't have to pay for car insurance & couldn't get other things. At that time, there were apparently more retailers selling "Made in the USA," including JcPenney (where I worked in high school & got a 40% discount on anything I could wear to work). Style differences aside, a lot of my things aren't replaceable.

I have one definitive church lady dress that I wouldn't getting rid of since it epitomizes the frumpiness of that style & you never know when you might need such an outfit. What if I had to play a fundie or pretend to be one?

However, I noticed that I had other dresses I didn't need & that were too big. One was this dress with red roses that I bought my replacement for (the replacement is a short cocktail dress I wore on the extra gig where Method Man was apparently present). I actually got my replacement so I could get rid of that one since it's now too big on me.

I also found this dress I have in a color design I love but the style doesn't work. It's also too big & when I wore it, I had gaps in the front where you could see my bra. If you saw it, you would definitely think of one of those church revival broadcasts from the late '80s or early '90s.

I might be the first skinny person in history who was never remotely overweight & has to get rid of things she got in middle & high school because they're now too big on her. I've aged & gotten thinner; what the Hell?!?!

I was ultimately motivated to get rid of certain things for a few reasons:

A) How many church lady outfits do I really need? I mean, I don't go to church & have no real desire to do so.

We're not talking business casual clothing or stuff you could wear in an office or the courtroom. I'm talking things that when you look at them, you immediately think of some televangelist's wife or older daughter.

B) I didn't pick out this stuff or buy it for myself. What's my compulsion with keeping things that arguably aren't really in my style or aesthetic?

C) I'm not a little kid anymore. I've also started a new regime where I act as me for any audience. I don't do what some of these Dear Prudence letter writers do & "act on my best behavior" around in-laws or let them tell me how to dress, otherwise attempting to infantalize me. No, thank you! I would never be married to a man whose family did that to me. I had enough of it in my own household with my own mother.

So if I've adopted the "accept me for me or go fuck yourself" ethic, why keep things that have no relevance to it? Who am I trying to impress or please? No one.

Seriously, I wonder what the hell is wrong with women who put up with that shit? If my in-laws made me call them "Mr." & "Mrs.," I would make them call me "Ms." and "Esquire/Attorney at Law/Counselor." Same for everyone else, in fact. Celebrities included.

If you make me call you "Mr." or "Mrs./Ms.," you have to call me "Ms." and refer to me as "Esquire/Attorney at Law/Counselor." I can be a prick too & will sharply rebuke you if you demand me to use formality while you try using my first name, which is informal! I'm married but "Ms." is my preferred title. Save the "Mrs." for formal events (ideally where you're including my spouse) or for when I look like an old lady.

NEVER refer to me as "Mrs. [Husband's first name][Husband's last name]" if you are not from my husband's family or someone we know well since I will brand you a sexist for making me an accessory on my husband's relationship charm bracelet vs. an independent person with opinions, feelings, preferences, etc.

Asking for formality tends to mean you will not have a warm or authentic relationship with someone. Granted, this comes from a woman who never had to call anyone "Mr." or "Mrs." or use other titles unless the person was a teacher or a school administrator at her school.

My mother taught us that respect is earned, not given just because you've managed to live on this planet longer than we have. We met some very shitty adults in my childhood who were not worthy of respect & my mother basically told us we didn't have to respect them. I hope my sister continues to raise her kids with that critical eye toward "respect your elders." Her oldest son has already done us proud with that one since he's called out BS by adults at the age of 9.

D) It doesn't fit! Am I keeping this stuff so if I gain a little weight, I don't have to go completely naked?

E) Then, finally, I've never worn it. If I haven't worn it after having it 10+ years, why am I still keeping it?

There was also the corollary of "God, this is so uncomfortable on me!" as for why I haven't worn something. Age does not make a pair of shoes more comfortable on your feet.

So it makes me feel better to get rid of some things. Asked my neighbor if she wanted anything & some of the clutter got out that way. Now I just have to find a place for a very conservative bridesmaid dress & 4 pairs of size 8 shoes (two of them open toed). I can take some of it to Bottomless Closet, a non-profit that provides business clothing to women in NYC. I like their concept, they have their financials out in the open for you & I donated there before without hassle or BS. Perhaps it's also a weight off my psyche & saying "Hey, I'm an adult now & I don't have to impress or hide from anybody!"

I also got information recently about an attempt to create a list of "non-sexist Christmas gifts" from UltraViolet, a progressive organization that deals with women's issues.

Personally, I feel sexism is in the eye of the beholder. We had Barbies but we never played "Barbie goes to the prom" or "Math is hard" Barbie. Barbie was a domestic abuser who beat Ken & our other dolls in our world. She was pretty much Satan in our world & everyone had to flee from her. Yeah, this might give you some insight on how we grew up except my father wasn't a domestic abuser (a fact he touted many times, in fact, especially if you talked about his drinking). My mother even said that she would leave my father if he ever laid a hand on her & reminded us that "they always go to sleep." Our 99.9% female cast were strong women who stood up for themselves & their kids. Playing Barbie in this way, I don't think you could say we were corrupted into some sexist thinking or mores; Barbie might not have been a great person but she certainly wasn't a weakling! I'm also the oldest & my parents wanted me to be a boy; they never seemed disappointed though, maybe because some of my behavior is more traditionally masculine than feminine like being the responsible one and standing up for myself all the time.

Sexism is something you learn from the home environment, parenting in particular. We didn't really learn that since my mother had to do almost everything out of necessity. She had maybe 1/2 a parent to work with at best because of my father's alcoholism & at one point, she was a single parent since they separated.

Barbie is not the old blackface figurines from yesteryear, where just looking at them evokes the racism. Even if you look at a Barbie objectively, I don't think you'd find sexism there. I guess me also being thin colors that view but it's my opinion.

When I got information about it, I felt like "Can't we just have gifts? Can't we just BE?" We got toy cars as kids as well since my father is a car enthusiast (and my sister also has some interest there). I feel like a cigar is just a cigar & what you do with things or how you use them is what counts vs. the presence of a toy. I would certainly never say "Oh, my niece can't have a Barbie doll because of the 'math is hard' Barbie." You have to watch how kids are playing and go from there. I also believe in learning by showing vs. telling someone to do or not do something.

I refuse to go around thinking about sexist implications of gifts. This is an example of one of those instances where I think some people are being too feminist for their own good & fussing over the wrong issues. There's no need to shove men down or make everyone live in drudgery when life is hard enough already with the things you can't control. Conduct bothers me a trillion times more than a Barbie ever would. I say get the damn gift that will make your recipient happy & stop telling kids what they want to have!

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