Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gender Confusion

My friend Michelle reminded me of the time another dog walker from the hill thought I looked FABULOUS because I had lost so much weight and looked like a little boy. Now this guy had the most beautiful Standard Poodle clipped to perfection by his owner, a hairdresser. He clearly had a preference for very skinny men.

This happened at a time in my life when I was under extreme duress. I had discovered that my recently deceased husband had lied to me in a way that left me in financial meltdown. I discovered that financial duress is nothing in comparison to emotional duress. I stopped sleeping and lost weight at an alarming rate. Normally I would welcome the loss of a few pounds, but at 5'9" I had gotten down to a size 4 and was still dropping.

And to top it all off.... now I looked like a boy.

This has been a problem throughout my life despite the length of my hair. As a teenage girl my circle of male friends were jokingly shoving me around. The principal came to my rescue, but my buddies volunteered my name as Jack (short for Jack of all trades). The principal told them to leave "him alone." Argh.

For 11 years I studied Tae Kwon Do. I attained the level of third degree black belt. A small girl saw me after class, out of uniform, putting in earrings. "But you are a man, you can't wear earrings." I think because I was so much taller than her own father she was confused. Or so I would like to convince myself. Argh.

And then the ultimate. My husband and I were long distance bikers. A weekend might consist of riding up north and then through the White Mountains and back- about 250 miles. One time at the end of a trip we ran into my Tae Kwon Do instructor. We told him about that day's ride. He looked me square in the eye and asked "Are you a lesbian or something?" Huh? This, while my husband was standing right next to me.

I told a good friend, who is a lesbian, about this slam. She wanted to know why I thought it was an insult. Touche & so right. But it did and still does bother me. Why when a man is threatened do they resort to disparaging a woman's sexuality? They are frigid or whores or ball busters or any number of other things.

I hang on to the fact that these stupid comments are a more accurate reflection of the speaker than they are of me.


Michelle said...

We can totally discount gay-man-from-hill. He never once paid me a compliment (and usually gay men love me) except that I "had excellent PATINA on my face" what the hell is that? If it means anything, I think I look like a boy sometimes (or a rather chunky man with long hair)
I think deep down inside (and at the risk of sounding too much like a feminist) men are afraid. Of what you may ask? Of everyting. But especially of women, and most especially of women who do not fit into a particular slot, or label.

SMC said...

Well, I have to laugh at my own buying into this whole stupid dynamic. When forced to move out west by my post college boyfriend, I got so whipped into a frenzy that the worst punishment I could think of was to buy and wear make up. I bought a mascara. To this day it is the one and only type of makeup I wear.

Well..... the occasional lipstick for a wedding or something.

Nickie said...

I'm chuckling to myself, because I am very much a female but the other night, waiting for my husband to come out of the store, a couple kids in the next car over asked me if I was a boy or a girl!

I wasn't sure how to take that! I guess it's hard to tell when I'm in my scrubs! No, I don;t wear make up--except to weddings and such, and my husband doesnt care for make up either.

SMC said...

Yeah Nickie.... androgenous clothing doesn't help any. I can't help it either. Jeans and a sweater is my uniform on weekends. I try to mitigate the look with heels, but.....

I think kids get very conservative in their interpretation of gender roles/image. Where do they get it? Us.