“you’ve changed,” she said as i rushed out the door. i paused. looked down at my sweater. looked up at my research partner who’d heard the same thing i did.
i had changed.
earlier, i’d been wearing a structured, smart-yet-sassy tiger[ish] print dress with black leggings and knee-high black boots. i had to present to colleagues today and wanted to feel empowered – this is a power dress. it rouses a dominant occupation of space when i teach – i consciously hold back my shoulders, tighten my core as i pace the room with a sense of prowess. as i passed a mirror during my morning child-clothing, lunch-packing, breakfast-feeding, teeth-brushing, face-washing, make-sure-there-is-nothing-in-the-backpack-that-doesn’t-belong, ‘you’ll-miss-the-bus!’ routine, i cringed, knowing that something must change.
now conscious of time, i’d faced my closet and instinctually grabbed a sheer blush tunic, which i knew felt wrong without even glancing at the mirror. the color felt right, though. so i pulled on a light blush sweater instead. i was comfortable in this ensemble, but the leggings were like a second skin, and the sweater was only just long enough. i paused again to check in with my partner. ‘do you think this top supplies enough coverage?’
he glanced up from a book to toss out a ‘you know you are asking the wrong person, right?’ and he is right. in just an hour we would be leading a workshop called [de]coding dress and [un]packing closets, part of a current project about negotiating dress codes in writing center context[s]. we’ve spent hours thinking about/talking about differences in how selves/consultants/humans perform to the situation in writing centers, how dress codes attempt to regulate non-normative bodies, how access is implicated, how we make this a negotiation of identity and professional culture. how he and i perform ethos in different ways.
at times, i find myself more aware of the female-gaze-in-anticipation-of-male-gaze than the male gaze itself, i think [maybe i will unpack this another day]. when i teach, i care to reduce my body’s presence in the room. covering the corporeal to emphasize the intellectual. despite awareness of the conflict that this presents with my sense of learning and doing. despite a deep resistance to the idea that how humans [un]cover their bodies should impact the way that they might be perceived/treated. despite my love of a sassy outfit … personal experience dictates my comfort level. it is far more important to me to remove possibility of objectification in a professional situation. i want nothing to stand in the way of my ideas.
there was not enough time to go back to the closet, and laundry day was a week overdue. i threw on a black and white cheetah print pashmina – to draw the eye up and away from the leggings, to reinvigorate a muted sense of prowess in my now comfy/relatable get-up. propping a pair of black-rimmed, yoko-worthy shades atop the bridge of my nose and tossing my smart, gray workbag over my shoulder, i dashed out the door.