Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Skirt Length

“That’s not too short,” my friend offered when I crept out of the bathroom in our hotel room.

“Are you sure?” I asked hesitantly, tugging at the hem. “Because I’ve been yelled at on the street twice now and it seems that should be enough of a lesson that the outfit is inappropriate.”

“No,” she replied slowly, frowning as she considered it. “You’re allowed to show your knees. It’s fine.”

I returned to the full mirror on the wall and stared at the reflection of my lower half. The print dress of which I’m so fond – with the pockets and fluttery sleeves and demure neckline – is causing me no small amount of dismay. When traveling once, I was the recipient of a variation of a ‘nice legs’ comment that I took as sarcastic. I was not, however, acquainted with the man driving the car in front of the conference location so I’m not sure of his real intention. Then, a couple of weeks later, another comment was thrown my way – I didn’t decipher a single word – as I was walking to get gelato with friends from work.

I outwardly ignored both men, not being the type to reply to random idiots who shout out their car windows at passersby. But my stomach curled into a tight knot and stayed clenched for hours afterward. Yet I packed the bit of fabric as my back-up outfit for my latest trip and told my friend she was to honestly evaluate it for propriety’s sake.

“You’re fine,” she insisted and I nodded, frowning sympathetically at myself in the mirror, feeling exposed and nervous and uncertain if I was rather adorable or painfully hideous.

“It shouldn’t be this hard,” I sighed, but, with one final tug at the hem, grabbed my bag and followed her out the door and down the hall. “I thought it was the shoes at first,” I belabored the point. “I wore strappy red heels with it at first.”

“Katie,” she scolded. “I told you the dress is appropriate. I think you look nice. Just relax.”

“It’s just that I hate having my perception proved wrong,” I insisted as we stepped into the elevator. “It’s like someone asking you to prom and getting all excited and then finding out he was joking.”

“Your dress is an immature asshole in high school?”

“I thought I looked pretty,” I explained and waved her off when she said that I did. “I know I’m not beautiful – that’s actually fine now. But I like wearing skirts and dresses and peep-toe shoes. And to think that I instead appear horrible and ridiculous is unsettling.”

“Then I suggest you settle,” she advised, not unkindly. “Because you’re very pretty and sweet and lovely.”

I nodded. But every time I've reached for the dress, standing mostly naked and rather sleepy in my closet, I pause and wince before selecting something else. Even as I hate that two idiots have that much power over my decisions, I don't know that I can handle a third comment. And I don't know how to make it stop bothering me.


Traveler, not tourist said...

Hey Katie.. I have no clue about the length of the skirt, but I'd go with your friend. There are too many assholes in the world. F--k-em'. I'm sure your perceptions are as accurate as they get.

Psycgirl said...

Katie, if you're getting random comments from strangers than in my opinion you look totally hot in that dress. YOu should wear it and be proud :)

kim said...

I love your story (not for the pain that you feel about yourself and the dress), but because it is yet another story that confirms why I study the topic of stranger harassment. I've found that many women react the same why that you did--becoming overly body conscious, angry at the power stupid comments by strangers can have, disgusted at the invasion of privacy.

If you and your readers are interested, I'm currently collecting data for a new study. The survey only takes about 15 minutes to complete and it is open to women and men. I hope you and/or your readers will check it out: http://socialpsychologyresearch.blogspot.com/

microbiologist xx said...

I have this problem with all skirts and dresses. I prefer pants and wear them almost exclusively, but sometimes, I like to wear a dress or a skirt. When I do, I already feel a bit strange because I'm not used to wearing such an outfit. This is made worse by the fact that every single last person I know makes a comment about the fact that I am wearing a dress/skirt. I know these people mean nothing by it, but it makes me feel really uncomfortable. As a result I wear a dress or skirt almost never. Sometimes I even make it to the point of putting on the skirt/dress only to swap it out for pants at the last moment.

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