If you saw me at this moment, you might have a hard time reconciling my black satin with silver rhinestone high heels, silver sparkly jacket, silky black dress, make-up, hair piled on top of my head and jewelry with the uniform I wore for most of my adulthood: black jeans, oversized t-shirt, sturdy sneakers, short hair I never glanced at let alone comb.
Something happened in the last few years, something I made happen as a way to bring back to the surface who I always was: a femme in hiding. “But you would make a great diesel dyke,” a friend of mine used to say me. Fair enough, but not who I am.
When I was a kid, I used to draw for hours each day, and what did I draw? Women in dresses, skirts, evening gowns. I had secret ambitions to be a fashion designer. Put a catalogue in front of me in 1969 or a clothing website today, and what I look at first are the dresses, especially the frillier ones that feature black lace, gold silk or hot pink ruffles. As I got older, I tended toward dresses and skirts whenever possible, even going so far as to camp regularly in denim dresses or corduroy skirts.
But then something happened: I gained weight, and decided I didn’t look thin enough in anything that flared from the waist. I hunted down princess cuts with that v-shape waist that gives the center of the torso the illusion of narrow girth. Yet it became increasingly difficult to find things that fit well, flattered and were comfortable, and so I succumbed to jeans. Black jeans, with a hidden elastic waistband or stretch fabric, and over them, t-shirts large enough to give coverage. Three pregnancies, two graduate degrees, many teaching jobs and thousands of dishes later, I didn’t pay my appearance any mind, to the extent that a former rabbi once told me it was great that I didn’t ever think about how I looked. Or was it really?
Eventually, and fairly recently, after living through cancer and then with low-grade chronic illness for three years, I realized that there was a direct line between health and beauty, and following it led me back to who I am. I’ve gone through various passions since then, all of them sticking: first exercise and especially yoga, then clothes cut to fit and full of colors and textures I loved, jewelry — which I started making myself, make-up even (right before a show with Kelley Hunt, when I saw her applying bare minerals on her face and asked me to put some on me too), shoes, and lately, even comfortable heels, and of course, dresses.
While I wouldn’t doll myself up this way too often, tonight, right before I give a joint poetry and song performance with Kelley, I put on the dog, and this dog likes being walked, groomed and aiming itself toward what flows, shines and delights.