ON OWNING MY SEXUALITY

This outfit is what your grandmother might good-humoredly refer to as a “getup.” I think the effect achieved is a sort of Hasidic/Japanese cultural mash-up as reinterpreted by Mary-Kate Olsen. One guy actually said to me, “Shalom,” in passing. It’s a look not tied to any particular expression of my sexuality, a look that says, “I don’t need you to want to have sex with me. I don’t need to be conventionally attractive to feel good about myself!” And I owned that. I felt that. Until my train arrived and as I stepped onto the car, I saw the cute guy I’d given my number to some months before.

There’d only been one brief coffee date, but we’d seen each other in passing recently and frequently enough that there couldn’t be any pretending not to know each other. So I sat down next to him. In that moment, I became hyper-aware that I did not, in fact, own my sexuality. I felt absurd and a bit cartoonish. My disregard for other’s opinions, and other’s perception of my sex or my gender (“Oh, sorry, from the back I thought you were my grandmother”) was no longer something to be ignored. I was here, next to this supercute guy, wearing Birkenstocks with socks. I had on a skirt over polyurethane leggings. My hat had set me back a whopping $5 at a thrift shop. I wasn’t quite ready to go dancing on tables or have sushi eaten off my naked body or flirtatiously spell my name in whipped cream on a guy’s bare chest. You know – normal, sexy things. I couldn’t help but feel like I’d been unceremoniously thrust back ten years in my life. Suddenly I was in the high school cafeteria, a California transplant walking around in Elements skate shoes because aren’t they hella cool?

I’ve finally gotten to a point in my life where I feel almost definitely 90-100% comfortable with my body. This is a big deal for me because in high school, when I started to get chest hair, I freaked the F*CK out about it. I skipped a graduation pool party because I was so mortified of my chest hair and the thought of people seeing it. It shocks me a little bit, saying that now, because it seems so preposterous, but at the time it just made me feel so old to have chest hair. I felt like I had lost my “boyhood” in some way and I didn’t want my peers to find out. I was hairy and I hated it. I hated body hair because it was something beyond my control that articulated my sexuality in a much more adult way than I was comfortable with at the time. I was just a kid! I wanted to have foppy hair and be tan and hairless, like all the other boys who weren’t prematurely sporting a chest carpet.

Now, I make jokes about being an “otter,” though I don’t have a particularly firm grasp on what that means and should probably tone that shit down considering it’s a search term people are legitimately using to find my blog. Long story short, I used to be a bit “cray” when it came to body confidence, and am now doing much better. But what is body confidence vs. self confidence?

And so I found myself there, sitting next to this guy on this train, and we talked and it was fine. I survived. But as I grow older and my sense of style becomes less rigidly defined by my sex (if I want it to), I have to wonder if these moments that wrench me out of my comfort zone, an evolving space as it is, will become more or less frequent. When I get married will I want to wear a skirt? A kimono? A turban? I want to feel comfortable in any and all of this and I want to feel like I own my sexuality regardless of the sociosexual dynamic of being in a relationship. And as I grow older – when I pick my kids up from school, for instance – what will I be wearing? How will they see me? What will other parents tell them? How will other people inform them about sex and gender and binaries and dichotomies?

We all know you can’t control how others see you, or you and your family; how they interpret what they see and what that means to them. But there’s coming to terms with that and thinking you’ve come to terms with that and then OH SHIT I haven’t come to terms with that and I just want him to like meeeee. So I guess I wrote this just to say that I don’t fully own my sexuality yet; that I don’t necessarily feel 100% comfortable in my own skin when I choose to flout conventions in whatever small ways. But I think I’m ok with knowing that, and knowing that I’m working on it. Photo Anthony Urbano; illustration moi.

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