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More in my explorations of femininity and gender presentation.

This week, I went out of town to visit a friend who is planning her wedding. She finally has all her bridesmaids in the same country, and I was her model as we started to pick out the bridesmaids’ dresses.

Apparently, I was a good model, because, so said many a bridal shop assistant, I have a tall and slim figure with a small waist. I have the kind of figure these dresses are built for, because designers generally only have a narrow range of bodies in mind when designing, and it’s a range I fit.

What I do not fit in the least are the conventions of a white church wedding, on just about every level. And one of the ways in which this became very evident was how I felt walking into the bridal shops, full of big floofy dresses, because I turned up wearing my black combat boots and a t-shirt that advertised my feminist-student-activist status. Also, I was trying on around about fifty dresses, none of which had sleeves, and some of which were strapless, and I had not shaved my armpits. I kept cracking jokes: ‘I swear I’ll shave my armpits for the wedding’ and ‘I’ll go change back into my combat boots now’. The jokes were because I was feeling the tension between, on the one hand, my affection for floofy dresses, weddings and my friend, and, on the other, how very much I did not belong. I’m not sure if a part of my mind didn’t decide to make me turn up as I did just to emphasise that I am not this, so I didn’t lose that part of myself in the torrent of taffeta and satin and lace and white church weddings.

I do love dressing up, and I am almost as excited about planning out this wedding as is my friend. I was reminded, trying on those many dresses, of those scenes in films in which the awkward bespectacled girl is transformed into a beautiful creature in a prom dress or a ballgown. Except, I was changing the script. I was changing back into my baggy black trousers and my cardigan. I was being the princess and the geek many times, all in one day. Being a whole range of possibilities for women, for me.

Because I am most comfortable when I can move between femininities and masculinities. I find this stuff hard, and I expect that it will take me a while to figure out where I fit in in terms of what my varied forms of gender presentation mean to me. This trip was a speeded-up version of my ponderings, moving rapidly between the poles of who I like to be.

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