Kind of an oxymoron, isn’t it?
It’s interesting, though: the more room and freedom I’m giving to my butch side — dress sense, shaving*, attitude, “coming out” — the more I’m getting little twinges from my, for lack of a better word, girly side.
I miss girly things.
There, I said it.
Okay, I don’t miss all girly things. I was never a fan of pink, even when I was seven. But some girly things. And it feels like a guilty pleasure, now, when I indulge myself. Like I’m letting the side down by having a bubble bath, or lighting some candles, or feeling a sudden urge to bake. (Or wanting to wear make up. Good god, self.) I haven’t had long hair since I was seventeen, but I can still remember the weight of a ponytail on the back of my neck, and the memory of it gave me a gut-yank of nostalgia the other day. I used to get a lot of pleasure from washing my hair, having it dry silky-soft, and brushing it out. Nowadays I rake a towel through it, throw some gel on, and go.
(Don’t get me wrong: I bitch like hell the second my hair gets down to my ears, now. And I love being able to wash-ruffle-go. And I definitely love looking handsome. But I still remember when ‘pretty’ was my goal for the day, not ‘rugged and charming’.)
A lot of this is motivated by seeing my dad today. We catch up every two or three months (mostly so he knows I’m still alive), and we go grocery shopping (mostly so he can inflict vegetables on me). Now, I’ve been dressing either gender-neutral or male-oriented for the past several years, but it’s only lately that I’ve started to look really masculine. And it’s only very recently that I’ve totally embraced it.
Apparently, I’ve changed a little (a lot) in the last three months, because it took my dad a second to recognize me.
We meet in the store, usually, and I was early this time, so I’d already grabbed a cart and started making the rounds when I spotted him across the aisle. I looked up and smiled; he gave me a puzzled smile back, as you would for an overly friendly stranger, and then his eyes widened.
In retrospect, it was really kind of funny. At the time I cursed and wished I’d taken a little more care dressing, rather than grabbing the first pieces of available clothing (jeans, binder, black t-shirt, plaid overshirt). My dad’s always been very cool with my sexuality and personal self-expression, but there’s such a thing as not pushing a man.
Anyway, he smiled properly, and I relaxed and headed over, and we did our normal two-second catch up.
“Good. How’re you?”
Followed by the usual break-away to do our separate shopping. Then we met back up at the tills, and traded more in-depth conversation outside as we packed the cars (“How’re the dogs?” “Good.”). But there was something a little different this time. A little off. And I don’t mean the kind of off you’d expect from a man experiencing a severe moment of daughter-related gender panic. There was just something… new.
I didn’t work it out until he smiled instead of giving me the usual hug, nodded, and tossed off a little salute before flinging himself into his car and driving off.
He was treating me like my brother.
It was a deeply cool moment. But it also twinged me with a bite of nostalgia. Growing up, my dad was an RAF pilot and I was a boarding school brat, so we didn’t spend that much time in each other’s company, but I still damn near idolized him and he treated me like his princess. And later, like his awesome tomboy-girl. Through him, I learned the right way to treat a lady, how to polish my shoes properly, how to shave without slitting my throat (mostly by example), and how to stand my ground like a soldier. Even when everyone else I knew treated me like a ‘good little dude’, or an incredible freak of nature, he just treated me like he always had: his beautiful, bizarre, occasionally disappointing, often strange, strong-willed daughter who’d always really be his little girl.
He wasn’t the best dad — better dads wouldn’t miss or forget half the stuff he did — but he always got the really important stuff right. So I guess I shouldn’t be all that surprised that, when he looked up to find me where his daughter should be standing, he didn’t miss a beat. He still smiled, he still did his dad-duty, and he treated me like a son.
That’s solid gold, really.
But I still have the faintest urge to toss on a skirt, get swept up in a hug, and have my dad tell me I’m beautiful. I think my estrogen is getting the best of me.
*Face, natch. Everything else is staying very much hairy. I’m almost running a hair-experiment, in fact, to see what works for me and what doesn’t. So far, I’m almost disturbingly in love with my happy trail. And there is nothing quite like the feeling of the wind blowing through your leg hair.