My mother and sisters often shop at Macy’s which is right near the CUNY Graduate Center, where I am quite often. One time they made this shopping trip, we figured it’d be nice if I joined them afterwards for pizza.
My mother texted me when they were almost done, and I started packing up to go meet them.
Just one question, my mother texted. Are you wearing a skirt?
No. But I have one with me, in my bag.
Maybe wear it. Your sisters might be uncomfortable with you wearing pants.
I could have just done that. But I was irritated that she was assuming my sisters would be bothered, when she obviously hadn’t asked them.
Both of them have already seen me in pants, I texted back.
But two of the neighbor girls are with us. I don’t know if your sisters will feel comfortable with you wearing pants in front of their friends. They’ll talk to everyone else when they get home…
I don’t remember exactly what I texted back. I know I didn’t want this to be a “dirty little secret” – I had no problem with the neighbors bringing this gossip to the other girls on the block.
But my mother wasn’t insistent, and so I was on my way out the door, sans skirt.
As I was about to get on the elevator, my phone buzzed with another text.
You know what, for Tatty’s sake – wear the skirt.
I was a little surprised. I hadn’t realized my father was here too!
Only in spirit.
I must have stared at that text for ten minutes. If he wasn’t here to see me in pants, how exactly would it affect him at all?
But I pulled the skirt on over my pants before I walked out the door to meet them and get pizza.
It’s easy to avoid having an actual conversation about the effect of my pants-wearing when the person supposedly uncomfortable with it is not the person who is telling me about that discomfort…
To put it another way – my mother was the one who didn’t want me to wear pants.
By shifting the request to someone, anyone else, she was able to maintain the fiction that she accepts my choices and is okay with me wearing pants.
Which she obviously didn’t, and wasn’t.