Partner Lesson #4: Butch People Primp, Too!


This one is short and sweet:  everyone is vain!  Someone (no names mentioned) might spend more time getting dressed and examining herself in the mirror than I do.

My gender queer partner constantly busts stereotypes for me, mostly by being quirky, neurotic and unexpected.  I kind of enjoy this, at least in the abstract.  When we’re 20 minutes late (again!) because she can’t decide what to wear, well, I grow impatient and even angry, rather than taking the time to remember how I enjoy her neuroses.

Here’s the thing:  my partner worries constantly about getting the right haircut (in spite of the fact that she’s had basically the same haircut for almost all of the 29 years that I’ve known her).  She tries on the same t-shirt in four different colors before making up her mind.  She asks me to help her decide between this boy hiking boot and that boy sandal.  This brown shoe and that brown shoe–which looks better with the khakis?  Should she wear the gray khakis or the beige khakis (same exact style, bought at exactly the same time).

Now, sometimes the gender expression actually causes the problem.  What she’s really deciding is if this pair of pants will express the right mix of boy/girl, or if it will tip her too far toward girl and she’ll feel awkward in her skin all night.  But beyond the more serious facts of body image, gender, social acceptance, self-expression is the simple fact that I, the femme, think about dressing, primping and looks about 75% less than my butch partner.

Now, I’m not an normal femme (or a normal anything).  I make a decision, and then I put myself together either with enjoyment (usually, “Ha-ha, let’s f#$% with everyone’s idea of fashion), or enjoyment (“I am hot!  Even at this age!”), or a sense of chore, (“Guess I better wear makeup, since it’s all theatre/film people).  For most of my life I never did my hair (it fell to my waist and a ponytail or braid took the least time), never wore makeup, and even wore a kind of uniform (jeans, pretty shirt, fleece or leather jacket).  I think it might be hard to find a femme who spent as little time on her appearance as I did (and still do, though now it’s more since I’m an actress).  I had a teacher in grad school who confronted me.  She thought since makeup and clothes make me significantly more attractive, I should do myself up all the time.  (I did not say, “When hell freezes over,” but I thought it.)

So, the lesson–gender is not a determining factor in how long it takes someone to get ready to go out.  It’s not a determining factor in vanity.  As the title says…Butch people primp, too.  My partner, the tech geek, the khakied, blue-jeaned, t-shirted, hiking booted phenomenon, is a big-time primper.

Also, she’s usually late because of it.  Now that I’m a quasi-Buddhist, I may sit on the floor of her bedroom, being present with what is as she throws similar clothes all over the furniture, trying to decide what to wear to the party, the dance, the dinner with friends.

“How do I look?” she’ll ask.

“Primped,” I’ll answer.  And then I’ll run for the hills.

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