Mary Marcus: Gender inequality and why I hate dresses

Inside Look Comments (2)

I almost bought a dress today. I was on my way to yoga; I spied it in the window of a small shop on Montana that was having a 75% off sale and thought it had possibilities. But when I went back after class, (having wiped myself down carefully in the loo post-class) and tried the thing on, it was a no go. On me, that schmatta cried out for binoculars, old Birkenstocks, and maybe some hat purchased at a sidewalk sale of a camping store. When I told this to the proprietor of the shop, she really lost her cool and did a deep guffaw confirming that I was right.

Not that I have anything against bird watching, I watch birds all the time, but I don’t want to look like a birdwatcher.

I don’t like dresses. I don’t feel comfortable in dresses. I don’t think I look right in dresses. Though I do own one sort of dress that I adore and wear it only sparingly because I don’t want it to wear out. It’s not really a dress, but a long stripe T-shirt that falls exactly right. My dear friend Lydia gave it to me after I admired hers. It is from Muji, that Japanese store, and she sent it to me in the mail from England wrapped around a picture of her darling daughter Martha at age 13 months when she was still very bald and baby-like. I keep Martha’s picture on my altar and Lydia’s T-shirt dress on my best silk hanger. They are two of my favorite things….

Driving home from yoga, I thought about the dress issue. Why do I eschew them?

When you wear a dress, you are vulnerable. The wind can blow it up, you can fall down, some creep can come up behind you late at night when you are out walking your dog, and unless there are black tights underneath, like it or not, there you are in your underpants.

It happened to me my first day living in New York as a young woman. I went out on the street in a pretty skirt and blouse, and wham, the first guy I encountered grabbed my tits and stuck his hand up my skirt.

Thank God, he didn’t get more than a feel.

In case readers are interested, I do not “wear the pants” in my relationship with my husband. I do not wear the pants, and never did, in my relationship with my son. And I certainly don’t wear the pants in my relationship with my little dog Henry. Men boss me around all the time. My husband has been trying for years to get me to clothe myself in a more feminine mien. His latest war with me has been over yoga pants that bag in the ass. He’s thrust his credit card at me on numerous occasions. “For the love of God, go out and buy yourself some yoga pants that that don’t bag in the ass.”

There’s nothing I like better than a pair of baggy-ass pants.

Mothers have to watch out for the welfare of their little boys. Of course they do; there are creeps out there who want nothing more than their equally vulnerable flesh. But sorority girls are not getting sorority boys drunk, giving them drugs, and raping them on college campuses. There is no culture of rape perpetrated by a league of women on vulnerable men.

People are always messing with girls. Think about who gets raped in Congo. Married off before puberty in certain Middle Eastern countries, and divested of their pleasure centers (isn’t the term “lady parts” just so tacky?). And, how can I not think of a certain segment of the male population (with the cooperation of their female cappos) who are trying to control the goings on underneath the skirts of women here in this country. It’s always been clear to me that when you wear a skirt you are asking for trouble. The kind of trouble that you don’t get into if you just wear pants all the time.

Though there are the exceptions…. I’m thinking of this very strange man I used to hand my husband’s shirts over to every week. I had purchased a hundred bucks of discounted dry cleaning cards because I felt sorry for the door-to-door salesman. This was years and years ago. It’s still a family joke, those dry cleaning cards I got talked into. The man who ran the dry cleaning establishment and was always behind the counter was bald; he had some kind of scalp condition. He was overweight and he had a Marine Corps tattoo on his forearm. This creature had on a flowered dress every time I went in there to use up my dry cleaning cards. His thick white hairy legs stuck out from under the dress. Think of Popeye the Sailor Man with dandruff and a hundred extra pounds wearing a dress and you’ve got this guy behind the counter. But of course, being a big burly man, no one was going to mess with him. Myself, I was scared to death of him.

But show me a woman and I’ll show you someone who once upon a time someone tried to take advantage of whilst she was wearing a skirt.

I am overstating the issue. And understating it. And the truth lies somewhere in the middle. In the meantime, I’ll zip it up, and keep on wearing pants.

Mary Marcus

Mary Marcus is the author of Letter from Paris and her next novel, Lavina, will be out in April. You can stay up-to-date on her blog posts at her website.

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On March 8, 2015
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2 Responses to Mary Marcus: Gender inequality and why I hate dresses

  1. K Poetzsch says:

    Mary, I totally agree with you. I have never felt comfortable in skirts and dresses. Men can easily run around and do physical stuff, without worrying if their skirt is gonna fly up and reveal all! I too own just one dress, suitable for either weddings or funerals, and I even resent having to purchase that one. I also think I look better in pants, and that’s what I wear everyday – if somebody doesn’t like it, too bad!

    • mary marcus says:

      Hi, I just saw this over half a year late. Thanks for your comment. I actually bought two dresses recently and love them. Who knew? But of course I wear tights under them. Thanks for writing.

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