I spent the July 4th holiday celebrating my independence. I cleaned out my closet. I also cleaned out my dresser drawers. I dumped everything out onto the floor. I kept all the clothes that I like in my current size and one size up. I gave away the rest. I am temporarily liberated from clothing I don’t like and won’t wear. I have space to spare. I threw out two bags of old clothes; three bags of practically new clothing went to the Housing Works Thrift Shop. I’ve done this before.
I sorted through an immense pile of Levi’s ranging from size 32 through 38 inches. Each incremental size in multiple colors and washes. I tossed “work clothes” in sizes 12, 14, and 16 petite. I weeded out a dozen turtlenecks that I can’t wear because they give me hot flashes. I eliminated T-shirts in colors that don’t look good on me (lemon yellow, chartruese, baby blue).
New Yorkers are used to living in small apartments with insufficient closets. We don’t have basements and we don’t have attics. There are three approaches that we take; live like a monk, create unique storage spaces, or live like the Collyer Brothers. Neat freaks tend to go for the first two approaches. They build floor-to-ceiling bookcases in their hallways, buy fancy storage systems for their closets, and put rolling drawers under their beds. Clutterers go for option three. I stack my books sideways and two deep, stuff my sweaters onto overflowing closet shelves, cram my T-shirts into drawers, and avoid doing my laundry because I have no place to put it once it is folded. Clutterers are recidivists. We make the same mistakes year after year.
I periodically purged my closet of women’s clothing, but it kept creeping back in. There was a wedding, or a funeral, or a conference I needed to go to. I bought a blouse, wore it once, and put it back on a hanger in the closet.
I once made a list of combinations of pants, shirts, and sweaters to wear to work. In the morning I put on the next outfit, and worked my way down the list until it was time to go to the dry cleaners and do the laundry. I refused to look in a mirror. I felt false. I tucked a pair of jeans in my pack so I could change after work.
I want to believe that dressing butch is a conscious fashion choice. It would be nice to shift out of casual butch-mode when the occasion requires it and slip into something else. I can’t do it.
I still think there is something wrong with me for being unable to do “it”. I still have shame. I do not want clothing to have that kind of power over me. I do not want to accept that I am incompetent at getting dressed like an adult woman. I do not want to accept what the acuteness of my dysphoria means. I want to believe that I don’t like dressing up; I do not want to accept that I can not do it. That I can not outgrow myself.
It is hard for me to accept failure, to accept that I have my limits. I expect to be able to do whatever I set out to do. I am persistent and stubborn. I do my research. I like to figure out puzzles. I like to solve problems. I am giving up. I am throwing in the towel. It is going to the Housing Works Thrift Shop.