So the WAM! Prom was hella fun, and apparently raised something like $1000 for the cause so far. You can augment that number by donating to WAM and getting a download of one hour’s worth of sweet 80s mash-ups that Marc Faletti engineered just for the occasion (you can hear all the tracks at that link; my favorite is “Nice Guys”).
Speaking of Nice Guys…after a lot of thought, a long afternoon pawing through the racks of the Salvation Army, and the purchasing of a loud, rather fugly, retro-80s-style tunic that will be returning whence it came, I decided to ditch the whole Valley Girl/Madonna thing and instead, dress up as a nice guy: Back to the Future‘s Marty McFly.
I basically robbed The Dude’s closet: his rusty brown t-shirt, his jeans, his high-top Chucks, and his puffy orange down vest. And his reflective “cop” sunglasses and walkman. My long-sleeved shirt was from the Sally Ann, and I wore my own undies and jean jacket. I was looking pretty (Mc) fly.
The Dude was thinking about going as Marty, since he owns all that stuff, but he’s grown out quite the beard and didn’t want to shave it. So he thought and thought, and ended up dressing as another (somewhat) iconic 80s film character, Lazlo Hollyfeld.
Anyway, while it might have been fun to doll up with frosty blue eyeshadow, huge dangly earring and jelly bracelets, it sure was a lot simpler–and cheaper, since I would have had to lay out for all the make-up and accessories that would have made my ensemble recognizably “80s”–to go the dude route.
And so, again, I got a little object lesson in the price, both literal and metphorical, of stylish femininity. My dudely primping involved feathering my hair, brushing my eyebrows out to their bushiest, and dabbing a little powder around my eyes to downplay the dark circles that usually make me look like I’m wearing a shit-ton of purple eyeshadow. (Michael J. Fox is more peaches-and-cream than I ever was.) I jammed a chapstick and keys in my jeans, so once I got to the prom I didn’t think about anything but having a good time. I didn’t have a purse to keep track of, and I gave no thought to my “look.” I got sweaty, and it didn’t matter. My hair became unfeathered, and I didn’t care. I did have to ditch the vest, though; that thing was hot.
What I did notice is how my carriage and body language changed: on my way there, I realized that I was walking a bit more slowly (seriously, I’m normally a fucking Olympic speed-walker), and with a wider stance. I stood on both feet, with my weight evenly distributed; no more contrapposto. I kept my hands jammed in my pockets if I wasn’t gesturing more expansively than normal. I’d felt this somewhat at Halloween, when I dressed up (sorta) as a man, but the addition of dancing really made these differences apparent.
I love to dance, but I was self-conscious at first, since hip-swinging or shimmying seemed…wrong. How do men dance? Jokes were made about the “white man’s overbite,” but the default 80s Molly Ringwald kicky thing didn’t work for manly me. I started picturing Emilio Estevez, or Tom Cruise in Risky Business, or scenes from Footloose (which, conveniently, were among the film clips playing on a loop). Everything was different. My center of gravity moved up, it became more about my limbs than my torso, and actions were tighter, rather than more fluid or sinuous.
It was a bit baffling. As someone who spends a LOT of time dashing or refuting gender-binaries, it was odd to feel a really strong urge to change my usual carriage because of my dress and temporarily adopted identity. Ultimately, the combination of dress and wanting to “pass” (for fun costume purposes) or “fill the role” led to some significant alterations and a new experience of my body. The freedom from giving a shit about my appearance was pretty fantastic, but re-learning “how to dance” was a different lesson: it’s not that I hadn’t seen guys dance before, but I’d never felt what “dancing like a (white straight middle-class USian) guy” felt like when put into my own body.
I know it’s not “this is how dudes ARE,” but “this is how dudes act like dudes,” but it was still strange to feel how differently one can occupy space, and to realize how much my “normal” posture and carriage is conditioned by my own (largely unconscious) gender identity and the expectations that come with it. Ultimately, it made me realize anew, and with a concreteness I lacked before, that as much as I see (female) drag as a performance of femininity, masculinity–even of the non-macho variety–is governed by its own clear set of rules and regulations, too.