Tuxes and Gowns

I had to do a double-take on this news article:

The Itawamba County school board announced today it would cancel the Itawamba County Agricultural High School prom after a gay student challenged the district on its policy forbidding same-sex dates.

This, unfortunately, doesn’t appear to be a teenager’s overreaction, and does indeed appear to be the school board being… I don’t even know. They actually ban same-sex dates over there. It’s actually a school policy. The ACLU is involved.

I am particularly fascinated by this part:

School officials told McMillen last month that she could not bring her sophomore girlfriend to the prom and also told her she could not wear a tuxedo.

(Emphasis mine.)

I wonder what school officials were thinking to accomplish with the ban on tuxedo-wearing gals. Were they thinking, “If we let the gals wear tuxedos, then we’d have to let the boys wear gowns, and that’s wrong!”?

Of course, I remember my prom. There were a lot of things wrong with it, primarily involving my father, but one of the things wrong with it was that I hated gowns. I hated fancy dresses. I hated spaghetti straps and especially the kind of bra you have to wear with a spaghetti strap/shoulder-less dress. I hated pantyhose. I hated heels. I still hate all those, actually.

But you had to wear that kind of ensemble for prom if you were a girl. Back then it didn’t have to be a school policy, it was simply an implied, immutable law of nature: Girls wear dresses, boys wear suits. Girls could wear dresses that were only as long as their upper thighs, and boys could wear suits that burned your retinas, but as long as the clothing was correct gender-wise, that was okay. (Both happened at that prom.)

And that was that.

Things didn’t change for me in college, except that I learned a lot more about the kinds of people I was attracted to (both male and female, which is worrying to someone whose sex education came only from a special field trip made in high school ((I know people like certain kinds of traits in other people they’re attracted to. I prefer people who look androgynous, and are as at home in a gown as they are in a tux. Still do, it’s never gotten “fixed.”))), and observe more closely the difference between male and female clothing. Especially when it came to formal wear.

No, I never got involved with anybody; I just made a trip with a guy who needed to get a nice interview suit, and he had money, and needed shopping support. ((I love shopping. It’s the gatherer in me. In person. Via catalog. Online. Clothes? Books? Hardware? It doesn’t matter. It’s shopping!)) I was impressed at how sensible men’s clothing tended to be, sizing-wise; actually measured in inches by inseam and outer seam, for instance, whereas with women’s clothing you could define a “size 10” to mean almost anything.

And while men’s clothing tended to be more or less same-y, there was no pantyhose, and there were quite comfortable shoes. There wasn’t freezing your shoulders off with some paper-thin scarf that did nothing but set off your, your, I don’t know; there were jackets, which you could take off and fling over one shoulder to look cool, or at least attempt to.

And vests. Vests fascinated me for some reason, possibly in ways that bodices fascinate others.

Granted, men’s clothing could be rather over-warm, but there is such a thing as shirt sleeves. And ties, one could definitely do without ties, but there are such things as clip-ons (now, if there was a clip-on that actually looked like a real tie…).

I did not dare mention any of this to my parents. To tell the truth, this was little more than a minute side interest compared with trying to survive my parents’ controlling intentions and abuse.

Perhaps it’s telling that literally two days after I cut off all contact with my parents ((And after an exciting weekend of my parents sending me a death threat, then my parents threatening my dorm’s clerk, then my parents showing up on my friends’ doorsteps!)) I bought a tux.

Well. Not really a tux. My friends wouldn’t allow me to go into the men’s clothing store. So I got a women’s knockoff, which was one step away from a tuxedo anyways. It didn’t matter that the only color it was available in was shiny powder blue. It was a tux. -ish.

But it didn’t really matter. I never got to wear the tux to any of the functions for professors/students. My friends strongly discouraged it, because it would attract ire from professors, and if you’re trying to hang onto a teaching or research assistantship, you do not want to do that. So I had to get… a short spaghetti strap dress. With pantyhose. And heels. I believe they’re the type of heels that are called “fuck-me heels.”

Eventually I lost the tux, along with a lot of other things. But hell. It wasn’t a real tux anyways.

These days I work for a dot.com, so suits and dresses don’t really matter in any way at all. Everyone is in some variant of a t-shirt and jeans (or kilt). Recently I also discovered that loose skirts are wonderful and I think everyone should try them.

But really… I still want my tux.