I am not What I Wear and Other Lies we Tell Ourselves

cracked face

“I want to be taken seriously dammit!”

Her skin is fair, her face, neck, and breasts, the same skin tone. If her blouse were cut any wider, her nipples would escape. Once, she told me with pride that she didn’t need a bra. I want to use my hands to verify, but I check this irrational impulse and listen to her instead.

“I mean who stumbles over cleavage, right? That’s just like . . .  soooo eighties!” She flicks her bangs and sucks her lemon ice tea, her every movement a pirouette in seduction.

“Right,” I reply, aware that almost every eye in the restaurant is on us, on her, as they have been ever since she walked in. Tall and lithe, like cat woman, could she be unaware of her magnetism? Or does her power lie in contrived innocence?

I let her lead, the conversation that is, but I don’t follow. If I say what I feel, she would think I’m like so eighties, anti-feminist, old–er, and sexually repressed by my sociocultural and religious background.

I let her lead, and then I come home and write this blog post.

***

 Whether you believe in evolution or creationism, gone are the days when humans roamed free and breeze cooled what hung bare for all to see. Fig leaves or animal skin no longer covers our “delicate” parts. Along the way, we discovered clothes, which define standards of decency in public. If you walk naked on the streets, people might consider you mad, and little children might giggle.

Imagine . . .

Nine o’ clock, Monday morning, you walk into the building and approach the counter. A man sporting dreadlocks, a cut-off denim vest, and three gold chains with huge dollar-sign pendants, rises to greet you.

“Good morning, how may I help you today?”

You shake his outstretched hand and look around the room: off-white walls, ficus plants at the corner, black straight-back reception chairs, display screens, ATMs, and the revolving door behind you.

“Sorry, I thought . . . where . . . is this the bank?”

You visit your doctor for a routine exam. An assistant ushers you in. The doctor has her back to you. When she turns, her wavy black hair bounces. Her smile is pleasant as she motions for you to take a seat. Your eyes fasten on her cleavage; the V of her blouse would make the Kaghan valley in Pakistan weep in envy.

“Is something wrong?” she asks politely.

“No,” you say as you swallow and drag your eyes to her face.

“How are you doing today?”

“Fine. But, I . . . I’m here to see the doctor.”

At the office, you hit your keyboard with the gentle force of your ideas. When your colleague stops over and says hi, you reply without taking your eyes off the monitor. He walks a few paces closer, so you look at him.

“Was there something I could help—”

You cannot complete your question because you are nearly eye level with his white boxers. Your eyes travel up past the narrow line of hair around his navel, which fans out like a bush on his chest. You spare a glimpse for his biceps before you take in the black bow tie on his neck. When you meet his eyes, his voice sounds distant. You have not been listening.

“I hope will you be done with your report on time. I need to put everything together for the presentation.” He turns and walks away.

Your yes response carries no conviction because you are staring at his boxers, the bit of fabric trapped in the crack of his buttocks.

Why are clothes important? Why do you wear what you wear?

Girls, we’ve come a loooong way! We’ve leaped from the bedroom to the boardroom, made sandwiches in the kitchen and laws in parliaments. We’ve flown beyond prep school all the way to Outer Space and signed cheques for weighty sums in our name too. But what more did my great, great, great, great, great-grandmother fight for? To see me strut almost naked on the red carpet, while my beau stands by my side fully clothed in a tux? Where is equality? Why isn’t he as naked as I am?

While the V’s on our dresses reach our navel and our hemlines tease our bums, men objectify us, fully clothed, they gawk at us, only human, they ogle “with style”. We are progressing regressing to an upscale version of cave woman.  It won’t be long before we’ll be swaying down the streets our breasts running free. We’ll hi-five each other in our Victoria Secret fig-leaves tong, “Power to you girl; we’ve come a long way baby!”

And the men? They’ll be walking down the streets too, savouring women’s liberation, hailing women’s empowerment, fully clothed of course.

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

Photo credit: Pixabay.com

Original image URL: http://pixabay.com/en/cracked-cracks-face-people-woman-164310/

Photo tags: Cracked Cracks Face People Woman Female Portrait

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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87 thoughts on “I am not What I Wear and Other Lies we Tell Ourselves

  1. And I am here thinking,
    If Eve never ate the apple, livelytwist wouldn’t be writing about this. You all brought it upon yourself.

    PS: For those who don’t understand what sacarsm is. The above is an example before you all start pelting stones in my direction.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Maybe, we can turn it into a ‘baring all’ competition, for equality’s sake.Lol
    I have been cruising round this corner of yours, and I find your posts intellectually inspiring (see me trying to speak english na)
    About this topic…You have said it all.
    Dress the way you’d love to be addressed!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. That was fun. And as a related topic, I just saw “Divergent” and googled Ashley Judd afterwards. Check her blue dress at some event or other!
    🙂
    Take care
    Brian

    Like

    1. I guess we can surmise that when celebrities dress, especially for the red carpet, they have a different agenda in mind? We may need to think about where we’re getting our dressing cues from…
      Thanks Brian!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome. I must confess i’m 3 standard deviations away from all that. i could live happily with a couple of trousers, three shirts and a pair of shoes. Okay. One dressed-up suit. Just in case. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m an old lady married for 56 years, but I have trouble concentrating on what a half naked women is saying, so I can imagine the problem for men, teen-aged boys particularly. If we want to be taken seriously for intelligence and ability, we need to rethink what we are advertising most..

    I wasn’t getting your posts, so I’ve signed up again. Hope it works. Love your approach to contemporary issues, insightful and humorous. Good combination.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “If we want to be taken seriously for intelligence and ability, we need to rethink what we are advertising most..”

      Thanks Eileen. It’s certainly worth musing over.

      Like

  5. You’re on target on this one, livelytwist.

    It just never ceases to amaze me…I do see female managers and I work for govn’t who wear tops that show enough cleavage. Seriously. I went to a job interview where the IT manager showed enough V-cleavage. Ok, gal. I get it that you’re not a woman-computer nerd, but honestly?

    I’m not a prude..I have bare legs with black leather low sling back dress shoes and skirt at work at this time of warm seasons. But I am fully covered up at the top..hopelessly boring but hopefully timeless. A high neck black sleeveless tank top and wrap Hawaiian print skirt. But hey I bicycle. So people see me walk in and out of the office in my cycling shorts or walking shorts. Whatever shorts I wear. There’s no secret of practicality.

    I’m probably the wrong person to comment: I don’t even wear make-up in the office anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad that we have not been desensitized to this issue and that certain modes of dressing still discomfits us. Someone mentioned that TV shows set trends. Some TV shows have smart, powerful, and beautiful female bosses wearing revealing clothes. Perhaps the lines between TV and reality are blurred already? Thanks for joining the conversation. In my view, thinking and talking about these issues are positive steps.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I dream of a time when successful pop stars like Rihanna will do even if it’s just one video fully clothed. But we also need to realize especially teenagers that what female celebrities wear for photo shoots &music videos ain’t real life clothes. Most dresses differently offset. This is why I love Adele.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “But we also need to realize especially teenagers that what female celebrities wear for photo shoots &music videos ain’t real life clothes.” True. Back to life, back to reality . . . 🙂
      Thanks for joining the conversation.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I really love this Timi. It was such an engaging read, as well as humorous. I read it here with my Asperger’s son hanging off of me, longing to look at transformers pictures and complaining that I’m on the computer. I’m going to come back and read it again once he’s off the computer and I can give my undivided attention (it’s that good).
    I don’t know what happened, but I noticed that somehow I wasn’t following you anymore. I pressed the follow button again. Yeah!
    🙂

    Like

  8. This is something we really should check. Feels like our worth now is in the most we can reveal. Great piece,permission to share?

    Like

    1. Hi Korleone, I’m glad the post resonates. We need to pay attention to these things. You can share using any of the share buttons beneath the post- Facebook, Twitter, etc. Thanks for being here.

      Like

      1. I am too, believe that. I probably would have been one very rich Pharisee if I lived in Jesus’s day. I like today better. And I like being Nigerian a lot. I still think we have a lot more dumb people in this generation than any generation can boast of. It’s amazing. 😀

        How does someone seriously say that they want to be taken seriously with a plunging neckline? Sure I’d take them seriously – I’d get as far away from them as possible unless I have a mind to being careless for a night. One night, a whole night out of my life. That cleavage better be worth it and I don’t see how on earth it could be if it ain’t my wife’s.

        Like

  9. This is such a beautiful piece. It is something I’ve always wondered about since I was in primary school at least… one day I was out with my dad and we passed by a bill board advert for freezers and there was a man dressed in a full “bond” tux and then a woman in a bra and an itty bitty skirt and he wondered aloud what sort of sense it made. And I still wonder and I have just one question, why do we continue to ask and demand for equal rights when we continue to set double standards by ourselves with our choice of dressing?

    Like

    1. Hmmm, good question. I wonder if part of the reason your dad wondered aloud was because he caught a glimpse of the world you would grow up in. Some would say that women wearing whatever they want is empowering. We’ve put a lot in the bag, shaken it together, and called it progress. I’m glad we’re thinking about these things and sharing how we feel. When I wrote this, I hoped it would foster thought.

      @beautiful piece, thank you!

      Like

    2. I love this comment and really agree that we need to ask ourselves these questions. You can’t demand inequality while following these debasing standards blindly. You can’t.

      Like

      1. Hi Imade, two things in your comment stand out to me, “follow blindly” Questions, honest answers & informed decisions, that’s a step in the right direction, in my view. Thanks for joining the conversation.

        Like

  10. So beautiful… your write up reflects YOU..!!!

    I agree, there’s pressure to conform to fashion trends as well, but there are ways you can conform to fashion trends and still dress decently. Clothing choices are rarely neutral, and our inner secrets can be read in our choices. Our clothes make a huge difference to what people think about us & without us knowing or in ways we couldn’t even imagine. People make their assessments in the first few seconds of seeing another; assessments that go way beyond how well you are dressed and how neat and tidy you might look. It is important to choose our dress style carefully because people will make all sorts of assumptions and decisions about us without accurate proof. We are unlikely to know what these assessments are too, so it is quite possible that our clothes reveal more than we thought

    Like

    1. Kenny, your comment articulates so many things I consider true. Your comment challenges my standards and my, I’m found wanting- “Clothing choices are rarely neutral, and our inner secrets can be read in our choices.”

      I recall watching a series on TV, where a mum confronted her teenage daughter because of her provocative dressing. The teen replied something to this effect, “I want people to think I’m beautiful.”

      Sometimes I think the “agenda” on the table is to redefine beauty, and perhaps in the future “baring all” will be as normal as playing Candy Crush in the tram! 😦

      Thank you & thank you for your comment.

      Like

  11. Reading your article made me recall an incident that happened more than 40 years ago at my first full-time job. Hot pants were in during the 70s and one day I wore hot pants to my federal government job where I was a stenographer. Sadly, I didn’t know how inappropriate it was. I thought I looked adorable; the word sexy never entered my mind. My female boss who was only about five years older was speechless when she saw me. She walked away and came back a few minutes later. I’ll never forget her look. And all she said was, “you have to go back home and change your clothes.” That was it in a nutshell. I think sometimes all that is needed is to have an older person tell us in a calm voice that something is inappropriate. That’s what did it for me — the calmness, the tone, of how that boss approached me and how she said it.

    Like

    1. Gwen I agree that if we feel someone is inappropriately dressed and we want to say so, we should do it with kindness and respect. I also feel as though people haven’t really given thought to the fact that we communicate with our dressing. All the more reason to be gentle…
      Thanks for your comment 🙂

      Like

  12. nice one. You know there can be pressure sometimes to show a little skin when being fully clothed can sometimes confine one to being unnoticed a lot of times. Then again, if you think it through and understand that the reverse means a lot of unwanted attention, I would thread the path of decency with a little spunk.

    Like

    1. I agree, there’s pressure to conform to fashion trends, and we do give in. I’m all for fashion and spunk and some of my friends and I never quite agree on how much cleavage is too much or just right! 🙂

      I guess I’m saying that we communicate with our dressing- our dressing tells a story that we might not have consciously written… At the end of the day, we should take charge, make informed decisions about clothing, and let the story we tell with our clothes be consistent with the ones we’re telling in other areas of our lives.

      Thanks Margaret for your comment 🙂

      Like

  13. OH MY THIS IS WHY I LOVE YOUR WORK!. Words I have battled to voice out, here to me on a platter of gold; May I have your permission to reblog? Recently, I did a research on what made Beyonce, a better celebrityperson/woman, compared to Alicia Keys. Permit my Drift. (I actually prefer Alicia keys, but I noticed the whole world loves Bey more (her music aside), so I wanted to know why) And you know what I discovered….., wait for it…Bey doesnt like to cover. Her magic and fierceness (voice aside) lies in the tiny pieces of clothing she clads herself in.
    I dont mind her music but it grinds my gears to know, we all probably know what her breast look like.
    The same thing with other musicians and celebrities, uncovering themselves because you know its sex-cayyy. I admire women who know how to cover up. It doesnt mean you’re ugly. It doesnt mean you’re any less beautiful than our mentioned cleavage liking sister above.
    Say we’re of the 80s, we dont care!
    More is less!!
    nice write up.

    Like

      1. I agree, we can be ‘covered’ and beautiful. It seems that baring all is a staple in the world of female celebrities… it’s part of business. The impressionable women & girls who follow their fashion trends, that is cause for concern… TV is not real life 🙂

        Like

  14. Some weeks back in church I was seated in sunday school class. And guess what, a ‘just graduated’ female teenager walked in- late. With each step she took there was a reaction- Physics says to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Her ‘bells’ in full view were jingling. Popping out and bouncing. I tried to turn away but I couldn’t. It was annoying. It was obvious that she made all God’s sons very uncomfortable especially our teacher who was standing- getting an upper view. I had to do something- I wrote her a note. Got up and gave it to her. I didn’t mince words at all. I was angry. By the time I got back in, she had a hankie on her chest. Her mum is a tailor and when I spoke to her she said she was shocked, she wasn’t the one who made the dress. I’ve noticed that since them she dresses decently to church. But now as I write this, it occurs to me; its not only about what she wears to church, its what she wears 24/7. So, I still got me a mission; I have to seat her down and talk to her. Wish me luck Timi.

    Like

    1. Lol@hankie on chest. If I was the teen, I would have left church! I think that some teens don’t understand the power & effect of what they wear; they just follow trends. I may be wrong.

      She sounds as if she’s someone who listens. I hope your talk will not be shaming or condemning. I hope you’ll present a solid argument beyond “God says.” And I hope you’ll leave the ball in her court, so that she’ll own whatever decision she makes. Phew, all the best! 🙂

      Like

  15. your posts are just always on point and I like this one!!! You did so well by hitting the Nail on the head…and the examples you gave are so true but funny as well…
    As in, seriously, that’s just one of the big fat lie people tell themselves and go on to say, God sees the inside and not outward appearance,,,haahah, funny people with their ignorant defensive statements. They baffle me because when you say that and you dress like a hooker or someone who’s desperate, what my mind goes to is, what kind of lust or demon must you be battling with to have produced such manifestation in your outward appearance.
    When God was saying that, he meant something else and not for some silly lame excuse.
    Dress the way you want to be addressed. Sometimes, I see some women and I want to throw clothes on them cos I feel ashamed as a woman, or better still, sorry for them.
    How I wish more people could read this your post.
    It’s fun coming to your blog or inspiring rather.

    Like

    1. I’m honoured that you enjoy coming to my blog. You know, it wasn’t even a religious world view that inspired this post, it was common sense. What do women want? Exposing everything in the name of fashion, isn’t that a vicious cycle? Doesn’t that make men objectify us and respect us less, in the long run? Doesn’t that blur the lines where my achievements are concerned?

      And this thing I hear about embracing our sexuality, why does it have to equal near nudity in public? Meanwhile men are fully-clothed! My body has curves and I love every inch of it, but isn’t less more? In economics, we learn that scarce resources drive prices up…hmmm. In spite of what mainstream media (controlled by men), try to sell us, I read somewhere that so much of female sexual power depends upon holding back, and in an age where girls are readily available, this is even more true. I may be wrong, but I think this applies to dressing also.

      Both of us have written another blog post! I should stop here. 🙂

      Like

      1. As innnnnn….
        I salut u!! U just finished it!!! U stated ur points with accuracy and I doubt anyone can beat that. With ur comparison with economics, u cudnt hv sed it better!!! Feel like hifiving u cos u seem to have seen the post I scheduled on friday on my blog and one other post I wrote some months ago about the same thing. Ill send u both links by Gods grace on friday so u can read both and tell me what u think.
        Me I dont mind ur long reply o. 🙂 I like it that way… Wud def be coming back for more cos ur posts have wisdom and humor in them.
        Wont mind featuring u on my blog someday and I hope ull do me the honour.

        Like

  16. ““No,” you say as you swallow and drag your eyes to her face.”- Lol, emphasis on the Drag. As simple as it sounds, it’s quite hard & some ladies just aren’t helping matters.

    It’s so sad that in this present day and age, so many people do not realize the power that their bodies carry. My choir pastor in the space of 2 weeks had to walk choir members off the stage *She’s miss no nonsense*.

    They were all complaining and all the other bickering that angry girls make and I just laughed. One of them had to ask me why I laughed and I replied, if your mother had seen what you wore, you’d not have left the house not to talk of climbing up to the pulpit to grab a microphone.

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    1. Lol@ miss no nonsense! We are always communicating & people tend to be influenced more by what they see. Men are very visually oriented, so we women need to be sensitive about what we choose to wear, unless we have a different agenda in mind 🙂

      Like

  17. your right women should pay attention on how we dressed,this as happen to me rushing out the door droping kids and head to school, two of my male class mate stared at me in a different way, i looked at myself what was different about me today, lol it was shirt loose showing my breast, i felt ashamed then covered myself quickly.

    Like

    1. Hi Ade, lol! You know what they say: if you want a guy to appreciate you for your mind, don’t overwhelm him with your cleavage! But that wasn’t your intention, just a wardrobe malfunction!

      Like

  18. Lol @ breasts running free! Your article reminds me of my secondary school days when we were forced to wear our skirts below our knees. Of course I rebelled, lol, but I couldn’t be happier that those rules were in place. We had some mischievous boys then who would go to any length to throw “agbalumo” seeds inside your panties, haha!

    Now some private universities in Nigeria are trying to revive fashion policing and I just laugh. I laugh now because it seems oppressive, and until ladies stop enabling guys the ogling will continue. Eww *shivers*

    Like

    1. @ fashion policing, perhaps a less ‘oppressive’ word is dress code. Certain professions/institutions have them 🙂 . At the end of the day, you can take a horse to the river, but you can’t force it to drink. We tend to rebel against “laws”

      I feel as if we haven’t really thought about why we wear what we wear, the power of other’s perception, and so on and so forth…

      Like

  19. The sexiest part of a woman resides in the highest 15 percent of her body. While I do like a set of big, dark eyes, I am talking about her mind of course.

    I don’t want to take anything away from what women have achieved in the modern age. I like that they are taking control of their lives and careers and that they are using their business savvy to accomplish their goals in a way that has not happened in the past. Frankly, I think men should hand world affairs over to them, because we have done a terrible job of it so far. However, I think there is some blurriness between being sexually confident and being self-exploitative. When a pop star’s entire image is based around wearing skimpy clothes and using sexually suggestive imagery, I’m not sure it helps other women who are trying to be taken seriously in art, politics, and business.

    I’m not offended by Miley Cyrus’s so-called shocking stage antics (it wouldn’t matter if I were), and more power to her that she has found a way to market her name and herself. She doesn’t care what other people think of her, and she shouldn’t. She is confident and self-assured. Still, I hope there is more to her than naked videos and dry-humping on stage. Showing body parts to get the attention of men seems more narcissistic than empowering to me.

    Like

    1. Ah, it would appear that female entertainers have “fought” and won the right to be “naked”. Indeed a “compulsory” rite of passage includes acts like Miley’s. Sex sells and their actions are calculated to attain (more) fame & financial fortune.

      As you pointed out, “When a pop star’s entire image is based around wearing skimpy clothes and using sexually suggestive imagery, I’m not sure it helps other women who are trying to be taken seriously in art, politics, and business.”

      It seems when I use my sexuality to get ahead in art, politics, business, etc, I invariably lose credibility. We can use the power of our sexuality to be successful, but at what cost?

      As always Eric, I look forward to & enjoy your POV.

      Like

  20. Your line about ‘contrived innocence’ got me thinking about an incident I witnessed in one of the villages in my local government. I’ll post it as it appears in my journal.

    “Modesty transforms, when you see a young adolescent girl balancing a keg of water on her head. She’s wearing an halter neck top that barely covers her budding breasts as she walks down the crowded street, oblivious of the rules of modesty that govern your little world.”

    There are lots of observations like this in my journal but none of them renders invalid the truth that we are what we wear.

    Like

    1. A woman’s sexuality is powerful, perhaps more alluring when she is unaware of it. Sometimes a girl’s body develops faster than her reasoning… it can be a dangerous place to be…

      Thanks for sharing, sounds like your journal has plenty precious gems.

      Like

  21. This is well written. Our actions speak loudly, and yes, even in our churches too, that I’ve wondered why some women dress the way they do. My pastor shared a story once about another minister asking a young lady sitting in the front row to please close her legs … then he said, “the gates of hell is shut now!”

    Powerful article, Timi.

    Like

  22. Some women nowadays are not aware that more is less….they are not shops, should not walk around with all their wares on display.
    A friend of mine came across a woman in the ladies’ at a wedding reception. Her boobs were almost popping out of the top she wore. My friend said, ‘oh my dear, your top is slipping down.’And then she grabbed the top, and tugged it up until the woman was decent. ‘There my dear, that looks so much better now.’ she said as she walked out, leaving the woman frozen in shock. She said she had reacted instinctively. She saw the woman later on, still decently covered. I guess age affords one certain liberties 🙂

    Like

  23. You know, I have been wondering this same line of thought? Why the guys in musical videos are fully clothed but the ladies strip to the core.
    I always imagine being a girl and asking for them men to strip too.
    But it seem men have more things to cover up these days even their heads are covered. Well, the ladies only need 3 pieces of dongoyaro leaves for whatever they have left to cover.
    Pity!

    Like

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