This has the potential to turn into a debate between the significance of masculine ability versus feminine ability, but I’m going to avoid going that direction because we all know handywomen and Mr. Moms. It should be apparent that being handy and being domestic are both incredibly valuable skills. In an ideal world, we’d all be able to hem our own jeans and change a flat.
Growing up, I took pride in my less-than-proficient sewing skills. I thought I was going to be the greatest winner of Project Runway that ever lived. Or at least a damn good seamstress. When I was a Girl Scout, all of the other troop mothers hot-glued their daughter’s patches to the brown and green vests. Those girls’ patches scattered among leaves when we ventured into the woods for a campout. Not mine. My dad, our troop’s co leader, used our ancient Singer sewing machine to secure every patch I earned to my vest. My dad can sew and, since sewing appeared to be a useful and superior skill to hot-gluing, I decided it was worth learning to do.
As much as I idolize my dad, I never picked up his cooking or baking abilities. I only recently learned to decently iron a shirt using an actual iron (instead of my hair straightener) and I’m pretty lame at keeping my clothes off the floor and my dishes out of the sink.
Since I admittedly have little interest in housewife competency, I’ve decided to become as handy as I can stand to be. When I got a flat in front of my parents’ house, I ran inside and put on heels (because Lord knows when I get a flat tire again, I’ll be wearing something short of a prom dress on the side of the highway) and made my dad let me get down in the driveway to change it myself. I can assemble a desk without help and have a more extensive tool kit than I do utensils in my kitchen.
I sometimes wish I could be that girl that can cook dinner for her boyfriend or bring a fancy, homemade cake to a dinner party. I guess my fate was decided when I was about six. The girl next door was dressed in her Sunday’s best to go to an etiquette class. I had been sifting through the compost pile with my brother and my dad when I came across the biggest toad that ever lived. Barely keeping my overall straps on my shoulders as I ran, I jumped at the opportunity to share my finding with my peer. The toad was scared half to death by her shrieking and flailing and it peed on her. Yard work is obviously the most valuable skill for a six year old. I didn’t need an etiquette class to tell me which fork should be used during which course. Every fork is for cake.
Skills can’t be put on a world-wide scale. What’s important is that someone can make it through a day in their own life and satisfy their needs without the help of others. Granted, if this were some Survival of the Fittest shit, I would certainly die of hunger and whoever found me in my apartment would frown upon my disheveled apartment.
When Petula Clark sang about going downtown, she probably didn't envision the people, smells, or the wardrobe choices of dirrrty 6th in Austin, TX. Clark muses about the pretty neon signs and bright lights of her downtown fantasy. The reality of going downtown as an early twenty-something now includes more black spandex, eyeliner, and treacherously high heels than party-goers of the ‘60s would have ever imagined.
I’ve been downtown fewer times than I can count on one hand, but I would need to borrow my friends’ hands to count how many times I’ve almost seen people’s naughty-bits spilling over or under their unproductive garments. It’s obvious that most people downtown are more concerned with showing their ass than their class, but I’m just not built to dress that way. No, really. If you put me in a stretchy tube dress and some platform stilettos, I’ll look like Gumby wearing a rubber-banded napkin.
This isn’t to say that I don’t want to show off what little goods I’ve got when I go out. I just know that I can’t depend on stores like Rave and A’Gaci to attractively cover my frame. Now, don’t think you’re going to see me dancing it up in Mooseknuckle wearing a parka. Here are some things I consider when dressing myself to venture downtown.
Instead of showing all the skin, I try to pick an area to accentuate. If my skirt hits above my mid-thigh, I try to cover my arms. Am I going somewhere that I want to show off the tattoo on my back? You won’t see me wearing a bare-tummy crop top. I like clothes a lot more than I like my body, so I feel more comfortable covering up my arms and chest in a slouchy off-the-shoulder shirt with dark-denim hot pants than a dress held together with a zipper and some string.
I don’t know about other streets downtown, but 6th is made of cobblestone. I’ve been wearing heels on a frequent basis since I was a freshman in high school, but even I can’t walk from bar to bar without getting my stiletto stuck in a crack. Before my 21st birthday I bought the most comfortable pair of wedges in a beige-brown that can be worn with pretty much any other color. I’m also finding that flat sandals are not only practical, but totally acceptable to wear when bar-hopping. This weekend I’ll be traversing across the vast downtown area for a couple of friends’ birthdays and I’ll definitely be rocking some flat American Eagle sandals.
Last, but not least, I’ve learned that less make-up downtown is more. And preferable. Whether you’re just sweating it up dancing at a bar or two with some friends or you’re that girl lying on the cobblestone because your stiletto got stuck in a crack and your drunk friends didn’t notice you were gone, you will look significantly less plastered if you don’t have blue eye shadow and Revlon’s Ravish Me Red lipstick dripping down your face.
I’m not saying I won’t have too much to drink this weekend or that I won’t fall walking in my sandals anyway, but these are some things I keep in mind pre-Tequila shot so that I can at least prevent looking like such a hot mess when the night ends.
As a girl whose slender frame is built of more than half legs, jean shopping has its many woes. I wore only long overalls for many years in elementary school (because of their adjustable length and lack of waistline) and rocked some pretty shameful high-water bellbottoms into middle school. During my brief stint as a fashion designer between seventh and eighth grade, I poorly tailored the inseams and hemlines of my paper-thin Mudd jeans in hopes that I could gain a few inches of material, as well as a pair of hips and a butt. Regular jeans appeared to have shrunk in the great flood of 2002, long jeans floated away from my thighs like hammer pants, and I gave my mother explicit instructions to stop drying my jeans altogether.
It’s not like I’m asking for denim-colored paint to be slathered across my voluptuous Beyoncé booty. But I can’t help but envy the effortless jeans and t-shirt hotness that is Jen Aniston. Boyfriend jeans, flares, bootlegs, capris, Bermuda shorts, skinny jeans, and eventually jeggings have made their way in and out of vogue since I was in the third grade. Never have I been able to put on a pair of jeans and feel that from ankles to waist I looked particularly appealing. Jeans are not supposed to be a chore; that is the point of wearing them.
As fashion weaves between past decades, I’ve finally tried on a trend that fits. The cigarette pant is proving to be a year-round success for my unique proportions. The waist line is high enough that my dainty rear is covered, and might even look a little curvy. Cigarette jeans aren’t meant to reach one’s ankle, so I can wear flats, sneakers, or heels without having to worry that the flare is covering enough of my foot to not appear awkwardly too short. In the winter, cigarette pants fit neatly into boots without having to be tucked to one side or scrunched around my ankles. Whatever the weather, my cigarette pants and I will weather together.
So thank you, early 1960s designers, Audrey Hepburn, and Gap Jeans. I can finally grab a pair of jeans and a t shirt and run out of my apartment feeling confident that I am the girl wearing the jeans that all of the other girls in the room wish they were wearing.
I’m riding in the car with some friends and the new Katy Perry song comes on the radio. We’re all dancing and talking about how sexy and mysterious the song makes us feel. We even start singing along, until Kanye West begins to rap. Then I really start to listen.
“I'mma disrobe you, than I'mma probe you
See I abducted you, so I tell ya what to do
I tell ya what to do, what to do, what to do”
See I abducted you, so I tell ya what to do
I tell ya what to do, what to do, what to do”
When Katy comes back in with the chorus, singing “Wanna be your victim/Ready for abduction,” I feel scared because they aren’t singing about aliens afterall. There is nothing sexy or okay about abduction.
Relationships without consent are not healthy or safe. If you ever feel like you are being taken advantage of or like you are not in control, get out immediately. Kanye’s “I’ll tell you what to do” behavior is unacceptable and should be seen as a red flag. You never have to do anything in a relationship that you don’t feel comfortable doing.
Katy Perry has a history of empowering girls to feel sexy in whatever body they own, but she doesn’t always preach such positive messages about relationships. As a pop icon, Katy’s fans listen to her lyrics and relate them into their own lives. Take for instance the lyrics “They say be afraid/You're not like the others.”
It’s a big red flag if I’m dating someone and my friends say I should be afraid of him. My peers are looking out for my best interest when they judge his character. It is healthy to be aware of how people around you view the person you’re dating because they might see something you didn’t notice.
How do you confront your friends about things you see and hear that you know are wrong? Having these conversations is important because everyone needs to be on the same page about healthy relationships so no one gets hurt. Tell your friends that it isn’t okay to talk to someone like Kanye does in the song. Share your feelings with each other and ask any questions you may have about relationships you are in or know of that don’t seem healthy.
Now that I don’t like the content of this song, does that mean I can’t enjoy listening to it? This is a question that requires both personal reflection and conversations with friends to answer. My friends know that I’m always the one to call out celebrities for victim-blaming and slut-shaming, but these unacceptable lyrics were more subtly woven into the music. After talking the lyrics out, we realized that the song affected us each differently, but we all agreed that Katy Perry’s over all message needed a make-over.
I think what Katy Perry meant to sing about was meeting a guy she likes who is different than other guys she knows, because it’s exciting. There is nothing wrong with that. Something went wrong between that idea and the song we hear on the radio with a negative message about abusive relationships.
Overall, I still think the song is super catchy, but when I’m with a new group of people and the song comes on, instead of screaming “I love this song!” I’ll say something like “Hey this song sounds so good, but I really don’t like the message it sends.” This is a great way to get people talking about healthy relationships, which is likely to make them more aware of other instances in pop culture where unhealthy relationships are illustrated.