When it comes to gender expression, I’m pretty feminine. Much like Beyonce, I often choose fashion over comfort, sculpt my face with contouring makeup, stomp fiercely in sky-high heels and wear nothing but leotards while making out with my husband, Jay-Z. So when the opportunity to dress in drag for a recent party came up, I was intrigued. I love a theme. My first instinct was to go as a drag queen, but after talking with friends it was decided that drag makeup would be too similar to my everyday look. Hmph.
My initial hesitation to (briefly) become a man was rooted in the fact that I’m a curvy (see: fat) woman. I have breasts, hips and an ass that literally has to be dragged behind me. How would that translate into a button-up and a sensible pair of slacks? It would translate into a very husky man, that’s how. As a woman, I’m able to reign in my chunks with a strategically placed belt and the cultural relevance of an hourglass shape. My drag king persona, “Dooc Hungwellington”, however, was stout. He had a bad mustache and a sleepy, stoic demeanor. But he had an Elton John flair. He did.
I knew I wanted to be a dapper man, if I had to be a man at all. I grabbed a categorically masculine friend and we set out to shop for our swapped gender wardrobe the afternoon of the party. She was going as a drag queen, of course, and since I would be handling her makeup, she needed only a silly t-shirt and some taupe nylons (which I had to help her find) while I needed an entire personality. I had spoken to another more masculine lady, whose style was similar to my own imagined man-style, and she suggested I go to Forever 21. Finally. An opportunity to shop at the cool kids store without the looming potential to hulk out of everything I buy. My partner in fashion crime (we’ll call her, “Schmachel Schleason”) and I started wandering cluelessly through the racks of boring boy clothes until a light broke through the celestial roof of the mall and shined down upon a white tuxedo jacket with black trim. This was it. This was my man-personality. My mansonality. The rest of the outfit fell together to complement the snazzy suit jacket and Dooc Hungwellington was born. From fedora-topped head to white-shoed feet, he was dapper. And I was uncomfortable.
My answer to the question, “if you could only bring one thing on a desert island…” is always, “Mascara!”. I was lost before the process even began. I had never even gone to a party without wearing lipstick. Going without any makeup (or boobs, waistline, booty or hair) was like being Edward Cullen, stepping into the Italian public square in all his sparkly glory. What? You don’t like that analogy? Fine. How about Mulan, then? Going into battle without armor or a sassy mini-dragon. Just letting it all hang out. Which doesn’t make literal sense, since I actually had to strap a couple of things down. My boobs. I’m talking about my boobs. Even smushed to cockeyed pancakes, my boobs posed a problem to the slim-cut men’s dress shirt I was rocking. It was strained and pulling from the middle but if I hunched my shoulders enough, I could make it through without popping a button. So I hunched.
All of my mannerisms became their own version of hunched. I slouched down and celebrated the opportunity to “man spread” wherever I was sitting. I sneered from the corner of the party, jutting one knee out instead of my usual hip. I frowned pretty regularly instead of trying to constantly battle my severe case of “resting bitch face”. I greeted anyone who walked near me with a subtle nod, starting from my chin and flicking upward, and I didn’t worry about smiling with my eyes. At all. I just sort of loafed around the party, observing and bopping around. I did do a pretty raunchy performance of “Baby Got Back” with several drag queens booty-dancing on me and nearly knocking me over. That was a thing. I couldn’t use my usual arsenal of conversation starters and wit because my mustache was making my upper lip sweat really badly and talking caused it to slide from inside my nose to inside my mouth. I suspect that’s where the “strong silent type” of men comes from. Slidey mustaches.
As the night wore on, I became less aware of my man-outfit and probably reverted back to my more feminine gesturing and gait. Who really knows which gender they’re performing after a certain point in the evening, am I right? I do know that on my walk to my car, I was stopped by a homeless woman who asked me for money and called me “sir”. So I must have still had a bit of a hunch going on. I didn’t have any cash for her, but I did have a lollipop in my pocket. That’s not the beginning of a, “…or are you just happy to see me” joke. It’s the beginning of a short story about how I asked a homeless woman if she’d like a sucker instead of money and she shrugged, called me “sir” and said, “Yeah. Ok.” Pretty good story. I also forgot about my drag appearance and went through a late night drive-thru for some munchies on my way home. But without the mustache, I just looked like a very confused chubby girl. Which I guess I am.
Since then, I’ve had a new celebratory attitude for the glamazon things I enjoy. Every morning, I almost slip and fall to my death down my front stairs but do I stop wearing heels? Nope. I spent a Tuesday night sitting in a salon chair for four hours. My hair is two inches shorter, my bangs are back and the color is slightly different than it was. Worth it.
At least I know who I am when I hide everything that naturally occurs about myself and my body. I’m Beyonce.