Saturday, December 1, 2007

Kate Discovers the Power of Plaid

Long ago and far away, during my time with Mother Yale, one of my favorite events of the year was Sigma Nu's "Champagne and Schoolgirls" party-- by which I clearly mean I went once and stayed for 10 minutes, none of my clothing was short or plaid or tied under my boobs, and we called them Sketchy Nu for a reason. I mean, really.

As it turns out, those uncomfortable minutes in a house on High Street were, in fact, teachable moments. Because, as I determined tonight through an informal experiment, the guys love the plaid.

PROBLEM: Will my outfit attract guys--in particular guys I might deem date-able? And by "date-able" I basically mean "not complete social miscreants." Bonus points if they're literate.

HYPOTHESIS: The combination of a short skirt and boots is attractive; guys will respond accordingly.

girl (me)
skirt-- very cute (like, OMG, it's so totally cute), plaid miniskirt from Gap-- short but not raising-extra-money-by-working-nights short
boots-- black
test subjects-- males
alcohol-- everywhere, including the bloodstreams of girl (me) and males.

1. Go to Adams Morgan. Do not pass Metro Center. Do not collect a good night's sleep after watching The Departed again. Go directly to Adams Morgan.
2. Do a lap up and down 18th Street. Yes, I missed the bar on the first try-- either because the sign is poorly lighted or because I was walking briskly to plow through the crowd of test subjects outside of Tom Tom (see OBSERVATIONS AND DISCUSSION).
a. Note reactions of test subjects encountered.
3. Enter bar; begin drinking; observe.
4. Leave bar; move to new bar via 18th Street; observe.
5. Repeat Steps 3-4 as many times as necessary to accumulate statistically significant number of observations.
6. Depart Adams Morgan; ride Metro to home.

Guys love a girl in a plaid skirt and boots to a degree I did not anticipate. Seriously. The following list details actual comments made to/about me during the course of the night--in Adams Morgan and on the Metro:

~ "Hey, girl! You from Scotland?" [Seriously. Five distinct times. I kid you not.]

~ [As I send a text message to locate my friend] "You texting me, baby?"

~"Hey schoolgirl!" [I lost count.]

~ "Nice skirt." [This was from the bouncer at Nolan's.]

~ [I am clomping furiously down the Woodley Park Metro escalator to make a train. Two guys are standing-- one in my path-- drinking from bottles of Bud.]
GUY IN MY WAY: That is one serious walk you got going there.
ME: Yeah, well, you know. Good job with those bottles.
GUYS: Thanks. Good job with that skirt.

~[GUY and GIRL are exiting red line train at Metro Center, as am I.]
GIRL: So wait, which way do we go?
GUY: I don't know. I'm just following the schoolgirl. [Yes, I'm sure he was referring to me.]

~ [Cute, non-sketchy guy (who is apparently going to visit his girlfriend in McPherson-- boo) and I are discussing our apartment complex-- he lives two building over; go figure. Additional, seemingly non-sketchy, attractive firefighter guy joins conversation, has been considering a condo in our complex, asks us pros and cons.]
FIREFIGHTER GUY: Yeah, well, it must be nice. There sure aren't girls walking around in skirts like that where I live now.

And finally, FIREFIGHTER GUY for the win:
"Can I tell you something? I mean, I'm going to tell you either way. Anyway, that combination of a plaid skirt and boots just does something to guys. I mean, I can't speak for anybody but myself... but I'm willing to say it's the same for a LOT of guys."

Guys-- even guys who seem nice enough and are not at all aggressive or threatening-- are pretty skeezy about this whole plaid skirt thing.

I mean, seriously. "Baby One More Time" was a great song and all (yes, I just said that, and I even kind of mean it-- sorry), but this is not just about Britney back when she was young and spry. This is about some kind of fetishization of the schoolgirl image, and there is plenty that is disturbing about that. I mean, besides that fact that women pay upwards of $50 each October for a $5 plaid skirt and a flimsy white button-down they buy in a bag at VIP because they think it's a cute Halloween costume.

What does it even mean-- the "schoolgirl"? Is it just someone young? Is it someone innocent for a guy to corrupt or debauch? Is it even more nuanced and sinister than that-- she is someone naïve and vulnerable, of whom guys want to take advantage?

That's one thing. The other thing is that I was completely taken aback by the number of guys who cat-called me. If you're going to be like Firefighter Guy and tell me to my face that you think my skirt and boots are hot, fine. Not gonna lie, it was a little awkward, but it was really flattering, and it took some cojones to say that to me-- on the Metro no less, which is notoriously awkward (although everyone trying to catch the last train to Virginia on a Friday or Saturday is pretty friendly). But anonymous cat-calls from people in cabs and lascivious looks from people you pass on the sidewalk are at the very least annoyances, and at their worst these incidences can make women feel threatened and cheap. And tonight I blew by those people with a look of "Oh please," but a person with less of a head on her shoulders or a little more time on her hands might have kneed one of those guys in the aforementioned cojones and gotten herself into some trouble.

(All that said, I totally want to run a control experiment with an equally short skirt that isn't plaid. I mean, it's for science.)

That's it. I am a feminist but not an angry one. I am also a realist-- I want to be judged for my mind, but I know we all judge based on appearances too. And I that's fine-- I am quite secure in the knowledge that I am smart, but every now and again it's nice to have some guy suggest that my mind isn't all that interests him. I don't go to the gym only for my health; I go so my legs look good sticking out of my short skirts and tall boots. What I don't want are guys yelling at me from cabs, insinuating that I-- or any other badass young lady with ridiculous quads and a miniskirt-- am the answer to their prayers for a sexually frustrated parochial school student.

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