As I was packing for my trip back to school after a wonderfully long winter break I came across a pair of pants. Like much of my wardrobe, they were purchased at a thrift store. They are in good condition, faded and warn, but comfortably broken in. These were my “lesbian mom” jeans, or so they are called.
I discovered the pair a year ago – a high waisted pair of Levi’s, most likely older or just as old as I. My 29/30s fit perfectly if you are going for that 90s after school special look, which I was.
This isn’t my only pair of LMJs. The other is a pair of tight fitting cargo pants, low-rise and greenish-khaki with an ink stain from a time when my studying got a bit out of hand. The two pairs were labeled “lesbian mom” jeans by my roommates. On the same day my favorite ink stain occurred I was packing up to leave when a roommate turned to me and said, “What are you wearing? You look like a lesbian.” Realizing what she said may have been seen as an insult (which it wasn’t interpreted as) she backed up her statement by stating, “But like, a hot lesbian.” I laughed it off, knowing it was most likely meant as a jab, and left to begin a gruelingly long study session.
It wasn’t until a few wears later that I had begun to think of the implications surrounding the comments my LMJs solicited. These comments were always made as I was leaving the suite, covered in a tone of dry sarcasm but buffered by a compliment about how great my ass looked in my painted on pants. I have never been one to follow a certain style or pay a great deal of attention to critiques regarding my alternative outfits until the pants in question came along. Each pair is usually coupled with Original Classic Old Skool Vans or tucked into combat boots, and worn with Ray Bans, a backwards hat, and a crop top I fashioned out of a plus size T-shirt discovered at one of many thrift stores showing just enough skin to expose a tattoo or two. What was it that made this array of outfit choices inherently “gay”? The slouchy pants or the choice in footwear? It must have been the bulky prescription glasses or one-strapped backpack I had lazily thrown over one shoulder. Or was it the leather cuff and prominent nose ring? Was it the five piercings in my right ear that outweighed the two in my left? Never had I invested so much energy in examining the subliminal messaging which onlookers feel the need to extract from an outfit.
I would walk through campus with my LMJs on knowing that, according to my roommates, my ass looked great but bystanders would inevitably be concerned with who I was attracted to.
I understand that it is human to categorize people, to put them into nicely shaped and recognizable boxes as a means of protection. This is how we remain comfortable and aware of our surroundings:
Those people wear baggy pants and oversized shirts.
Those girls over there sitting in front of their matching MacBooks are wearing Greek letters.
That group over there looks like the others I see on the news.
When the labeling on our intellectual boxes is wrong or too vague to categorize it can make us uneasy. This may stem from a time when we had to identify whether a rustling bush was prey or predator, and it may still serve such a purpose, but we let it get too ambiguous and go too far over the years. I could never imagine what it feels like to know others are questioning my allegiance or religion based on what I chose to cover my body on any given day, nor could I begin to understand the pressure that comes with the feeling that I need to defend my sexuality to someone who has no right to know.
If my LMJs make me a lesbian then fine – that is a box of someone else’s making, not my own. I will continue to wear my pants proudly, if not to accent my “lesbian mom” ass, then to spark an intellectual review of personal and social stereotypes founded in haircuts and hemlines.