Hi all, nineteen speaking.
“Why do you always wear baggy jeans and a hoodie? You have a great body! Show it off, I wish I had your physique!”
I’ve been told this, and variants of this, since I was about 18. As I got older, I kept giving answers like “Oh, I felt cold this morning setting out,” or, “This hoodie is really comfy!”
That’s not why I hid in baggy clothes for the longest time. Although they are both valid reasons, they’re not the reason why I did it.
They don’t really come close.
I’ll give you an example of why I hide in baggy clothes.
Today I was in my favourite coffee shop. 25 goes there after therapy with us, treats us all to a coffee and a cake, and we read or write in our journal to pass time. Today, we had a break at work, so we went in to chill out.
25 was doing some wedding planning, which was fun and exciting. We all got engrossed and started asking 25 questions about what to do, and she helped us joint write our emails to important folk.
A guy passed by the shop, staring in as he walked. We figured he was probably people watching, like I often do, and ignored it. Barely paid any attention to it.
Just as we were putting our stuff back into our bag, there was a voice speaking from above us.
“Excuse me, is anyone sitting in that seat?”
It was the same guy from before. He gestured to the chair our coat was sitting on, and we saw he had a friend with him.
25 answered for us.
“No, but I’m just finishing my drink and leaving if you would like the table.”
He mumbled something in the affirmative, so we got our coat and bag, downed the drink… And saw they were leaving. The door opened and shut, and the younger two were puzzled.
“Ok then, why ask for the table and not take it?! Weird…”
As I stood up, my senses were on red alert. Something wasn’t ticking over right. I slid our coat on and looked out of the window. 25 was just as anxious.
There they were. Standing outside the coffee shop, both of them were hanging around as if waiting for someone…
25 and I decided then and there we were leaving the shop through the opposite door. I made a point to say bye to the café staff, because then if anything did happen to us they would be able to say they had last seen a girl in a long grey coat as she had said goodbye to them.
Immediately 25 said to get our phone out and play some anti-anxiety stuff we have saved on there. I kept checking behind me- sure enough, they were still waiting, and luckily hadn’t seen us.
25 and I were on red alert all the way back to work. The younger two were horrified and frightened that they had waited outside the shop, quite obviously expecting us to leave. After all, 25 had said we were just leaving. They knew that… And waited outside!
Whilst this had been going on, there was a man sitting on a table opposite us who would not stop staring.
As it happened, we had a very anxious day the next day and felt pretty horrible about what might have happened.
I wear baggy clothes or my long coat or hide in jumpers because of that. Those eyes permanently on us because we happen to be a young woman who’s attractive. I hate the eyes that looked us over and decided they somehow had the god-given right to wait for us and then, who knows?
I hate that all of this reminds each one of us that once upon a time, a monster thought that because society tells girls and women to “lighten up,” and “don’t take it so seriously!”, he believed it was his god-given right to subject us to six years of abuse.
That’s why I wear baggy clothes. Better to hide away than have those unfriendly eyes all over us. Better to wear unflattering, big baggy jumpers so all that gets stared at is our legs. I am so sick and tired of the eyes, and I want to keep us all safe.
25 often reminds us that we are all safe, that we have the Dutchman and she is equipped to take on potential threats. She says I am capable of telling weirdoes where to stick it and to get off our case.
The thing is, once protected by something that is formless, that risk halves.
So next time I hear someone tell me that I need to wear nice things more often, I’ll just tell them this story and remind them that my work clothes are all form fitting, because they’re dance clothes.