Hello and happy holidays from my Northern California hometown, where I return every year to play Problematic Family Bingo (extra exciting on election years) and torment my old, fat dog by taking photos of her under the Christmas tree.
There's not much to do around these parts -- when my dates came to visit for Thanksgiving, the only place I could think of to take them was the local zoo. For years growing up, my number-one hangout spot was the Borders Books, and that's not even here anymore. Overall, the most noteworthy thing about my town is that Johnny Cash once wrote a song about the prison here. Needless to say, the nightlife is a little grim.
And yet, every year, my high school best friend tries to get us to go out on the town and get laid in one of the three whole bars within 5 miles. "I wanna dance!" she breathes insistently, her eggnog haze making her forget that we both live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where there is actual dancing instead of whatever you call it when you're trying to shake off a creeping sense of holiday ennui.
When I begrudgingly agree, we inevitably end up clinging to each other in sequined dresses, drinking shitty beer and avoiding the eyes of all the 60-year-old dudes with "Nobama" stickers on their pickups lest they try to get us to make out with each other. What's worse is the hovering; for some reason, singles in this town frequently employ the stand-behind-young-women-and-breathe-on-them courtship method, which is an extremely unpleasant way to interrupt a good six-way gossip session.
This year, I finally put my foot down. I am all for meeting people and getting to know them, but I am past the point where I am willing to let anyone who voted for Prop 8 put their tongue in my mouth for a whiskey ginger. I could just ask strangers to go away, of course, but I am a compulsive people-pleaser and would much prefer to preemptively warn them away with my appearance.
In light of this, I've developed a few go-to outfits that apparently act as full-body versions of Emily's "beauty mistakes" -- essentially, I wear them to remind my high school friendquaintances that I'm moderately attractive while warning away certain dudes who hang out at the Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill in the strip mall. For the record, my dad greeted each of these outfits with a sarcastic thumbs-up, which is how I know they're working perfectly.
Daytime and/or sticky-floored pub:
Man-cardigan: I know "boyfriend sweaters" are the thing these days, but for those of us with naturally wide shoulders, it's often easier to just go straight to the dudes' section at your friendly neighborhood tween store. I'm particularly partial to the ones that recall a junior varsity lacrosse jock who hires the school nerd to teach him geometry so he can finally please his absentee father -- think lots of elbow patches, argyle, and unnecessary letters.
Collared shirt: Soft-butch shirts that you can fasten up to your neck like a Victorian princeling are becoming increasingly popular these days, which means that I can't enter a single retail store without dragging six or seven identical sleeveless button-downs behind me. The longer ones are great for layering under six thousand vests or -- if you're feeling pantsless and daring -- just wearing with booty shorts and garter tights to give passersby some discomfiting "Bon Iver lounging in front of the fireplace" vibes. I wore this American Apparel version in white all three days of Coachella, but H&M carries some great ones, too.
Desert boots: My whole life (OK, like the last eight months or so), I've been jonesing for some sweet-ass mid-calf faux-leather boots. To me, these say, "I may be buying three vegan croissants at the overpriced bakery across from the Jamba Juice today, but the minute the magnetic fields flip I'm gonna tame the first dragon I lay eyes on, so BE READY TO DUCK."
Nighttime and/or worst dance bars ever:
Vest: My senior year in college, all three of my best ladyfriends and I all owned extremely similar tailored vests; we eventually had to create an informal sign-up sheet so we could stop fighting over who got to wear theirs to Saturday night lesbian parties. A good vest can dress up a graphic tee or dress down a Pretty Woman-esque mini -- for my purposes, I like to use them to simultaneously disguise my FUPA and highlight my big-ass shoulders in case a creeper tries to get fresh. I've been carrying around my one from H&M for literally years, because it's hard to find one that's neither a halter top in disguise nor just a boxy, strangely cut blazer.
Disco pants: Nothing conveys "I'm a confident, modern lady unicorn that won't stand for your lurker bullshit" like spangly trousers. My high school friend once called my gold Forever 21 metallic denim "aggressively queer," but I prefer to think of them as "recently pubescent Rainbow Fish." Nobody has ever fronted with me while I was wearing these pants, and I doubt anybody ever will.
Armpit Hair: Your mileage may vary on this one. But know that I did not understand true satisfaction 'til I made a scary dude skedaddle by just beginning the Y-M-C-A.
What aesthetic tactics do you guys use to get people to stay away from you in bars? Does everyone feel as fondly disdainful about their hometown as I do?
Kate is livetweeting her holiday: @katchatters.