The Man in the Maidenform Bra (2)
FICTION: Part 2 in which men wear dresses and YOLO is not enough.
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As soon as I took hand, we floated like spirits through the iron gate, passing the three sharp-toothed animals who watched us fly by with nary a growl.
I stayed close to Miss Hathaway, my female Virgil, as we floated into the old mansion, which looked nothing like the dark dwelling in the Hitchcock movie. Nor even the color remake on Netflix.
This new Manderley was more like the spiraling ramp of the Guggenheim Museum in New York—only instead of reaching upward, it drilled downward into the earth like a spinning top as soon as we entered. Frank Lloyd Wright’s 58-foot oculus, which usually floods the structure with daylight from above, became a blacked-out skylight and the starting point for our descent.
I looked for signs telling me to abandon all hope, but I didn’t see any. Nor did I see any sign of RuPaul or those exotic pole dancers in P-Valley. At least, not yet.
On each level, there was a kind of tableau, which did not appear until Miss Hathaway released my hand.
In the first circle
A red carpet appeared. Soon a famous male movie star showed up wearing a linen skirt-suit with a pair of chunky black combat boots—looking like a reject from Project Runway. He had blond hair and black tattoos scribbled on his legs. From the tabloids, I knew this man to be a father and former husband to two famous women. When asked why he was wearing the outfit, he said, “YOLO, Bro. YOLO.”
I turned to Anne Hathaway with a WTF look on my face.
“You Only Live Once,” she said. “Y-O-L-O.”
I had a feeling I was supposed to keep my mouth shut. So I did.
After the blond movie star came a succession of other men wearing clothing usually worn by women. One was an openly gay Black performer in a chiffon gown, paired with a half body-suit and flowing berry-red overlay.
Then came a another white guy with a beard in a sheer black dress with a high slit up the leg, which revealed a doorknob-knee surrounded by a lot of pale white skin. It looked very similar to a dress worn by the first guy’s second wife at the Oscars a few years ago.
I was beginning to catch on
This was some kind of test. None of these dress-wearing men was being punished. They were holograms of real events activated here to see how I’d react.
Anne Hathaway must have picked up my vibe. She took my hand, guiding me down to the next circle, where yet another young white guy—this one called Harry—rocked a sleeveless sequin jumpsuit while singing “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” with a famous female singer, who was wearing a matching sequin dress.
Again, I kept my opinions to myself and watched as the tableau segued to other scenes of this same Harry wearing feather boas and dresses. There he was, a young man in his mid-twenties, referencing other gender-bending icons like Prince and David Bowie. I couldn’t help but notice he wasn’t wearing a bra in any of them.
“Do you know why you’re here yet?”Anne Hathaway asked.
I didn’t want to sound like a know-it-all, even though I’d already figured out that this part of our journey was a test. But to tell the truth, I did not understand why I needed to be tested. I considered myself to be pretty open-minded about these things.
I have longed believed in the equality of women. Which means that it should not matter if a man wears a skirt or even a dress once in a while. And why shouldn’t a woman strut around all day in a vested pin-stripe suit if she feels like it?
But I didn’t know how to answer Miss Hathaway’s question
She could tell I was stalling but didn’t let me off the hook. Apparently, I was supposed to figure out why I was here on my own. Instead she said:
“Today people can wear whatever they want. They can dress for fun. If you’re a man, and it feels good to let a draft blow up your skirt like Marilyn Monroe in the Seven-Year Itch, why not do it. These days, lots of people do.
“But in the old days, clothing was all about power or the lack it. Especially outfits that expose the flesh and restrict movement. So-called women’s clothing that for nearly 200 years didn’t even have pockets because they were considered a sign of power. Gender-assigned clothing is a visual cue that implicitly conveys the inequality of the sexes.”
“Does that help you understand why you’re here?”
“Not really,” I said.
I didn’t want to burst her bubble, but I knew all about the power-dynamic regarding clothes. Heck, I’m in the advertising business. I know how branding works.
I even know why masculinity has been making a comeback on the campaign trail and the TV talk-show circuit. But I was not stupid enough to mention that this has deep roots in Christian-nationalism.
Nor was I about to mansplain to Miss Hathaway that hyper-masculinity is a response to all the so-called feminized male who’s supposedly too soft and weak to stand up to Big Government.
“Feeling pretty good about yourself, aren’t you?” Anne Hathaway said, reading my thoughts and demonstrating another skill I didn’t know she had.
I looked at her with my mouth open. But she spoke before any words could come out.
“Let’s see how smug you feel in the next circle,” she said.
As soon as the words left her lips, I felt the bra straps tighten against my shoulders.
©2022 Andrew ‘Jazprose’ Hill
END OF PART 2.
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