You’d love to take a cab to the city, away from the suburban judgmental minds, but it is not a luxury you can afford every so often. You know very well the reactions you will provoke, and you tell yourself that you are used to it by now. You love looking at children though, because they have that adorable curiosity in their eyes, yet untamed with preconceived notions. You switch on your Ipod to shut off the world, transporting yourself back to the days you spent in faraway places, places where diversity was celebrated. In those places, it was okay to be different, no matter whether it was the good sort, or bad. There was a sense of comfort every time you step out of the door. You could dress the way you wanted to, you didn’t have to conform, and on some days, a stranger would know of the story behind your choice of dress, as if you were members of a tribe who had just met for the first time. A smile was exchanged, and sometimes, a conversation. That sense of belonging, it was something you truly missed.
It does not get much better in the city, but somehow your alienness looks less jarring against the concrete backdrop and you can disappear quickly into the crowd, allowing less time for those stares to linger on you. Too often you feel the pressure to dress down, but you know well enough you can’t bring yourself to do it, unless the occasion dictates so. The clothes you have chosen for yourself have become your armour, you feel naked without them. It is a self-defence mechanism you’ve placed upon yourself to filter out the advances of insecure men, men who secretly preferred subservient women, men who have certain misguided preconceptions about how women should present themselves in this largely conservative society.
You spot your friend in a sea of hurried shoppers, and together you make your way through the maze of shops to your favourite joint. At this awkward period of the day that is tea time, the Japanese cafe was empty. Having sipped the first cup of fragrant tea in comfortable silence, he asked, ‘Why fashion?’
‘I don’t know,’ you shrugged. ‘I’m drawn towards beautiful garments, from the cut, to the fabric, to its provenance. It is the closest way to incorporating artistic creativity in my life, on my body. For example, holding a piece of well-crafted leather jacket satisfies so many sensory experiences, from my eyes the moment I see its wrinkles, the tactile stimulation it creates when I run my hands across its grains, to the fresh, raw smell of processed skins that I want to be enveloped in. Does that answer your question?’
‘No, not really.’ You both chuckled.
‘Maybe it’s the power to provoke. It’s delightful. But I’ll get back to you on that.’