Women don’t really dress for men; we dress for other women. We choose “statement jewelry”, avoid over-matching and follow seasonal clothing rules, all for other women. A man doesn’t reject a woman for wearing white after Labor Day. It doesn’t even occur to him. But women, women will call the fashion police with their eyes. Those bitches.

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I met Pam at book club. She’s the girl next door, if the girl next door looks like Sheryl Crow and is effortlessly put together, humble and warm. Before the end of a night discussing Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants, she told us about a party she would be having called Estrogenfest. Women only. Hanging out. Mixing circles. She would ask all guests to wear comfy clothes, or what she called “birth control outfits”. An outfit you would wear at home, alone, maybe when you’re sick. The outfit that no man would be attracted to you in. There would be prizes.

I RSVPed yes immediately and actually had to choose between several outfits. I decided on light blue pajama pants covered in smiling yellow suns, white clouds and the word “sunshine” sprinkled all over. And for the top I wore a near-matching, hand-me-down, yellow cotton shirt with light blue three-quarter sleeves that had illustrations of famous dogs, Snoopy and Lassie on the chest.

I looked like a 9-year old ready for a slumber party. I put on yellow Snoopy socks to add to the “sunsemble”. The only thing missing from what felt like a memory of my youth was my braces and headgear.

My friend Jill offered to pick me up, which was ideal because then I could drink. But she asked me to wait for her at the Citibank parking lot across the street from my house because she was picking up Denise first and it was an easier route to Roscoe Village that way. My winter coat covered up Snoopy but the suns peeked out from under it. I walked across Ashland and waited with a large chocolate cake. I was in public. In these pants!

As I waited, a couple passed me. The man chuckled as he walked by, muttering, “Well those look comfortable”. Ugh. The bright yellow suns continued to smile. Stupid suns! Don’t you realize they’re laughing at YOU?

The cake just amplified the desperation of this outfit. When Jill pulled up with Denise, I was relieved. But as we were looking for parking near Pam’s, she backed up onto a one-way street, the wrong way. I let her know, in case she hadn’t noticed the sign. “Jill, I can’t die in these pants.”

We found a spot just half a block away. I would be safe inside soon. Or so I thought.

We walked through the living room of Pam’s appropriately-lovely single family home, toward the kitchen, the center of the chatter. It was a sea of black yoga pants. What’s going on here? I would sleep with any of those women! Those bitches. What about the embarrassment we’re supposed to feel TOGETHER. A guest walked past me, looked down and said, “Oh you’re definitely gonna win”.

We walked into the kitchen and I felt all the eyes on us. It was like a Halloween party, the kind where you’re the only one wearing a costume. We found Pam and she was overjoyed to see us, giving us the lowdown on who everyone was- coworkers, neighbors and women from another book club. Pam would later surprise everyone in a gorilla suit. PAM knows how to commit.

But right now, I felt so exposed. My worst was way worse than anyone else’s. Normally, I would have worn cute jeans and a sweater. A necklace thoughtfully purchased at an art fair. My hair tamed into a wave from its usual curly friz. But birth control was about friz. And no make up. I felt like a troll. Like the embodiment of PMS. I found comfort in a pan of cocktail weenies. I stood there, eating and contemplating the evening. Seeing my ruin from across the room, Jill and Denise rescued me from my hot dog binge and we went into the dining room to look at the jewelry that one of the women was selling as a side-show for the night.

“How much is this piece?” I asked looking at a silver chain with charms.
“Let me double check”, she said, picking up her price book. Then she looked down at my pants, “Oh! You’re so…frumpy!”

Was this a test? No one knew what to say to each other. I was hesitant to go up to some of the women and discuss their bad clothing choices because I wasn’t sure if they had deliberately made them. It would be like asking a woman about her pregnancy only to find out she’s not expecting. So I went back to the kitchen. And I ate more hot dogs.

This party had the best intention of breaking down walls giving us the ability to laugh at ourselves and each other. IF everyone played along. Which they didn’t. Those bitches. Some women were going out after, so OF COURSE THEY couldn’t wear something ugly. Our friend Sheri could have had this excuse- she had just come from work. But she stepped it up and brought something to change into. Something awful. A DARE shirt and striped pajama pants that only came down mid calf, exposing a layer of long underwear. She looked homeless. I immediately loved her even more.

Some women just ignored the birth control theme and wore cute dresses or jeans. One woman in particular was actually wearing a cute dress over jeans. Jill and Denise were having a deep conversation about being short and busty and how that can make shopping a challenge. Dress over jeans lady came over to commiserate. Tall and tipsy, she begged for our sympathy, “What about skinny girl problems?”

Skinny girl problems? Are those like rich people problems, except that you don’t have to worry about tax shelters? The three of us have no idea what skinny problems are. We couldn’t even acknowledge this woman after her inquiry. And then she proceeded to pose with us in every photo we tried to take.

Sheri and I collected our well-earned prizes. I went home and my boyfriend begged to come over and see my look. I thought about changing but that would defeat the purpose. Upon seeing me, he picked me up and hugged me and said, “You look so cute! What are you talking about with this whole birth control thing?” I was grateful that indeed I was not a troll. Or PMS. I was brave enough to wear my freak flag.

Finally, the suns on my pants weren’t the only ones smiling.

Weeks later, we had dinner and drinks with Pam. She told us that our skinny dress over jeans pal had a little issue after the party. On the way to her next destination, she threw up in her cab and was kicked out.

I guess THAT’S a skinny girl problem.

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