The 5'4 Club Gets Invited to a Wedding
Somehow I founded the 5’4 Club. Practically all of my friends are 5’4. This is weird! My roomie? 5’4. My former classmates in Vancouver? 5’4. My new friends in Montreal? 5’4. Did we meet pants shopping? At a cut-off point for a roller coaster? In the front row of a class photo? These are all legitimate questions.
You kind of just understand people when you have the same stature. If we're cooking at my house, someone will grab the step-stool since we all know no one can reach the flour on the top shelf. If we go to the gym, no one has to readjust the machines. If we go thrifting together, we know which sections of the friperie to skip. It is a completely random/illogical club to be in, but it's also pretty sweet.
My girlfriend is also part of the 5’4 Club. And neither of us really knows what to do.
See, the other part of this 5’4 Club was bonding over being the shorter partner in our relationships. Most of my friends, straight or queer, ended up having a partner taller than them. Even my roomie who says, “Apparently I have a thing for short guys,” still dates dudes that are taller than her. (5’6 may be short in guy world, but it’s still taller than 5’4.) We shared the same experience of leaning against our exes’ shoulders or chins in heels.
When my girlfriend and I started dating, everyday things became surprising. She’d greet me at the door saying, “Weird, normally I’d be looking up.” Or going in for a hug, “Holy crap I can rest my chin on your shoulder!” It’s interesting to be on the exact same level as someone for once. Two words: perfect spooning.
But we got invited to a wedding. A wedding where we’re going to dress up and be seen together as a couple. A couple of lesbians. I've never had a date for a wedding before and it has become somewhat worrisome.
You'd think there would be more important matters to stress about. Do they know you’re gay? How am I supposed to remember all of their names? What do you wear to a wedding? How matchy is too matchy? What if it’s too hot? How many exes will be in attendance? Nope, none of those came up. We’re both comfortable in our sexuality and used to making our own sartorial choices. If someone wants to wear pants. So be it. If someone wants to wear a skirt. She can if she wants to. But dressing up all fancy-like does bring up one issue.
We looked at the invitation on the fridge, looked down at our feet and turned to each other. "So, do you know which shoes you want to wear?"
Even though 5’4 is average height in North America and we were both bound to date someone of average height or shorter eventually, the chance to be tall had never come up before. We've always been comfortable being The Short One. We enjoy being the same height. But when it comes down to it, neither of us has been The Tall One in Heels. Should I put on my stilts of awkwardness and rest my chin on her head? (Yes, some of my shoes are that tall.) Or should I ask her to tower over me and I'll go back to cuddling onto my partner's shoulder? Of all the issues that come up when looking at identity and femme-inity and queerness, it's funny that stature even comes into play.
It seems like everyone thinks about it from time to time:
b/c i'm 5'10, i'm always the taller one. because i'm me, i'm always the less-butch one. and so I always feel like Nicole Kidman. - Riese
My gf and I are both used to being the tall ones! I went to a wedding with her and we both giggled about that as well. - Ali
.....guys what? i loved that my ex and i were the same height IT'S THE MOST ADORABLE. I HAVE A LOT OF FEELINGS ABOUT IT. EMBRACE IT Y'ALL. - Unconvincingly Anonymous
Now I realize how lucky I am to be three inches shorter than my gf, because when I wear heels we're eye-level. Haha. You guys laugh about being taller, I just think it's funny to be the same height. - Hansen
I think tall femme/short butch couples look really hot. Especially when everyone's all gussied up. Unfortunately that's never going to be a part of my life since I'm only 5'4" and a pretty gigantic wimp about wearing super high heels. Such is life. - Lizz
my gf is five inches taller than me and she prefers not to wear heels (she's 5'11) so it's always a strange experience when we go out because i finally get to be (almost) as tall as she is. almost. - Hannah
you guys are making me feel heteronormative because i'm 5'7" and the butchy one and my ideal girl is 5 feet tall and super super femme and i like to hold doors for her and fix things and build shelves and stuff and she wears dresses and heels and looks gorgeous all the time / i am a walking stereotype - Kate
Really now, I'm probably just going to wear whichever shoes don't need repairing, regardless of their height. It's not even a problem, just something to think about when I receive a text like this, "I have to admit I am enjoying not being 'the short one' but I certainly won't mind if you heel it up." How do you queerettes feel?
Your Friend Wants You to Wear a Dress: Advice for Butches as Bridesmaids
For some it's a moment of joy, for others a dreaded fear looming overhead: being asked to be a bridesmaid. If you're a femme girl this is enough of a challenge. Not only do you have to buy an expensive dress you might not like in a color that makes you look sallow, you have to entertain the bride and keep her calm. You might even have to drink a gross sugary cocktail at a Chip 'N Dales.
On the other hand, for genderqueer and butch folks, just the act of showing up in clothing can be extremely complicated and emotionally draining. Talking to a bride about your feelings regarding gender-roles, clothing, patriarchy, weddings and a whole host of other feelings is made even more complicated by the fact that she's, well, a bride. Those getting married tend to have a boatload of planning and stress on their plates and sometimes can overlook other's feelings. And yes, in the worst sort of way, it can really come down to The Dress.
Vanessa already talked supportive dates and partners through the ordeal, but what's an androgynous, soft butch, hard butch, metro, genderqueer, bi-gendered, gender-neutral, gender-free gal/guy/boi/individual to do? Well for starters, take a deep breath. It's going to be okay.
1. Take Stock of Yourself
Before you say anything to anyone, you need to start by reflecting within yourself. First, think about your relationship with the idea of being referred to as a bridesmaid and/or wearing a dress. If you are a trans man or strongly masculine genderqueer person, you're very likely going to have a problem with both of these things. On the other hand, that line my be blurrier for others. Perhaps you're okay with being called a bridesmaid but not with wearing a dress (or vice versa).
If you're unsure what is acceptable/comfortable for you in terms of formalwear (as it can be quite different from casual clothing) think about picking up Vogue and GQ magazines. Flip through and rip out things you would feel okay wearing. Do so even if it's only one element of an outfit. This will help you zoom in on your clothing comfort zone. Maybe you really will only feel comfortable in traditional menswear. Maybe you feel okay wearing traditional women's clothing such as flowy pants/blouses but not actually wearing a dress. Maybe you'd like to wear something that takes elements from all over the place and is wholly non-traditional. Regardless, solidify in your mind where your preferences lie. What is okay for you and what isn't.
2. Take Stock of Your Relationship with the Bride
Go ahead and take a good hard look at your relationship with the bride. If the bride is a close friend of yours and you've been masculine of center for a while, chances are she isn't expecting you to wear a dress anyways. While you shouldn't count on this, it is something to ease your mind. It's also very likely that for a really close friend you're going to absolutely want to be in their wedding. Weddings are as much about the community as they are about the individual, and being in the bridal party of your best friend can be quite memorable.
However, I know that many people have compartmentalized lives or may have only recently begun preferring masculine of center clothing. In this case you'll want to think about your relationship with the bride. How much does your friendship mean to you both and how comfortable are you speaking with the bride about your gender presentation/sexuality/fashion feelings. If the dress situation comes down to an ultimatum, you'll want to know where you already stand about being in this friend's wedding.
Finally, sometimes bridal party invitations are out of courtesy (perhaps you used to be close but no longer are) or out of obligation (you invited her to be your bridesmaid 20 years ago when you were femme). Perhaps it's the groom you're close with. The bride might feel very strongly that she wants her bridesmaids to be uniform and, in actuality, not care very much if this makes you uncomfortable. Unless you are desperate to be a bridesmaid, or you're fairly certain she won't care if you don't wear a dress, in this situation I suggest you politely decline her invitation.
3. Come up With Some Specific Alternatives
Before you go off texting your friend that you would rather die a thousand deaths than wear a dress, maybe you should come up with some alternatives. Remember how you went through Vogue and GQ and figured out what kind of formalwear you felt comfortable in? Go back to that stuff. Would you be comfortable wearing what the groomsmen are wearing? What about slacks, a vest and the groomsmen's coordinating tie? Perhaps high waisted wide leg pants and a blouse that matches the bridesmaids. How would you feel about standing on the same side as the groom? If you already know what dress the bride has chosen, you might even consider calling the shop. They may have encountered similar situations and have coordinating non-dress outfits. Remember, it is not only queer folks who often don't want to wear cocktail dresses. Many women refuse and many mother-of-the-bride styles take this in to consideration. Whatever you decide, be sure to come up with a couple of options that are acceptable to you.
4. Talk to the Bride
Well yes. This is the hardest part. Sure there are those of us for whom words come easy and a simple phone call of "hey, I don't wear dresses, cool?" will work. Unfortunately for many of us it isn't that straightforward (no pun intended). Plan to talk with the bride either on the phone or in person. Although you might be nervous about having to say words aloud, it's much more polite to deal with these sort of things directly. Plus, you avoid the anxious period as you await her response.
Keep in mind that the way you talk with someone is going to be extremely dependent on both your relationship with them and also their comfort level with queer issues. The way your sister responds to you is going to be very different from the way your cousin or high school best friend responds. Someone who knows a lot of queer people is also going to respond differently from someone for whom you're the only queermo they know.
Think about being confident, strong and getting to the point. Don't forget that bride may not quite get what you mean right away. She might think you don't want to wear a dress rather than that you don't wear dresses. Be upbeat and friendly while making sure your language and tone are extremely clear. Most importantly, always always always thank the bride like she's doing you a favor. Even though we know that dressing as you see fit should be a given, many brides will see this as granting you a favor. In the end, it might be best to let them think that.
When I need to have a serious talk with someone I sometimes write up a little script. Here's are some examples:
You: I'm so happy you asked me to be in your wedding, but I'm really not comfortable wearing dresses. How would you feel if I wore something else that coordinated?
Bride: Meep! I didn't even think about that. Obviously you can wear something else. Is what the boys are wearing okay?
You: Yup, that sounds great. Just let me know what color to buy my tie in. Thanks so much, this means a lot to me.
You: I'm so happy you asked me to be in your wedding but I'm really not comfortable wearing dresses. How would you feel if I wore something else that coordinated?
Bride: Oh jeez, you always think you're going to look fat. I promise you'll look fine and the dress I picked is super cute.
You: It's not that, it's that my gender identity is such that I do not wear dresses under any circumstances anymore.
Bride: Um... I guess I didn't realize since you wore a dress the last time I saw you. Um... yeah of course we can work something out. It wouldn't be my wedding without my college synchronized diving partner.
You: Thanks so much, this means a lot to me.
You: I'm so happy you asked me to be be in your wedding but I'm really not comfortable wearing dresses. How would you feel if I wore something else that coordinated?
Bride: Ugh I knew you were going to be like this. You know it's my day. I don't understand why you always have to be the center of attention.
You: I'm not trying to make a big deal out of this, I just don't wear dresses anymore. What if I wore what the groomsmen were wearing?
Bride: Fine. But then you have to stand on the boys side too.
You: That sounds like a good compromise. Thanks so much, this means a lot to me.
You: I'm so happy that you asked me to be in your wedding and even took the time to find coordinating menswear for me.
Bride: Yeah no problem. I don't think I've seen you in a dress in 20 years.
You: How would you feel about referring to me as a bridesmate instead of a bridesmaid? It just feels more consistent with my gender identity.
Bride: Seems a little trivial to me, but sure. If that's what you want I'll do my best.
You: Thanks so much, it's really important to me.
Talking to anyone about your gender/sexuality can be really hard and talking about weddings is hard. Together, it's the perfect storm of scary awful hardness. Still, you have to do it. It might be really awkward, you might end up having to gracefully bow out of the wedding. Who knows, the bride might end up changing her whole plan to let everyone wear what they want! Regardless, your number one priority should be standing your ground, being true to yourself and celebrating in style.