You Are What You Wear

Warmer weather is a welcome flowery relief in most places.  Except in my office -- since sunny days invite sproutings of a particularly chauvinistic variety from a male coworker, making me yearn for the winds of fall.  Scattering opinions on female attire like grass cuttings as he mows his way through the office, this season my colleague has grown buggy about skorts, the hybrid skirt-shorts with a sarong-like flap glimpsed everywhere from suburban tennis courts to big city streets. "They're false advertising, an affront to men," I hear him exclaiming indignantly to staffers he’s ambushed in the lunch room, down by the water cooler, in the next cubicle. "First I'm impressed by a woman in a sexy skirt,” he backtracks to the source of his apparel allergy, sounding rational if not exactly evolved.  “But when she turns around, she's wearing a pair of utilitarian shorts. She could be on her way to do the laundry."  Then, to his retreating audience he thunders his dark conclusion that skort wearers mix signals. “Skorts could lead to miscommunication between the sexes!”

The sentiment hangs in the air like a storm cloud and when he finally drifts off to compile some new sales figures it descends upon me in a rain of mirthful day dreams. I begin to envision this highly-strung he-man spotting a leggy woman in short skirt.  Buzzing after her he suddenly realizes her outfit is a duplicitous skort.  Costume disillusioned, he cries, "No wait, there's a seam!"

Don’t get me wrong, I am not completely unmoved by his pathetic plight. I can appreciate what a disappointment this hybrid garment must be to a certain segment of the population whose pulse quickens at the front view, men who assume a skirt does the full 360.  I am especially sympathetic to the dreadful flip-flops of emotion skirt chasers approaching from the rear must endure when they get a load of the front.  But I also wonder if, in the larger scheme of inter-gender relations, a skort is so cataclysmic.  Does it disorient as much as the tornado of a highly padded and gravity-defying Wonderbra whirling through the air on its way to lodging in the chandelier?   The tidal wave of a masterful makeup job liquefied and pooling on an early morning pillow?  No, the woman who wears a skort is still the very same, even if a man on the street can't determine whether she's heading to Laundromat or luncheon.

Who cares about the rear view of a skirt, anyway? It’s overrated, considering the multitude of flat-as-a-frying-pan bottoms out there and the way seat material tends to stretch and wrinkle.  At least a skort delineates a woman's derriere and keeps crisp where a skirt glosses over.   It must not be the rear view of a skirt that attracts my steamed associate but rather the idea that if he shares the company of a female in a short skirt he may be the recipient of a surprise gander.

In this regard, the skort pest is his very own pesticide. If men like my colleague weren't so absorbed with a hint of flesh or gleam of panty and then overspill their banks at the notion of a woman in a short skirt, maybe skorts wouldn't be so popular.  Women find skorts liberating precisely because of such puerile behavior. The garment’s extra coverage relieves the self-conscious vigilance of a woman in a miniskirt as she maneuvers to daintily walk, sit, bend and climb without unveiling her privates for every opportunist within eyeshot.

My corn-for-brains coworker wonders if women intend to be glamorous and sexy or functional and sporty when we don a skort.  But he is lost in the woods long before the issue of sexy or sporty mushrooms. A woman’s words and actions rarely take their meaning from a piece of fabric.

He took the wrong path when he chose to bemoan communication between the sexes.  With the amount of inauthentic paraphernalia in the feminine arsenal, skorts are hardly a prime assault on reality or communication.  The feminine propensity toward artifice doesn't nettle my critical colleague when a woman fakes nature’s bounty in a bosom, or streaks of the sun in her hair or its rays on her bronze cheeks.   Eager to accept superficies that make a woman appealing to him, he has no interest in how she manages it, nor does he while afternoons on the porch wondering what she means by it. The sticky skort, however, masks exactly what this fellow finds intriguing about a woman while revealing something much more mysterious: the beehive of complexity that exists in us all. We women expect and demand many things from a single moment of our lives while my black and white coworker prefers we keep our message to him simple. Sexy = available.  Functional = unavailable.

It seems to me that spectrum-challenged men like the skort hater have a lot more to worry about when it comes to the opposite sex than an extra seam.  Perhaps a skort’s extra seam separates the men from the boys – since it takes a seasoned man to fully appreciate a woman who employs artifice not only to be gorgeous, but comfortable too.



This appeared in the Malaysian men's magazine Men's Review.