Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Tie

I wore a tie to work the other day. It goes down to my belly-button; it's red, with small, diagonal, black stripes; and I don't have to actually tie it. It's not a strip of cloth that I have to wind and weave around itself. It's actually on a zipper mechanism so that you can slide the tie up and down a zipper to tighten it around your neck. A brilliant idea. I wore it with a white, button-up shirt and gray slacks, by the way. I thought I looked pretty sharp.

So I wore it to work the other day. I've only worn it twice so far, but both times, my male colleagues have ignored it while women compliment me on it. "Cute tie," they said. After I heard it the second or third time, I realized that they didn't say "nice tie" or "neat tie" or "sharp tie." They said "cute." What on earth is cute about a tie? It's a masculine article of clothing, a garnish of personality added to a business suit that's otherwise meant to convey professionalism and seriousness to colleagues and clients. Nothing cute about it. (Unless it's pink with bunnies and kittens on it, I suppose. But that's not what my tie looks like. It's red with stripes. Classic. Unisex.)

So why did they say cute? Is it because the wearer is a woman? Is it because the complimenter is a woman? Is it because I'm younger than them, and so I am not to be taken seriously? When you think of a female wearing a tie, what do you see? I see a young girl in a school uniform getting off a bus to attend class at a private school. I realize that's not the image that I want to see. It's not professional. It's young, and young girls are often cute.

Am I trying to find meaning where there isn't any? Maybe.

I'm not trying to make a statement by wearing this tie. I'm not trying to be a staunch feminist, insisting on wearing slightly manish clothing so that I am taken more seriously. I just like the tie. I like red and I like stripes and I like the contrast with the white shirt. I like the tie in the same way that I like the string of tigers eye beads that I sometimes wear with collared shirts - I think it looks nice. It's a nice garnish to otherwise professional, boring clothing.

In fact, I am not the only adult woman to wear a tie. I know I've seen it before. And I know I did not think of a schoolgirl when I saw her. If I find a photo, I will post it. And I will continue to observe reactions when I wear it. Perhaps I have not collected enough data.

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