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Mom’s girly presents to me

I tore open the Santa paper to find a short red cocktail dress. “Try it on,” mother said, holding it up in front of me. “Just try it on once for mummy.” She stared at my offending Giants baseball cap and T-shirt. I grimaced. An inveterate tomboy and a closeted lesbian, I felt like an impostor in a dress. And in a red dress with the words “Santa’s Helper” bedazzled on the rear, I felt like an idiot. 

I grew up in the ’90s, with a mother who wasn’t exactly the Angelina Jolie to my Shiloh, defending my boyish sartorial choices. Quite the opposite, my mom waged a war to get me into more feminine attire.Every week in high school, mother assaulted me with a new article of clothing. She was a middle-aged female Liberace, whose tastes veered toward the laughably eccentric and: a pink shorty robe spackled with butterflies, Lilly Pulitzer skirts, and various camisoles of varied levels of transparency.

Maybe the use of “assault” sounds melodramatic, and I admit that being plied with finery was an extremely first-world problem. But whenever my mother put me in a dress, I felt as if she were taking a scalpel to my identity, trying to slice out the parts she didn’t like. And the holidays were the best opportunity for her to operate on me. Weekends in December became forced marathon shopping excursions in which I tried on skirts and gowns that would later become my presents.

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