My parents are Baptists. I know there’s different versions of that so let me explain a bit further. They only attend Baptist churches and look down on all others, only use the KJV Bible, my mom only wears skirts and dresses, my parents used to make us all go soul winning, they only played gospel or classical music in the house, we didn’t have a TV , my parents drove a big white 16 passenger van (7 kids to transport), we were all homeschooled, my dad was a pastor for 11 years of my childhood and both of my parents clearly hated homosexuals, public schools, democrats, secular college, modern music and girls wearing pants or other modern clothing. How’s that for an intro? My parents are not horrible people and they have improved a bit but man, when you type it all out. Yikes!
Growing up my sisters and I were only allowed to wear skirts and dresses. 365 days a year, rain, snow, or sun. Going to church, making a snowman, riding a bike, playing in the woods, or swimming? We had skirts on. Long, ugly, probably jean or homemade skirts. Now I’m not hating on skirts and dresses, there are cute ones that I like wearing but when you grow up not knowing how to style them properly, what’s trendy or where to shop for good ones, you’re not going to look very good. Trust me, you really run out of options when you need a skirt outfit for every day of every year. Even if you do find something cute, your parents will never allow you to wear it, so you’re basically screwed either way.
Growing up I hated getting dressed every day. It started around age 10 and lasted until I no longer lived with my parents at age 18. When I was really young I didn’t notice how weird I looked or how I didn’t fit it. I played outside every day and didn’t care who saw me. Then one day it just changed, I remember playing with my friends and they would wear normal clothes and my sisters called them cute and I wondered why no one said I looked cute. My friends wore sweatpants, jeans, shorts, pajamas, swimsuits, snow pants and I wore long skirts with t-shirts every day rain or shine. I was embarrassed and insecure around my friends, relatives, and even strangers. My clothes ruined my confidence, spirit and self worth. The clothes stole my identity.
I was that 10 year old wearing a grown women’s skirt from Christopher and Banks with a kids American flag t-shirt and sneakers. Thank God I had 3 older sisters to hide behind.
I remember going through phases as a teenager like everyone else did, an emo phase, girly phase, tomboy phase, but no one knew except me because I was wearing a below the knee length jean skirt with a hand me down t-shirt and sneakers through all of it. No individuality and no self expression. I stopped enjoying going outside during the day. I didn’t like going to the park, riding bikes, taking walks, or playing catch with my brothers unless it was dark outside. I didn’t want anyone to see me. I would watch my brothers play from my bedroom window sometimes and be jealous of how normal they looked.
To be completely honest, I still have anxiety being seen outside sometimes. I’m 23 and have lived away from my parents since I was 18, I’m getting married in 4 months, I have a full time job, freedom to buy what I want and go where I want and I still fight some childhood insecurities. You don’t just snap out of 18 years of someone controlling your identity.
If you’re not familiar with these types of environments or if you were raised in a similar environment but you’re a boy, you might be wondering why this is a big deal. It’s just clothes, it’s not that big of a deal right? But it is. Why? Because it makes you loose your passion for life. It ruins your self worth. Imagine wanting to play soccer with your friends but you have a long skirt on and people are watching and you don’t want to look dumb so even though you enjoy soccer, you sit out. Now you’re riding a bike and having a good time and your sister whispers to you that she can see your underwear and so can everyone else. Now your friends, strangers and your boss are asking you why you wear skirts all the time and are you cold? are you hot? are you religious? It’s embarrassing and exhausting.
Another huge problem is teaching someone that they don’t deserve love from their parents or love from God because of the clothes they wear. I remember pastors preaching against women wearing pants constantly and calling them an abomination. This is spiritual and emotional abuse. Every time a parent dismisses their kids feelings, beliefs or opinions, and screams at them or physically harms them for their appearance, they are destroying that kids self worth. They are causing that child to be resentful, bitter, stressed, depressed and learn how to lie and sneak around behind the parents back. The kid will not respect their parents because the parents do not respect them.
I avoided my parents as much as possible. I wanted to be anywhere except my house. I dreamed of coming home, putting pajama pants on and watching a movie on a couch in the living room, was that too much to ask? Yep. My sisters and I would sneak jeans or shorts in our purses and change in the car before going places. It was the only way to feel normal and confident. The first few times I wore jeans I loved how comfy they were and how I could do whatever I wanted and no one would see my underwear or look at me weird. I could wear any shirt and it always looked good. I had full range of motion in pants and it was so cool to me. I felt cute and normal! I wished I could feel like that all the time.
Growing up my mom made my sisters and I homemade swim skirts. When I was young I was allowed to wear my brothers swim trunks with an oversized t-shirt but when I was probably around 10 I had to wear the swim skirt like the older girls. Thus my hatred for swimming began. When relatives from out of state visited and got a hotel room my brothers were so happy because that meant swimming! and for them that meant wearing swim trunks and no shirts of course. For me, it meant a knee length ugly bright pink skirt with shorts sewn underneath and a t-shirt, so I told people I didn’t want to swim even though I did. When we went to the lake, I pretended again that I didn’t want to swim.
It really sucked having to explain to other kids and adults that I wasn’t choosing to dress the way I was but that my parents made me do it. I was living an identity that was not who I was because I had to lie about what I enjoyed doing and what I enjoyed wearing. I desperately wanted people to know and like the real me while having to play the part of who my parents wanted me to be which was someone I hated. When I was 16 I got a job at a local cafe as a waitress and my boss told me to wear black pants. I told him my parents were religious and I had to wear a skirt over my pants. I remember him telling other people that it was my religion and then I had to defend myself and explain that no, it wasn’t, it was my parents. And that kind of situation happened all the time. When I worked as a cashier at Menards I changed into jeans in the car before I got there and changed back into a skirt before I got home.
I wish I handled it better back then, I wish I knew how to style skirts properly and keep up with trends. I wish I knew about Pinterest for fashion inspo and which stores to shop at for teens my age. But looking back I don’t even think that would have mattered because I still wouldn’t be allowed to wear most of it even if it was a skirt or dress and wearing them every day, 365 days a year, is just not reasonable. I want you to know that I am not bitter towards my parents for this anymore but more sad for them that they truly believe you must dress a certain way to be a child of God. I did have some good times growing up but honestly almost all of them were spent with my siblings or friends doing our own thing away from home.