Off the Mat: Rainbow Dress at the Green River Fest
Free to Be
The venue: 2014 Green River Festival. For those unfamiliar, it’s a music fest – Happy Valley style. Vendors sell food on a stick, but it’s chicken satay. The hotdogs? Grass fed beef. The fried dough is topped with rustic pesto and goat cheese. This was our third year enjoying eclectic music and family friendly extras, like circus acts and hot air balloons. It was here, two years ago, my son first expressed his desire for a dress.
I was choosing between two upcycled t-shirt sundresses in the Maker’s Market. She makes kids’ sizes, too, but they’re more costly than I would spend on one unit of children’s clothing, especially one designed for single-season wear. He’s an only child. There’s no amortizing the cost.
I want a sundwess too, Mama. I want mine to have a numbuh fwee on it so peopew wiww know I’m fwee.
I give a non-committal response. Maybe we can.
The dress is seemingly soon forgotten – until it comes up again the next year. This time maybe doesn’t suffice because it’s accompanied by that kicker of all questions: why?
It’s his preschool best buddy – a wood sprite of a girl, born to wear an off-kilter wildflower crown – who introduces him to the gendered clothing divide.
Mama, Daisy says boys can’t wear leggings. Dey are giwl cwothes.
I seize the teachable moment and talk about the old rules that too many people still believe. The rules I was taught as a kid.
I don’t know for sure, but I think they are afraid of things that are different. And they teach this fear.
Knowing the impact of this friendship on his heart, I ask, I know you’d like to get a dress. What if Daisy says boys can’t wear dresses? How would you feel? What would you say?
I’ll say yes dey can. I’m a boy and dis is a dwess.
This spring, dinner table talk turns to summer plans: family reunions and camping trips and music festival line-ups.
And a dress. A tie-dye wainbow sundwess.
The parking queue snakes by the vendor tents. Rainbow tie-dye visible in the second row. We set up camp chairs then make a b-line. And there it is – a simple, spaghetti strap A-line tank dress. No frills. Bright rainbow colors. Exactly what he had pictured. His joy lights the tent.
He twirls through the field, spinning and hop-skipping (still working on skipping) in this oddly syncopated modern dance. His own drummer clearly defining a beat undetectable to the rest of us.
Age and self-consciousness and mid back mobility limitations and unreliable pelvic floor muscles mean I will still dance, but I have to wade through a lot of self-doubt constraints to let go.
He just flows.
I’m inspired. I’m jealous!
That’s what I seek on my mat. Free flowing energy, fully present joy filled twirling through the world.
We leave a few songs into the final performer, tired and damp. Ready to beat the parking lot crowd. It is bedtime after all and there’s camp tomorrow. The skipping energy has settled to a bouncy walk.
You know what it fewt wike, Mama?
What felt like, kiddo?
Getting my dwess.
It fewt wike Chwistmas.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ginny is a yoga instructor, Reiki practitioner, gardener, activist, and middle aged Mama. She has put down roots in South Amherst with her spouse and young son. Daily she’s amazed by the beauty the Pioneer Valley offers, though her allergies beg to differ. She believes our natural state is to be balanced in body and mind so spirit can flow freely. Because modern life gets in the way, she offers self-healing bodywork to unravel imbalances and restore energy flow. In Off the Mat, Ginny explores how yoga’s physical and mindfulness exercises help her parent and how parenting shapes her yoga practice.
Like all stories, there’s more to this experience. Like clouds have their silver linings, rainbows have their dark side. It was my son, the night of the festival, who raised the dark side.
Mama? The peopew who fink boys can’t weaw dwesses, do dey ever huwt da boys? Do dey shoot dem?
Yes. Yes honey, sometimes they do.
Giwls too? Giwls who don’t dwess like giwls?
Yes, girls get hurt too. Sometimes very badly. Sometimes they get killed.
What do da powice say?
Sometimes the police agree, sadly.
But what about da powice who fink it’s ok. Do dey take da bad guy to jaiw?
Without waiting for an answer, he continued.
And what do der Mama’s say?
My answer. They cry. Their mamas cry.
I wish I ‘d answered – they fight.