Minimal

 

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“Your dress is too short”, the first words that came out from a classmate’s lips when I came to visit her one day after school. Standing from the edge of the street facing the makeshift stairs to descend onto their unpainted house made from light wood and veneers one in a cluster of other houses occupied by other families, separated by thin plywoods and makeshift doors and windows. I am waiting for her to let me in. This striped dress mother sewed last Christmas is six months old and everybody kept saying it is pretty. New to the neighborhood, I am looking for playmates.

Just a few days before or after this, at school during our physical education class, I was hanging on a horizontal  bar, upon the teacher’s instruction.  I wanted to refuse seeing the boys before me couldn’t even do it, but I didn’t know that I could refuse. I grab the horizontal bar with the teacher supporting my waist as I lift myself from the ground, my feet dangling, the teacher instructed me to pull higher on one count then on the next, but then she saw I wasn’t strong enough then eventually instructed to get off. While I was up in the bar, I realize that some boys were grinning because my position gave them an opportunity to freely peek at my underwear, I didn’t give much attention but was instead trying to follow the teacher’s instruction. So what if they see my underwear? I didn’t know what seeing my underwear means.

The era of miniskirt came, everybody became so conscious attempting to hide what’s in between the thighs through hemline that keeps getting shorter and shortest until it teasingly gets just below the butt. Mother is the neighborhood’s go to seamstress, altering, repairing, or making new dresses by copying the latest fads from magazines. we all know at least, us the older girls, we knew how to sew basic stitches like basting, outline or hem stitching by hand helping mother sewing when she needs one. My sister who is four years older than me goes to school in the morning with her hemline close to her knee, she comes home during lunch break takes off her skirt uniform, folds the hemline doubling the original, sewing it shorter. The next day she would come home from school the same hemline will undergo another fold and another sewing until it gets very close to her crotch. The following week realizes that the hemline is uncomfortably short, pulls it back down a little longer again.

When my classmate finally let me in, not at my first visit, but it would take me a few until I am led inside her house, I am told to sit down properly like a lady. Expecting to be shown her toys and dolls instead I receive my first lesson in modesty. She is smaller than me, utterly elegant in her movement, perfectly groomed, neatly dressed on her house clothes. That I should tell my mom to lengthen my clothes up to my knees. The fairness of her skin contrasts with all of us, perhaps the reason why I am attracted to her, although belonging to the same race, some of us are genetically mixed with with yellow race, skin color almost as fair as caucasians, standing out amidst the brown color compared to someone like me dark skinned from continuous exposure to the sun.

Finally growing up at my sisters’ age, my skirts and dresses were only a little above my knee, either sewn with another piece of cloth to lengthen it or plainly  longer cut. No miniskirts, in fact I wanted to be a nun chaste and pure as the white cloth covering their body. Wearing bloomers on friday for the physical education subject gave me a sense of protection from leery old men showing off their genitals in public. I would eventually learn to put on tiny short underneath my skirts when going out to at least protect myself. Still I didn’t have the arrogant, aggressive and sexy style as the designer Mary Quant conceive the miniskirt to be. While I witness my mother sewing a lot of dresses for my sister, shorter hemlines, almost miniskirts, sleeveless, and open neck. I would watch my sister in disgust waiting for the bus standing at the corner with her thighs, arms and chest showing.

At forty years old, I discovered that my thighs were still in good shape, my height enhance by high heels showing long leggedness. Because I am still single, available and looking for who may come I started wearing skirts half the length of my thigh. I began to be arrogant, aggressive and sexy in front of men. Then one day, an elderly woman neighbor called on my attention, thinking that I’ll be getting a surprise and really I did get a surprise, she told me, “your skirt is too short”.

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