Unexpected Reactions

As a teenager I was thin, had a nice figure and was told by my grandmother and cousin to always accentuate my positive.  

I remember wearing a pair of hot pants and a midriff halter top. As I stood at the bus stop a man began to talk with me, "don’t let me see everything, leave something to the imagination. Let a man use his imagination," he said.

Shortly after, one of my brother’s came to pick me up. This was the first and last time this happened so, it was memorable. The first thing he said when time to leave was, "go get ready. I looked down, "I am ready, he must not be happy with what I am wearing," I thought. Then, I went to change. I realized I had on the same type of outfit I from a few days earlier, so I changed and put on my hip huggers.

We left and headed directly to the mall. We rode in silence until I asked, "why are we going to the mall?" He responded, "to get you some clothes." We entered Evergreen Mall in Chicago, still silent, and into the ladies section, where he picked out a few blouses and handed them to the sales lady. He asked her to take me and check the fit, while he looked around. She made sure I was measured and fitted for additional garments. As we walked back to the car, he said, "Gigi, you are a lady and it does not matter what you think about what you are wearing, you must think about what men will think when they see you wearing it. I never want you to ever dress like that again."

Since that day, I have taken his words to heart and work to make sure my dress is appropriate. As an adult, I have told many young teenage girls this story as I worked with them in chemical dependency or, as a therapist to mother’s, on my client list. I am thankful for my brother, his love, honesty, and ability to say what I did not want to hear. It saddens me at times that, there are not more brothers who give their little sisters that lesson, and sisters who listen; it impacted my life in a powerful way.

It's unfortunate but, he was right, our clothes tend to say a lot about us and seem to impede on the level of respect we receive or, do not receive from other people. To me, that is judging and I do not like to judge or, to be judged; it is also the first impression. People see us before they ever have an opportunity to hear us, so what we say with our clothing speaks volumes to what people think. What people think is not always what we feel or, intend. I remember a time, I dressed very conservative and that in combination with my shyness was considered, stuck-up.

I have seen many eras of our young people expressing their individualism or, their rebellion for society through movements, clothing, makeup, hairstyle etc... Our clothes and how we walk, stand, and even the words we use say so much about us, in non-verbal communication.

Throughout my life, I have often thought about my brother’s words and the words of the gentleman at the bus stop. Yes, it has helped me become aware of what I am wearing. Yes, my dear brother prepared me to understand how much what you wear can lead others to judge. However, it is not just about clothes, it added to my understanding of how to step outside of myself and think simply of others and how they feel. It was one moment in time that contributed to so much more in my life.

 

Jennifer GiGi Ferguson marching with the Nurses Union at Tacoma General Hospital

Though I was uncomfortable the other day marching with the nurses at Tacoma General Hospital in my heels, stockings, and skirt (business meeting before and after the march), they told me they were happy I made the effort to come. They were happy, I made the effort to speak with some of them and to listen to what their concerns were; that I walked with them professionally dressed in 80 degree weather for 45 minutes. I was uncomfortable, hot, and the balls of my feet on fire but, the nurses were happy and pleased to know I truly cared about them and their issues. I really liked their shirts which said “Patients before Profits”.

I am very concerned about people.  I try to be aware of my actions and its impact on the people around me. That is why “People before Politics" for me is more than a slogan; it is a way of life.