Different times, places determine people’s dressing

Attires mean various things to different people. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Attires mean various things to different people. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

I have a daughter who is otherwise normal in all aspects except that she loves wearing ties and suits like a man, prefers her hair short like a man’s. I want her to be thought of as a woman who is to be married sometime in future. Should I read anything in her behaviour?

You have asked a most intriguing question and the answer we will give you, may or may not satisfy you. Some readers will in all likelihood disagree while others might dismiss the answer as shallow or one that misses the point. We hope some will agree with our point of view.

Let’s go to the basics first. How old is your daughter? Is she three, 13, 23, 35 or even in her 60s? Depending on her age, and also depending on whether this is new or old behaviour, then one is able to address the question more accurately. You have left the field free for us to speculate. First a story.

About five years ago, we got a call from the sister of a lawyer we had known for many years. As we were to find out later, he had become a very big fish in a small pond.

For many years, he had practiced in the Rift Valley and had achieved great success as a lawyer. He had become very good at his work and helped many locals buy and sell all manner of land.

The crisis in his life came when his father died suddenly of a heart attack. His father had, in his own right been a leading figure in the town. For his three wives and 20 something children, he had built an empire that spanned agriculture, real estate, and small scale manufacturing. He had held the family together using the classical iron fist. First, all his children had “to go to school”.

He was of modest education and had determined that his children would have to be lawyers, doctors, engineers and that sort of thing. To a large extent, he had succeeded with most. He was by all accounts a proud well respected citizen.

The person whose sister called us was a lawyer in his 50s. He was the youngest son of the youngest wife of the old man. Not surprisingly the old man had much love and affection for the young son and his mother.

The father had determined that the youngest son would inherit his social and economic position in town. He did not mince his words on this matter when he introduced his son to his friends and relatives.

He often went on at great length to give reasons for this decision. In primary school, this is the son who came top of his class. In high school, he was the school captain and won all the awards. He went to university in England and did not do drugs, and more importantly did not marry a mzungu.

Upon his return, he married “the girl next door” who happened to be the daughter of his father’s business partner.

The lawyer had led a perfect life under the watchful eye of his loving parents. He was ready to inherit his father’s mantle. The father’s death changed all that.

After the funeral (where he received much praise) he did not go home. He went to the city and for five days ate, drunk and was merry, doing all the things he did not do when he was 21-years-old. He discarded his dark suits, got tattoos on his body, wore tee shirts and started to smoke cannabis. In a few days he was a caricature of his old self.

For a second wife, he picked a girl in his office who was 25 years his junior. Her hair was always braided in many different colours and her dresses (sometimes trousers) and shoes were brightly coloured. Other girls called her a peacock on account of her looks.

The lawyer in question started to dress like her in all aspects as they spent much time together eating and drinking in various nightclubs.

Later, and in therapy, it became evident that the middle aged lawyer had attained freedom upon the death of his father. This is the freedom he had craved all his life. His dressing had changed! This was the outward declaration of freedom!

Is your daughter expressing freedom in this way? If she is say 13-years-old, she might be telling you something about adolescence. If she is 33 she might be saying something about who she is as a woman!

All in all, dressing means different things to different people at different times.

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