The Dress Code

By Julia Carman

‘Don’t be on that all night,’ Dad says as he passes through the kitchen. ‘You’re costing me a fortune.’ I’m sat on the kitchen counter (our phone is hung to the wall just above it).

‘So, what are you wearing?’ I ask Michaela who’s on the other end. She’s wearing her new white stilettoes, her new navy pencil skirt and a shiny white blouse that she’s worn before. I’m supposed to wear the exact same or something very similar. This is me trying to fit in.

The next evening, Friday, my Dad drives us to the youth club disco in his new Ford Cortina. We pay our fifty pence’s. As it’s still only six o’clock the village hall windows have been covered with black paper. At the far end of the room disco music blasts out from two big speakers - celebrate! . . .good time! . . .come on!. . .ce-le-brate . . . The volume’s too loud to handle the bass. Harsh red and green lights flash on and off in a seemingly random pattern.

I spend my time following Michaela about: in the girl’s loo she lets me take a drag of her cigarette, on the dancefloor I copy her dance steps (step, two, three, small kick) and outside in the carpark I keep lookout while she kisses her latest boyfriend. Sometimes a boy will ask me out, they’re always more spotty and dull than the ones who like Michaela. I’m bored.

Back home with my brother I listen to The Sex Pistols and The Damned. I’m not sure about the spitting but I love the spikey hair! After watching Debbie Harry on Top of the Pops I decide to be ‘different’.

Luckily Diana Lightfoot, the new girl in my class, feels the same. She’s blond, slim and in love with Mick Jagger.  We become friends. In her bedroom we talk about girls like Michaela: they’re shallow, we’re not. She shows me the suede mini skirt she’s going to wear to the next disco. ‘My Mum got it from a boutique in Camden, she was very trendy before she married,’ she tells me.

‘What shall I wear?’ I ask.

‘You’d suit something more masculine.’ She says. I take her advice.

I don’t arrange to go to the next disco with Michaela. And she doesn’t bother to phone me either.

‘Is it fancy dress night?’ My Dad asks when he sees what Diana and I are wearing. I start to have second doubts. I remember how everyone bitched about Sally Simmons just for turning up in a pair of designer jeans.

‘Here goes.’ I say as we stand on the threshold. Our schoolmates turn and stare when we enter. For once I don’t care what they think. In her shiny white kinky boots Diana looks amazing and original – to me if nobody else. I march proudly beside her in my brother’s old Doc Martin’s – they’re at least a size too big. Without asking, I’ve also borrowed his khaki combats blackened with engine oil (much too big they’re held up with a utility belt). Luckily, the mess around my middle is hidden by an oversized white shirt, found in the back of my Dad’s wardrobe.

‘Why are you dressed like a tramp?’ Michaela asks me in the quiet of the toilets. She’s applying more strawberry lip gloss.

‘Because I want to.’ I reply. She doesn’t understand. I’m a tomboy and a rebel. I’m hated but free; closer to who I really am. But it will take another five years before I come out as gay.   

identity, personal rebellion, friendship, assertion