Written by Gemma Sherlock aka The Scarlet Bob
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a unique sense of style. In the 90s, I bleached wild streaks into my dyed red hair, much like Ginger Spice. A magenta bob complimented my fluoro-techno-bunny image of the early 2000s. A monochrome-only phase in the early noughties made way for my color-bomb, maximalist, all-kinds-of-extra phase which remains to this day (and probably forever.) The best part? None of these choices have ever been made for the approval or enjoyment of anyone else but myself.
Growing up in Catholic Ireland in the 90s, my sister would buy fashion magazines in which beauty, sex, and being “sexy” were the prominent themes; how to make yourself more attractive to boys. But I had no interest in makeup and I didn’t know about being sexy. In fact, my parents had told me the whole “sexy” thing was bad because it attracted male attention, God forbid.
So with magazine style out of the question, my look evolved based on fabulous people I wanted to emulate. Like my neighbor Ann Farrell, whose sequin and shoulder pad wardrobe inspires me to this day. I also loved Dame Edna Everage and her insane eyewear and the Absolutely Fabulous Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone. Sweetie, dahling. Jean-Paul Gaultier as presenter of Channel 4’s brazenly enlightening Eurotrash. MTV music videos laden with more gold jewelry than you could shake a stick at. At last but not least (brace yourselves for this next one) the late Jimmy Savile and his effortlessly glam take on leisurewear. This was, of course, in his days as a TV icon — not prolific sex offender. Yikes.
My personal style has long been my primary outlet for creative expression. You paint? I dress up.
Anyways, my personal style has long been my primary outlet for creative expression. You paint? I dress up. It’s the one area in my life where I can unequivocally claim one hundred percent confidence. Red hair and ostentatious apparel are the armour I choose to help me deal with the stress of living. And as an anxiety sufferer, it’s not up for negotiation.
My style has lead to some interesting interactions with members of the opposite sex. They seem to think wearing sequins is code for sex worker or sexual promiscuity. I’ve been asked to take on the role of mistress. I’ve been propositioned to be a casual pegging pal. I’ve been cast in the role of a “sext mate.” These guys are all about having wild sex whilst I wear my wild clothes, but they’d never bring me home to their mother. So, for the sake of myself, I’ve experienced a rather barren dating period.
Dating online is a minefield for all women. But for those of us who don’t fit into neat little boxes, it can be exhausting. I love my look, but I don’t include my Instagram handle in dating profiles anymore. It’s just that more often than not, that’s where the conversation ends. There’s no getting to a real life encounter because they’ve seen all they need to.
Him: “Wow. Do you dress like that all the time?”
The silence is deafening.
When the dates do happen, I show up dressed as I usually do. Sequins. Shades. The finest plastic jewelry money can buy. My scarlet bob. No surprises. We chat.
Then comes the follow up text. Or not. I never text first — litmus test for whether he’s interested or not. Conversation ensues and more frequently than not, insecurity pervades and goes something like this:
“I find your self-assuredness intimidating.”
So what are my options? Tone myself down? Suppress my style and identity to make men feel more secure in pursuing a relationship with me? Dye my hair a “normal” color and blend in with everyone else?
I’m not a “work in progress” looking for input or approval. I am who I am and I wear what I want — unapologetically so.
No, thank you. I’m not a “work in progress” looking for input or approval. I am who I am and I wear what I want — unapologetically so. Yeah, I’m different, so I need someone secure enough in themselves to deal with that. Someone who can appreciate my individuality instead of being threatened by it. These men are few and far between, but I believe they are out there. Somewhere.
I’d say you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a Prince, but my experience hasn’t included much kissing. My fabulous zero-giver-of-fucks Granny said to me a few years ago, “there’s only one thing you need know about men: they don’t change.”
So…why should I?