Identity / Life

The Beauty in Difference

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Susan Goldberg & Vikki Reich
PHOTO CREDIT: VIKKI REICH

“What will I wear?” That was the first thought that came to mind when I decided to go to the Mom2.0 conference.

I should have been wondering “What will I learn?” or “Who will I see?” I should have been focused on the fact that VillageQ was nominated for Iris Awards in two categories.

But, no.

I thought only about what I would wear because I’ll be honest – it is not easy to be visibly queer in a space that is not. My short-cropped hair and my androgynous style are often out of place where long hair and dresses are common.

Could I try harder to fit in? Yes, I could. I could style my hair differently and put on a dress and put on a bit more make-up. I could play up my femininity and come off as just a little less queer. I could pass.

But would that make it easier? No.

Because the way we present in the world is complicated – a mix of expectations and self-perception and wishes. The way we dress conveys who we are but also who we want to be because sometimes we only see ourselves through the eyes of others.

So, I went shopping with a trusted friend for clothes to wear on the red carpet. I texted pictures from dressing rooms, soliciting the opinions of those who know me well and love me anyway. I took advice and suggestions and struggled. I found fault in my body, pointing out every imperfection in every mirror in every dressing room until I was ready to give up. Hours later, my friend led me back to something I had tried on in the very beginning. I put it on and stood before the mirror once again and she stood behind me, put her hands on my shoulders and said, “You will never fit in so don’t even try.”

It may not seem like much of a pep talk but it was the reminder I needed. The discomfort of difference is nothing compared to the discomfort of trying to look like someone you’re not.

I bought that outfit and went home and started to put together what I would wear during the few days I would be at the conference – a mix of dress pants and classic dress shirts, bold footwear and I even threw in a vest. Nothing says queer like a pinstriped vest.

And while there, I took a deep breath each time I got dressed, another deep breath each time I stepped onto an elevator, each time I entered a room, and the biggest breath of all when I stood on the red carpet before the Iris Awards.

I stood out. People let their gaze run head to toe on more than one occasion, sometimes with disdain but more often with appreciation – of my style or courage I’ll never know. There were moments when I felt uncomfortable but drew strength from my identity and tried to project confidence, tried to feel brave. Being in the presence of good friends helped too. And when it was all over, I looked at pictures and thought, “Yes. That is me.”

When I got home, my daughter asked to see pictures of me on the red carpet and as she flipped through them, she smiled and said, “Mama, you looked beautiful.” Her voice had that airy quality that suggests awe. “Really?” I asked. “Yes. You looked really, really good.”

I am a work in progress, a confident woman sometimes unsettled by insecurities, but I want to remain true to myself and feel beautiful. And the next time I wonder if I have the strength to do that, I need to remember that I really have no choice. I owe it to myself and if that’s not enough, I owe it to my daughter because she is watching me, taking her cues from me, learning how to be a woman in this world from me. What do I want her to see when she looks at me? I want her to see confidence. I want her to see what it looks like to be yourself. I want her to see the beauty in difference.

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Laurie White, Julie Roberts & Vikki Reich PHOTO CREDIT: JANA ANTHOINE

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21 Comments

  1. Vikki— you are beautiful and looked hot and happy in all the pictures. So sad to have missed it.

    Also, I am pretty sure I could wear a pinstriped vest and never been read as queer.

  2. Thanks for this. I needed to read it today, given that yesterday a woman on the street called out to me to ask for directions and when I turned to talk to her, she said, “Oh, excuse me, I meant ‘Sir’.”

    P.S. If you weren’t beautiful, my girlfriend wouldn’t have to pretend not to be a tinge jealous when I read your blogs.

    • I was sir’d on the flight to Mom2.0 by the flight attendant who had a great view of my boobs. In my better moments, I can find it fascinating.

      And thank you for the compliment 😉

  3. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed what you were wearing (other than that time on the runway), nor do I notice what anyone is wearing. Maybe I’m not observant, or maybe all that shining people do from the inside out blinds me.

  4. You would never know that you felt like you didn’t fit in. You were (are) hot and confident and trendy. Keep being YOU.

  5. Your Iris outfit stood out to me because it was SO KICK ASS. I am just getting to know you, and that suit screamed VIKKI to me. It was classic. It fit great. It was HOT. You looked confident and comfortable and fantastic. I never once looked at you and thought “Welp, she’s dressed like a lesbian!” Instead, I thought “Yep, that’s what I thought Vikki would have on.” Everything you wore seemed a natural extension of you, as far as I know: approachable, put-together and confident. What’s the last thing I told you Sunday morning in the lobby? “Damn, you always look so cute!”

  6. This hit me with all the feels, so I’ll just be over here mopping up complicated tears.

    And you looked fantastic. I was there, so I ought to know.

  7. I thought you looked amazing. I absolutely LOVE your style. And I will add that I have seen it in person, so I have enough expertise in this area to pass judgement.

    Like Elan, this post had a lot of tenderness for me, too. I often feel extraordinarily self-conscious about my looks. I am tall, so that makes me stand out. But the real reason that I harbor a lot of intense feelings about how people look is from my father, who was badly disfigured in an accident when I was a child. Going out with him meant constantly being stared at. And being home meant pretending like looks never mattered. It was messy.

    Tonight I’m reading at Listen To Your Mother Denver and what am I most worried about? Not bumbling what I’ll be reading. Not opening myself up to hundreds. But how will I look up there?

    So my new plan is to channel Vikki-cool-suit-bitchen-shoes-awesomeness while I belt it out in the microphone. Thanks so much for this. You’re amazing.

  8. As has already been said, you looked AMAZING. (I want all your shoes, please. We had this conversation already, yes?) You’re beautiful, inside and out. So glad I got to spend a little time with you. 🙂

  9. Now see, I never would have thought that you would EVER do ANYTHING But fit in. You draw people to you and are a genuinely good person. And what IS “fitting in” anyway?

  10. You know what I think already. But I’m mindful of dismissing your feelings by saying that you don’t stick out, in any other way than sticking out as being you, but that is truly how I feel in that space or any other in which I’ve seen you. I think your style is fucking awesome, that you are perfectly you, and that is off the charts appropriate for Mom 2.0 or anywhere. I would NEVER have nagged you to come to a place where I thought you would be acknowledged for anything other than the awesome that you are, inside and out. Only by being a part of, truly — meeting people, having conversations, being appreciated for what we know and who we are — can we feel comfortable and less mindful of the parts of us that we may feel are not. But they always end up blending into the landscape of being known. Which I think is really the best thing we can hope for anyway. To be known, instead of observed and judged. That’s different.

    I personally am very very glad you were there.

  11. If only we could bottle our powers of self-distortion and use them for good.

    It’s funny, because I have never seen you not look as if you completely fit in and surpass the style of those around you. I think it’s a testament to how well you suit yourself. Or, you know, I just really, really like you.

    Thanks for this post, speaking this kind of secret truth is hard.

  12. In all of the photos I saw over the weekend, you in the white suit was one of my favorite looks! It was such a casually chic look and your hair cut and color were perfect with it! Also, I’m always fascinated/comforted by how universal some feelings of worry about appearance are (even if the causes for the worry aren’t universal).

  13. Vikki I loved what you wore. It was so YOU. Had it been any different, THAT would have been weird!

  14. “The discomfort of difference is nothing compared to the discomfort of trying to look like someone you’re not.” <- Bam.

  15. Late to the conversation, but you know I love that suit. For what it’s worth, I felt like I was in drag (and not in a good way) in my little black dress – something about it didn’t feel quite right, and I was so happy to get rid of it and back into jeans and a T-shirt for the rest of the evening. Your personal style is as distinct as (and, I’d argue, indistinguishable from) your personality, and altering either to “fit in” with people who love you already would be a crime.

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