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'Dressing for your man' did I over react?

(49 Posts)
DaveMccave Thu 29-Nov-12 14:47:10

Recently I attended a wedding with my boyfriend. I had mentioned in the run up that I was dreading having to find a dress, that I rarely wear dresses etc. He complimented me on the night, I told him not to get used to it because it's about an annual occurrence I wear a dress, and made it clear I wasn't particularly comfortable wearing it.

As we were leaving he said 'I wish you'd dress up like that for me sometimes.' I admittedly had had a few drinks so don't know if I over reacted but I called him sexist and got in a bit of a row. He said he meant at home and not out, but I said it doesn't make a difference, when I've just told him it makes me uncomfortable. Why would he want me to be uncomfortable for his benefit?

Anyway it was resolved and forgotten about, and he apologised but I know he thinks I was being silly. But when I mentioned it to friends they were really shocked at my reaction and said I was crazy for not realising that he was just trying to compliment me etc.

Was I?

CailinDana Thu 29-Nov-12 14:59:37

Tough one. I can see why you reacted why did, but in your boyfriend's mind he was just saying that he found you sexy and would get a thrill out of having you do that especially for him at home. Essentially he was telling you that you dressing like that fulfils a sexual fantasy for him which in a loving relationship is a pretty normal thing to talk about.

What complicates it is the fact that he was also saying that by being different - i.e. dressing in a way you don't normally dress, and in a way that you don't enjoy - you will turn him on. A lot of people might say "Oh but seeing my DH in a fireman's uniform would turn me on, it's just a bit of fun!" but there's something about that sort of thing that really puts me off - it suggests that you as a person are not enough and that in order to excite your partner you need to play a different role that society defines as sexy (ie dressed up), a role that you don't identify with at all. I am also put off by suggestions that women should wear sexy lingerie to entice a man - implying that their naked body isn't sexy enough and that they have to conform to a "sexy" stereotype in order to be desirable - a stereotype that paints the woman as a decorated sexual bauble rather than a living breathing person with lumps and bumps and imperfections.

You made it clear you weren't comfortable with wearing the dress, so your boyfriend suggesting you do it at home meant that he wasn't taking your feelings into account - he just wanted you to do it for his pleasure. Any person who wants someone else to just perform for them, regardless of their own feelings, is a selfish lover and a total turn off in my eyes. My DH has asked me to wear certain things in the bedroom but part of it is because he knows it turns me on too. If he knew I felt awkward or uncomfortable there's no way he would suggest it - he would not get pleasure from knowing I wasn't enjoying myself.

Basically the subtle undertone of what your boyfriend said is that he wants you to act like someone you're not in order to be more desirable. That's not a compliment. Why don't you say to him "Oh I love a guy with/without facial hair (depending) - would you do that for me?" and see what his reaction is.

HalloweenNameChange Thu 29-Nov-12 15:11:08

I don't think you were crazy to be offended. You thought it through to the logical conclusion.. being dressed up = feeling uncomfortable. and then of course you felt he was willing to make you feel bad about yourself to his benefit.

He only got as far as: my girl friend dressed up= hot. He was guilty of under thinking and not seeing the that asking a woman to dress up for him when it makes her feel uncomfortable is sexist.

Probably doesn't make him the worst person in the world though and you getting pissed off isn't the end of the world either.

AThingInYourLife Thu 29-Nov-12 15:15:57

It doesn't sound like a compliment.

It sounds like a request to do something to please him that you made clear you didn't enjoy.

It says a lot about our society that you are meant to be flattered that a man wants you to perform for him.

LaCiccolina Thu 29-Nov-12 15:18:12

Sheesh bird, you got that one well wrong didn't you? And yes I meant the bird to wind you up as by the looks if it that's rather easy to do. Why??? Why are you so cross that he thought you looked attractive in the dress you bought for a wedding? Why are you throwing fem principles and politics into this conversation? You were going to a party. You bought a dress, not a trouser suit or anything, you chose the outfit because you liked it. He thought you looked mighty fine and told you so. And you called him sexist? I wonder at the level of brains in us girls sometimes.....

He meant he wished you made an effort for him sometimes. Think about that, when did you last arrange a night out? Flatter him? Buy something nice to wear out together? Wen did you last really act like you were dating???? Young carefree and in love? Poor fella, even when they try they are wrong eh?

HalloweenNameChange Thu 29-Nov-12 15:20:16

I wonder at the level of brains in us girls sometimes


HalloweenNameChange Thu 29-Nov-12 15:21:51

Poor fella, even when they try they are wrong eh?

Not to be argumentative, but exactly how is this trying? Telling someone they should do more for you is trying at a relationship? confused

KRITIQ Thu 29-Nov-12 15:28:57

LaCic is just winding us up, right?

AThingInYourLife Thu 29-Nov-12 15:31:01

Of course she is grin

mignonette Thu 29-Nov-12 15:33:20

What is more relevant to me upon reading this thread is that the 'overreaction' has been linked to ' a few drinks'.

Maybe that should be the point to consider OP?

My DH will ask my opinion about clothing and enjoys wearing items that I particularly think he looks good in and I do the same for him. Neither expects the other to get trussed up in uncomfortable or out of character clothing. My children will ask our opinion and we ask theirs. Nothing sexist in that either. Its called love.

HalloweenNameChange Thu 29-Nov-12 15:34:54

fully fell for it if it was a wind up blush

namechangeguy Thu 29-Nov-12 16:59:52

When you say 'not comfortable' in the dress, did you mean physically (i.e. too tight/short/restrictive), or do you mean that wearing any dress makes you feel uneasy?

Oh, and leave the bastard, obviously grin

TeiTetua Thu 29-Nov-12 18:34:02

Assuming that this dress was in the normal range and not fetish-y (probably conventional for a wedding, but we don't know for sure) then wearing it or something like it is an everyday thing for many women in our society, possibly even one or two here. But it's definitely in the "feminine" category, something a man wouldn't do. So it's leading me to wonder how "feminine" is it reasonable for a man to ask his partner to be? One answer would be that it's wrong to ask for anything at all that she doesn't do of her own accord. But then, given that it's so common, is the poor lad being deprived? And then on his side, one could ask if he's just expecting what most men get (we could also wonder why he cares, though) or whether he's wrong to be wanting it.

There are women who wear shirts and sweaters and trousers (dungarees!) on a daily basis, who'd have to be bludgeoned into wearing a dress for a wedding--maybe DaveMccave feels that way. And there are men who love them, of course. I imagine a lot of those men would just say "Oh well, it's her style, she knows what suits her." But then there might be men who'd like to see something a bit more in the conventionally feminine manner. Noted that it would be a woman being asked to put on a show of appearance, which isn't likely the other way around.

Just by the way, and maybe it's the people I know, I'm certain that every wedding I've been to in the last several years has had one or two women guests in trousers. Never the bride, yet.

TiggyD Thu 29-Nov-12 19:52:18

Split up. You're just not suited to each other. Or at least you don't seem suitable for him. Why would he want to get involved with somebody who has a row and makes somebody apologise because they said they'd like to see you in a dress occasionally?

I'm also not sure why you went to a wedding that involved you having to wear a dress if you're really so against them.

Kethryveris Thu 29-Nov-12 20:19:57

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

SamuraiCindy Thu 29-Nov-12 20:21:32

He was maybe just thinking that, as you dressed up for a wedding - showing that you DO do it sometimes - then there might be a chance you could dress up for him, just on the very odd occasion, as he is more important to you than a wedding would be.

He probably just thought you looked beautiful and I think our partners like seeing a different side to us sometimes. Just going by your post, he sounds like a nice guy who would never want you to 'perform' or feel uncomfortable....he was just saying what was on his mind then when he saw you looking so gorgeous, which is what we all would like our partners to feel free to do.

I get where you are coming from too, but I think it was really just a throwaway remark and you shouldn't worry too much. It would be different if he was putting pressure on you to dress up and perform for him.

DaveMccave Thu 29-Nov-12 20:53:44

Ooh LaCiccolina I was all ready to get on my high horse and angrily justify myself then. Good job someone pointed out you were on a wind up.

I can see it from all angles really, I just wanted to check in case everyone was unanimous that I was wrong, because it's unusual he would still raise an eyebrow over a disagreement.

I don't dress in dungarees or mens jumpers on a daily basis or anything, but I am a scruff sod who lives in black skirts, black band tops and docs/converse. The wedding theme was 50's and rockabilly dresses just don't suit me as I don't have the right figure for them and I felt really self conscious. Less self conscious than I would have felt in something more formal, and even less self conscious than if I'd worn a trouser suit...

He dyes his hair different colours, and he said it's no different than the time I persuaded him to dye it my favourite colour. Given by some of the previous replies I suppose the majority would agree with him, I just thought it was an unfair comparison as their is no history of sexism with regards to how men have their hair, and there is with the way women dress to please and entice men.

MMMarmite Thu 29-Nov-12 21:05:49

"So it's leading me to wonder how "feminine" is it reasonable for a man to ask his partner to be? One answer would be that it's wrong to ask for anything at all that she doesn't do of her own accord. But then, given that it's so common, is the poor lad being deprived?"

There's something creepy about the idea that, as long as an act is common, women should be expected to do it for their man. No-one in a relationship should ever have to do something they feel uncomfortable about, however common it is. If the two peoples' tastes completely mismatch then perhaps they don't work as a couple, but I don't think that should be blamed on the person who doesn't want to do something.

Regarding the argument in the OP, I think it depends on how the communication went. If it was already utterly clear to him that you feel really unhappy wearing dresses, then he was unreasonable to ask; if he wasn't sure, and asked in a tentative way, then I think it was an okay question, as long as he accepts the answer "no". It's tricky from his point of view, because culture drills it into us so much that this comment would be a compliment, I can see why he might say it without thinking. But just because something is intended as a compliment, doesn't mean you have to feel complimented by it!

DaveMccave Thu 29-Nov-12 21:24:07

'There's something creepy about the idea that, as long as an act is common, women should be expected to do it for their man. No-one in a relationship should ever have to do something they feel uncomfortable about, however common it is.'

That was exactly what I was upset about, yeah.

And my response to him was whilst I accepted the original compliment and knew it was well intended, requesting me to wear something I've just said I don't like to is wrong. He definitely wouldn't persist though and insists he likes the way I dress. I think perhaps what is alien to him is feeling self conscious. He doesn't understand why I would feel self conscious around him and perhaps is a bit offended by that/doesn't understand that, so can't see my point of view.

BelleCurve Thu 29-Nov-12 21:32:36

By wearing a dress you were conforming to the patriarchal requirements of femininity at a higher level than you normally would do, or feel comfortable doing. As weddings are intrinsically extremely patriarchial events, most of us would conform to a greater extent as the pressure is significantly more at these type of events.

As femininity is a performance, and is part of marking us out as the sex class your DP feels that he is entitled to the results of your efforts. If you are making an effort to conform for the event, then you should be making an effort for him - that is the logic anyway.

Theala Thu 29-Nov-12 21:34:05

Hmm. I saw my DP in a suit for the first time recently and he looked damn good. He never wears a suit normally (he doesn't need to for work), and would obviously feel uncomfortable wearing one around the house for no reason. Still, though. He looked hot. I'd like to see him wearing a suit more often, but .. around the house, that would just be weird, and I would never ask him to do that for me, so. I helped. smile

AnyFuckingDude Thu 29-Nov-12 21:38:52

This is about 1950's dresses ?

There's your answer. Your bf was (hopefully temporarily) transported back to the era when everything women did was to please her man. That must have been some pervasive atmosphere, to infiltrate someone so much. A bit "Invasion of The BodySnatchers" innit (that other famous 1950's institution)

purpleroses Thu 29-Nov-12 21:40:06

I think it depends how uncomfortable you feel in a dress, and why. I sometimes feel a little uncomfortable in clothes I don't normally wear, for no other reason that they're not what I would usually wear so I don't really feel like me in them. Or you might feel that the dress is more revealing than you would usually wear and feel nervous in it because you don't know how people will react. He might have thought that by telling you he liked you in it, that this would increase your confidence in how you looked. He may have missed the mark entirely and you don't like wearing a dress because it's physically uncomfortalbe or you can't move freely in it, or it doesn't fit your image of yourself.

What I mean is that having told him you were uncomfy in it, may not meant it was obvious that you firmly dislike wearing a dress, and would be made unhappy by doing so another time.

My DP prefers to wear an awful jumper with holes in it. He wears it round the house but I have on ocassions when we're going out requested that he puts a different one on. He does this to please me even though he'd be quite comfortable in the holey one. I'm not sure that it's never a good thing in a relationship to put yourself out a bit to make your partner happy. It really does depend how much uncomfortable it makes you.

KRITIQ Thu 29-Nov-12 22:22:28

DH and I often compliment each other on appearance. Sometimes, that's when either is "dressed up," or it could be when wearing a nice top, after a haircut or similar.

I would never dream of suggesting that he "do something" related to his appearance, just because I enjoy seeing him a certain way. If he asked my opinion on something like that (e.g. Do you think I look better in the blue shirt or the green shirt?), I would offer a view. He's an adult and can make his own choices and I wouldn't want him in any way to feel he needs to "be" a certain way to make me happy.

And, it's the other way round.

We're both grown ups, are capable of choosing what we wear and how we look and don't feel the need to impose preferences on each other.

In the past though, I can think of a couple of men who DID, at least subtly, try to influence what I wore, how I did my hair and so on. On reflection, I can see now that this was part of an overall pattern either of wanting to control or at least putting their wishes for what I should do above what I actually wanted to do. Quite glad to be rid of them all! smile

Sausageeggbacon Fri 30-Nov-12 08:20:16

If you are not interested in what your man likes fine dump him so he can find someone who dresses more to his taste.

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