I was in middle school, 8th grade actually. It was Multi-Cultural Day. That day I just got done performing a Vietnamese dance, a Filipino dance and my family’s traditional dance of Cambodia at the school assembly. My face was painted in make-up, my hair done half way up with the other half down. The costume that I had chosen was a borrowed white Vietnamese dress with golden embroidery that fit my petite body perfectly. To go with it, I had a pair of white platform heels that made the side slits a little more uncomfortable than what I was use to.
After school was over, I walked to the library a block away to hang out and study until I was ready to walk home, like any other day. This day would be different. As I walked to the library in my dress, all made up, a car pulls up into the alley in front of me. The guy in the blue coupe starts saying something, but all I heard was, “Get in.” Freaked out, I run around the car and make my way safely into the library. Immediately, I called my mom to pick me up. All I wanted to do was get out of the dress, the heals, and wash the make-up off. I felt so icky.
It wasn’t until college when I would wear make-up like that again.
Recently, someone called me “naturally sexy,” and I responded how I would instinctively respond to sexy, modestly. He told me that I was already sexy and confident: “What do you want to be in your 30s?” I told him, “ Liberated from cute. And somehow own sexy without losing wholesome. I think it comes with age. I’m hoping it does.”
A long time ago, I told myself that sexy is bad—that sexy is associated with slutty. And back then, when I was 13, sexy definitely wasn’t age appropriate. Then being approached by a grown man like I was a streetwalker, I told myself that it was my fault—my fault for dressing sexy. For a long time, I put myself in the cute box where it was safe. Once in awhile, I would step outside of that box and play with sexy, but there was still something uneasy about being sexy. Around 25, at a time when I liberated myself from certain ideas I had about myself and life, I started to shift my perspective around sexy. As seen in this blog post from 2011 called “This Kind of Sexy”:
Sexy. Sexy has become apart of my everyday vocabulary. When I say “sexy,” I don't mean the “in order to” kind of sexy—“in order to get that I need to do this” kind of sexy. It’s not the kind of temporary sexy that I can take off with my stilettos or wash off with my make-up at night. It’s not the kind of sexy that has an interest rate or sits on a scale of 1 to 10. I don’t need to starve myself or cut myself in any way. There is nothing fake about this sexy.
It’s the real kind of sexy. The kind of sexy that leaves me saying, "what a good day," as I take off my make-up before bed. The kind that takes a second glance at the woman in the mirror. This kind of sexy makes others feel a bit more sexy about themselves—because the sexy overflows. Not only does this sexy make me feel powerful, but it is at the source of my power. It’s the sexy that commands respect without force and attention without making a sound. This sexy does not require validation from any man—nor the need to put down another woman to be sexy. This sexy just is.
Lets be honest, I have yet to come to terms with sexy, fully. There’s still some hesitation, a little bit of uneasiness, when sexy is involved. In six months, I’m turning 30, the infamous “Dirty 30.” I’ve been waiting to turn 30 my whole life. For some reason, I have this uncanny idea that I’ll get some kind of magical powers (kind of like Harry Potter) when I turn 30. I really think that I will. Maybe then, I can finally own sexy, and realize my power.