By Dylan McNulty-Holmes
by Dylan McNulty-Holmes
Art by Nico Limo
Art by Nico Limo
New clothes, new name, new life. Falling for someone new — even if you’re still with the same partner you’ve been with for years. Fleeing a bad scene and starting over. Making a resolution to be a better person, or at least a different one. This October, DADDY is all about NEW BEGINNINGS.
Dear 7 Euro Decathlon Men's Running Shorts,
I still remember the first time we met. It was 3rd August, 2018. I know this because I took a photo seconds after you found your way into my life. In the photo I'm pouting — red, slick with sweat, feigning misery in the heat. Yet truthfully, I took this photo because from the second we met, you gave me a kind of quiet, deep-rooted pleasure that I previously didn't fully believe existed.
The summer I met you was filled with the search for pleasure. More accurately, it was filled with making space for that pleasure, without knowing where it would come from, or how it might feel. I was on a mission to find my own desire.
Where do we hunt for desire, when we’ve forgotten what desire looks like? My answer was just to blindly try stuff out — to figure out what felt good, and what didn't. What I discovered, very quickly, was that so much of the stuff in my life that did not make me feel good hinged around fulfilling other people's desires that I try very hard to be female. Friends wanted me to be one of “the girls", or a least a defiant, visibly femme bisexual. Partners wanted me to be long-haired, fully shaved everywhere else, or at the very least, a bottom. Co-workers had an exhaustive email thread about how adamantly they did NOT want gender neutral bathrooms. If I had to pick out a single, pivotal moment where I turned towards you, my beloved shorts, it would be the moment where I finally gave myself permission to stop being whatever these voices wanted me to be. It was the moment I stopped consciously trying to be a girl.
Of course, there were friends who revelled in the side of me that was, for want of a more accurate descriptor, a gross teenage boy. There were coworkers who didn't kick up a fuss when I changed my bio on the company website to gender neutral pronouns. There were bottoms. So many bottoms. I gave myself permission to gravitate towards these people, and to also gravitate towards my murky, messy, kaleidoscopic tangle of many-gendered desires.
The summer I met you was one of baby steps. The first step was to end one of the most turbulent and unfulfilling relationships of my adult life: my relationship with skirts. I realised very quickly that my ideal relationship with skirts was a series of casual flings — hot, sweaty nights together in the throes of drag. I did not want skirts hanging around my apartment the morning after. My current relationship with skirts — a dragged-out, codependent, everyday affair — had to end. I dumped my skirts unceremoniously into an old IKEA bag, to see what my life & wardrobe would look like without them. The answer was: empty. But empty was good. Empty made space for desire. Empty made space for you.
I have something to confess: it wasn't you I was lusting after that morning, staring at my empty clothes rack. I had winter on my mind. I was hungry for my favourite violet puffa jacket, as glossy as tempered chocolate, the distinctive squeak it made every time I moved inside of it. I wanted muddy combat boots, wrinkled leather, thick blue denim, those shrunken beanies that can only be described as "tiny little fuckboi hats". I wanted things that would probably kill me if I wore them outside in the late summer heatwave. I knew that the blank space I'd left must be occupied by at least one item of clothing that felt good to wear, and also wouldn't make me sweat to death. So I began hunting for it.
I took a lot of wrong turns before I found you. I scrolled through webpages and shop aisles filled with mens' polo shirts and gender-neutral, oatmeal-coloured smocks. Both camps were so offensively bland they made me want to weep. It seemed that I had only two options: be feminine, or be dull as fuck. Being myself seemed entirely out of the question, and given the options available, I didn't even know what that might look like. Photos from that summer capture my utter sartorial confusion perfectly: me at Pride, wearing a fluorescent pink running bra and a Hawaiian shirt (?!). Me at a comedy show, wearing a crochet crop top, thick leather trousers, and slowly succumbing to swamp ass. I took to wearing my denim jacket and jeans almost every day, sweating buckets and feeling hopeless. I began to lose hope that I'd ever find something like you - something that made me feel like a solid object, something that allowed me to feel like myself.
The day we met, I had fully given up. I was wearing a skin-tight, zebra print dress, which I got for 5 quid at Asda several lifetimes ago and only wore when I was consciously trying to hide any signs of gender confusion. What drove me to Decathlon that day was a profile of some glossy woman on a glossy fashion website. She advocated for wearing boxing shorts with femmey tops/heels to "mix things up". Which is to say: hopelessness drove me to you. But you found me nonetheless.
The Decathlon at Alexanderplatz can be a stressful place at the best of times. On that particular outing, I was lightly sunburnt, slightly dehydrated. My (then very long) hair was sticking in sweaty curls to the back of my neck, my fringe plastered to my forehead. I tried putting it into a ponytail, but it kept sliding off the top of my head. I made my way through row upon row upon row of sportswear and equipment, dodging kids trying out tricycles and a stray football booted at me by a group of teenage boys. I could not find boxing shorts anywhere.
But in the running aisle, I found you. You were not as silky as boxing shorts, not as thin. You were, to be blunt, a square of matte black material with a crotch. You were the simplest thing in the world. I took you to a changing room. I slid you up my legs. I caught myself in the mirror, and let out a tremendous sigh of relief. Here you were, at last. Here I was - damp, agitated, my dress hiked up around my tits - and abundantly, deliriously happy with how I looked. Inside you, I had no waist. I had no hips. You stopped at my mid-thigh, and made my legs look like they could go on forever. You looked so right above my hairy knees, so simply perfect that I couldn't understand how I didn't imagine you, exactly you, so much sooner.
I spent so much time before you trying to look sexy, trying to look beautiful, trying to look like things that would win me the approval of others. I didn't look like any of those things when I wore you. I looked comfortable, at peace. I looked like the version of myself I pictured inside of my head. And more importantly, I didn't just look like those things. I felt like them too.
I took the picture. In a WhatsApp group, some friends who lived abroad were sending each other pictures of their days. Someone got new glasses. Someone was out for lunch. What was I doing? According to the message I sent: "shorts shopping and dying in this heat". In the future, I'd understand what I was doing as experiencing gender euphoria, as taking baby steps toward accepting myself as gender non-binary. In that moment, what I felt like I was doing was falling in love.
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