My outfits have changed somewhat since moving back to the Ranch.  I still feel like a million bucks when I step out in a new pair of shoes, but these days they look a little different, notably that they look even sexier covered in dust and manure.  The dirt road to the stable is my new catwalk, and I grin from ear to ear as I tromp along in breeches, half chaps, boots and spurs.  “The equestrian look is very in this season,” say the squirrels to one another. “And I just love how she’s pairing it with the little brown dog, very chic.”

Likewise, I was really excited when I finally got a chance to wear the new hat my dad gave me for Christmas: that would be the pith helmet with the bee veil attached to it. Best outfit all year? Definitely the matching used coveralls I found for $20 at the hardware store, which go so well with my smoker and hive tool.

When I lived in the city and worked at a law firm, I wore a suit nearly every day. Not a beekeeping suit, but a black or grey uniform – I called it my ‘lawyer drag’ – designed for looking formidable when marching to battle in the courtroom. I grew to hate my suits so much I just stopped caring how I looked in them.  My non-lawyer friends would always thrill about how spiffy my suits seemed, how I should accessorize them with a ‘bold necklace’ or a ‘feminine top.’  To me it felt like putting on a garbage bag, and no necklace was going to change that.  Actually, it felt like that scene in Walking Dead when they cover themselves in zombie guts in order to blend in when they walked down the street.

My suits were zombie guts. That’s such an accurate description, it’s hardly even a metaphor.

I’ve always had a difficult relationship with my appearance, ever since puberty when my body betrayed my tomboy inclinations and abruptly transformed into something resembling the Venus of Willendorf.

My actual senior portrait. Voted most likely to promote fertility.

There I was, tan and freckled, with gappy teeth and tangled locks and. . . a huuuge rack.  I fought back by playing with the aspects of my appearance I had more control over – hair color, clothing, shoes – to varying degrees of success.  Sometimes it was black eyeliner, or fire engine red hair, ratty jeans with a suit coat, or just some great big ugly shoes.  My goal wasn’t particularly clear, and I’ve never really had what they call ‘style,’ I just wanted to have some say in the matter.  Thus it was especially offensive to me to suddenly lose control over my wardrobe when I became a lawyer. (Well, it was hardly sudden, you’d think after 3 years of slogging through law school it might have dawned on me that I was embarking on a profession with a problematic dress code.)  I mean, we even had our ‘casual Fridays’ taken away at one point. How vile. How soul-crushing!

So when I decided I was going to move back to the Ranch, getting to wear what I want, no matter what that is, was something I actively thought about. Seriously, it was right up there with starting a garden, getting some chickens, and plotting out my new life by firelight. Because wearing what I want is important to me for totally non-superficial reasons.  It is how I converse with the world at large, even when no one is actually looking.  It’s how I say “This is me, and I am so many things.”  I am sundresses and workboots.  A cascade of hair. A hoodie. A briefcase.  A very old pair of jeans.  That these things aren’t trivial to me is something that I’ve known about myself for a long time, but has never been more clear than it is now. After a ride, when I glance down at the mud on my new boots, the dust on my clothes and the smell of horse sweat filling my nostrils, I know I look good.