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Women wear pants, so why can't men look feminine?

Much has been said and written about NBC sports broadcaster Marv Albert. Or rather, former broadcaster Albert. In fact, way too much has been said and written, and I won't add to it. What can anyone say? Everyone knows sleaze like that exists, and his story was just the most recent ugly reminder.

But among the many reports were several related to cross-dressing in general. One even referred briefly to female cross-dressers. OK, I very well may be naive here, but how do you recognize a female cross-dresser?Culturally acceptable clothing choices and even, or especially, high fashion are much more wide-ranging for women than for men. I've often wondered why it's perfectly all right for women to wear "menswear-styled" trousers and "boy cut" shorts and underwear, but if a man puts on high heels, it's an indication he's perverse in more ways than one.

Long hair on men has gained some acceptance these days, but not long ago even collar-length locks were a sure sign that a man was plotting to overthrow the government or at the very least probably existing on a diet of LSD and mushrooms. But women can get away with nearly any hairstyle they choose, including a George Clooney style or an NBA shaved-head look.

Women have even borrowed men's boxer shorts and wear the women's version as outer-wear, not underwear.

It was seen as a great loosening of cultural taboos when men began wearing colors other than basic black, navy, tan, green or blue. Society frowned sternly on men wearing pink until some fashion designer tried it at just the right time back in the '70s and pink shirts became acceptable.

In various eras, women's clothing has imitated men's styles, even down to the male-uniform shirt and tie. Nobody bats an eye when a woman shows up for a night at the symphony in a suit, but a man would probably be arrested if he wore makeup and a dress for an evening out.

Cross-dressing men are usually assumed, often incorrectly, to be gay. But, if women were thought to be lesbians whenever they wore clothes they bought in the men's department, there would hardly be a natural mother among us.

I'm not advocating that society accept men in dresses and high heels. I've personally met a few of these guys while riding those bastions of diversity, Salt Lake City's UTA buses. One fellow in particular often rode the east-side route with me. He was not your father's bus passenger. Or your mother's.

And, despite those women interviewed for recent news stories prompted by the whole Albert incident who swear they and their husbands have formed an unusually close bond by sharing clothes, I have to wonder about that type of marital setup.

But that still doesn't answer what for me is the deeper question. Why is it OK for a woman to try to look masculine but it is a sign of a psychological malady for a man to look feminine? With the exception of the occasional rock star, men are asking for good-natured teasing at the least and outright shunning at the worst if they appear too frilly.

This seems to be an inborn gender-related aversion. My daughter was happy to wear her brother's hand-me-downs, even borrowing his T-shirts as a teenager. I dutifully saved her toddler clothes, thinking I may have another girl, but instead she was blessed with two younger brothers as time went on.

Running out of boy-type used clothing by the time my youngest was born, I brought out the little-girl pajamas, and my littlest child wore them until he was about 3. My husband refused to allow me to dress him in daytime girl's clothes.

But the cost-saving strategy was foiled the first time someone came to visit at bedtime and told him how cute he looked in the rosebuds on his jammies. Now, mind you, this is a child of 3. He was aghast. "Is this GIRL'S jammies??" he accused me. He took them off forever, and those perfectly good pajamas went to the Goodwill.

I'd hate to think it's OK for women to dress like men because masculine is superior but feminine is the opposite. It's a complicated question, probably much too complex for my feminine mind. I'll leave it to the men.