previous : first : next

It’s funny because I’m here all worried about feeling left out and awkward if I dismantle the persona that I feel like I’ve created, but I feel pretty left out – or out, at any rate – no matter what, anyway. It feels like I’m not quite a girly-girl, but not really a tomboy; I wear pink and high heels and earrings, but I don’t tend to wear makeup and I don’t “do” my hair, and I have no problem going three weeks without bathing while I’m in the backcountry.

But I feel more and more strongly, more and more often, a disconnect, some sort of separation between myself and the usual definition of woman. In some places and with my closer friends it isn’t so obvious, but then I am out in public somewhere, at a restaurant or the airport or the movies, and I look around. I am the only woman in the room without makeup on. And it is silly, but I feel like an outsider, an insurgent, like I am breaking an unwritten code.

I am. And the unwritten code says that I am not supposed to be happy with who I am, or what I really look like. I am not supposed to be satisfied with the eyelashes and skin tone and coloring that god gave me; I am supposed to want to improve upon my face, so that someone else will like it more. I am supposed to do sit ups and crunches and buy flattering clothes so that my body looks like what somebody, somewhere says it ought to.

At the bar the other night, a group of girls came in, all flashing jewelry and pointy shoes and little handbags. There is something about them – and something about my own group of friends – that makes it clear immediately that we are not playing by the same rules; we are perhaps not even playing the same game. I am even wearing boots with heels and pointy-ish toes, but I’m also wearing cords and a t-shirt. Even if I was dressed up, I wouldn’t look like them, I wouldn’t hold myself like they do. We are not the same.

I try to resist my judgment of them, however: I have no reason to think that they are anything but kind, compassionate, intelligent human beings. There is nothing wrong with trying or wanting to look pretty. In honesty, I want to look pretty, too.

And maybe that’s the issue. They are what I refuse to be, even though sometimes I want to. I do. Some days I want to war high heels and mascara and flouncy skirts and be easy to deal with and find enjoyment in simple things like the sales rack at Neiman Marcus. Some days I feel like my life would be easier if I let go of my qualms about the magazine women and the ozone layer and just tried to be pretty. I could have conversations with other pretty girls, and we could go shopping together, and discuss the latest Oprah book club book. Sometimes those books are pretty good: Anna Karenina was an Oprah book club book.

But, as Ani says, I think pretty is nice, but I’d rather see something new. This season, they all seem to have striped, streaked blonde hair, and wear pink Uggs. I want to show them my unshaven underarms and yell something obscene. But I don’t, because that wouldn’t be nice. And, insists the little mind, if I’m nice than people won’t hurt me, the world won’t hurt me. Ah, but nice is such a malleable thing, such a dull word. Fuck nice. I will be compassionate and generous and truthful, but I don’t have to be nice.

But I’m still not going to shriek like a banshee and flash my armpits while I’m waiting in line for the bathroom, but now, really, in honesty, that’s only because I’m afraid.

In the movie, all the movies, the crazy, witty, nonconformist girl is always that way because she’s afraid of something. She doesn’t fit in anyway, so she runs with it, dyes her hair blue or black or pink or red, smokes cigarettes and carries a flask, wears too much eyeliner, and sleeps around. How come that’s the way to be different, the only way to deny or defy society’s expectations? Where’s the rebellion in doing exactly what every rebel does?

But, of course, flip the coin: Where’s the rebellion in just doing the opposite? Is it even possible to just do what you want, be who you are? I’m trying, I’m trying, but it’s really unconscionably hard. So I’m just trying to pay attention, notice when I do something only because I feel like I ought to, or because I feel like I’ll lose something if I don’t, or because I don’t want to look dumb. Just notice. And don’t judge: I am who I am who I am, and I can’t expect myself to be separated totally (or even largely) from society, because my social conditioning is part of who I am, and that isn’t bad.

The total non-judgment is a hard thing: I find that I don’t really like it. I mean, I like the idea of not judging people and actions and whatnot, and the idea that we assign value to things that just are. But a real absence of judgment means that no thought is better or worse than any other, no sound or sight sweeter. It means that everything is just as it is, and that’s okay. The call of a dove is not any better, whatsoever, than the honk of a horn or the wail of a baby or the sound of the words, you’re fired. It’s all just sound, just vibration that your ears pick up. We’re the ones who decide that we like the sound of wind chimes and dislike the sound of car alarms, that roses smell good and sewage smells bad. They’re both just scents: they don’t have any value in and of themselves.

And that’s ridiculous, I’m sure it is; it must be. I like those things that make me feel comfortable and safe and warm, and I dislike those that make me feel uncomfortable and threatened. Perhaps I’m reacting to the wrong thing: nobody says that that isn’t true. Car alarms do make me feel edgy, and that’s truth. I don’t like the scent of blood: fine. I’m allowed to have my preferences. I suppose what I don’t want to think is that these things are bad just because they don’t please me. They aren’t bad, and neither are tomato soup and incense good smells just because I like them. They’re all just smells, and I happen to have my preferences. Right? I don’t have to enjoy the sound of the old truck idling outside my window at three in the morning, but I should recognize that it isn’t a bad sound just because it keeps me awake when I want to be asleep. It’s just a sound. And, maybe, theoretically, if I recognize it as that – just a sound – I won’t get so upset about it, and I’ll be able to fall back asleep faster. Certainly, I spent a lot of time grumbling to myself about the damn truck making so much damn noise so early in the damn morning: why not just go back to sleep?

Oh, but I know that a flower is more lovely than a dump truck. Doesn’t that make it better? How can I reconcile my sense of aesthetics with this idea that everything just is? Some things look better than others, I know they do, I spent two years studying how some things look better than other things and how to explain why. A good design is just a good design – and it is a better design than a bad design! A well-written sentence is a better sentence than one that is written poorly. It is. I don’t know what to do with that, but I’m sure it’s true.

For instance, many of these sentences aren’t very good, because I’m trying to write as many of them as I can as quickly as I can. This sentence right here is pretty miserable, but it’s still at least technically correct. Although some of them (like this one) aren’t really, because I am fond of fragments. Ah, but what about that, then? My aesthetic demands something that isn’t technically correct, but is, in my opinion, better for its purpose than would be something that does obey all the right rules. What then? Which is really better? Who to judge?

I suppose nobody judges and I suppose that that’s the point. Maybe it’s just a matter of not letting my opinion take on the ring of fact just because it’s my opinion. If you don’t like the smell of apple pie, I’m not likely to think it is a bad smell because your opinion of it makes it so. Likewise, I suppose, in my opinion, some designs are better than others, but that doesn’t make them so, it only makes my opinion what it is. The designs are just designs, just combinations of form and line. I’m the one that has assigned them value.

Stupid Zen.

previous : first : next


Anonymous said...

dont worry, lots of girls dont wear make-up. its called not being fake and not caring what others think. A BEAUTIFUL WAY TO BE !!

2:10 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home