Sunday, June 30, 2013

Fashion: The Huh? and the Predators and the Reality TV

My mother more than once said that it was a bad idea to enjoy food too much. Because we won't get to eat after we die. Because she read that someone who communicated with the dead through automatic writing was told (by the dead) that one of the reasons that Heaven was so great was because they (the dead) didn't have to cook.


What the...


Now, there are a lot of "Huh?" levels in that, so many that it's hard to pick one. There are plenty of people who won't stumble over the belief in Heaven, though I have my agnostic doubts. I suspect that a lot of those people would, however, have trouble with the automatic writing. And then there's the idea that a God that can create Heaven and Earth can't create food without having to employ cooks. That, of course, ignores the whole side issue of people who take joy in not just the eating but the cooking, and for whom a Heaven without butter and garlic and saucepans and a good nimble gas burner would be Hell...

I'm ignoring all that.

The part that I'm addressing is the idea that we should refrain from experiencing joy because we might lose it. That, I fear, is an area where my mother's genes sometimes show themselves in my thoughts. When I make fun plans, there's always a part of my mind telling me to wait. Wait until it's safe. Wait until that "Hmm...probably nothing, but go in for this test just in case," from my doctor has been resolved. Wait until I don't blow that work deadline. Wait until I've survived the layoffs. Wait until I have a guarantee of safety and stability. Wait wait wait.

Ignoring the foolishness of panicking at every tiny threat, and the fact that there's never such a guarantee, isn't the fact of an unsafe world a good reason to snatch at good times and enjoy them right this minute? But that's not the logic that my brain instinctively goes with. My brain, of all things, seems to fear that if I have fun today, and then the world falls apart tomorrow, I'll feel...stupid.

What the what?

All that leads into the fact that I've been watching What Not To Wear.

Yeah, you didn't see that coming, did you? See, for the first time I've been seeing clothes and their companions (like vintage rhinestone jewelry, say) as a possible source of joy. And even as I buy a silk blouse here and an above-the-knee denim skirt there, I still find myself feeling the threat of...feeling stupid.

What Not To Wear--the American version, not the British one that, by the way, got a lovely brief little parody on Dr. Who, with Captain Jack's clothed state being threatened (Have you seen Captain Jack? Even clothed?)...

...Where was I? Did I mention Captain Jack?

Ah, yes--What Not To Wear, despite its sometimes-over-the-top mockery of the participant's original wardrobe, despite my doubts about reality television, seems to be doing a fine job of unpacking and sifting my own thoughts about clothes and fashion and self-presentation. And touching on that whole fear of joy. When the sociology graduate talked about clothing as being misleading and false, my head said, "It's communication. Aren't you supposed to care about communication?" When the rounder people talked about losing those last ten or twenty or fifty pounds before they started thinking about their clothes, my head says, "Is there a law that you can't be happy in your clothes right now?" And the women who are afraid to look like they're trying--that, yes, I really understand.

In junior high and high school I saw fashion as a competition to find out who could most slavishly and expensively copy the style of the instant. It was what the mean girls did in those lazy sunlit moments stretching on the savannah as they picked their teeth and bonded after eating the unpopular.

But now, well... I begin to see that style doesn't have to be a predatory act. Some of that realization comes from the beauty bloggers. A lot of you don't just write about perfume, and when you're talking about the more visual elements of beauty you're not resting up after the kill or trying to make yourselves into a clone of the leader of the pack. You're expressing yourselves. Enjoying yourselves. Finding something to say about yourselves and your society and your identity as women and your sense of whimsey and...well, stuff.

That all feels like an introduction, but I don't seem to have more to say just now. Perhaps there will be fashion posts in this blog, as time goes on; perhaps that's what I'm introducing. Wouldn't that be... well, really weird?

Table image: Wikimedia Commons
Chef image: Wikimedia Commons
Captain Jack image: Wikimedia Commons
Hat image: Wikimedia Commons
Lion image: Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Rambling: More Graverobbing

I almost bought an above-the-knee skirt the other day.

OK, let's back up.

I've mentioned that writing "belonged" to Mom, in the context of our family. To an even greater degree, so did femininity and feminine attractiveness.

Mom once mentioned that when I was a baby, she dressed me in all the fanciest clothes, but that after I was old enough to have input into what I wore for the day, she lost interest. That must have been early, because I don't remember a time when she was interested in what I looked like or how I related to my femininity. Clothes, hair, jewelry, glittery hair toys, princess wands, all of the girly stuff--nope. Was Mom even involved in finding my first bra? I can't remember.

For the events associated with Mom's death, I wore clothes that were more carefully chosen than usual, clothes that, uncharacteristically for me, more or less fit. I chose them for decent appropriateness, for respect for the occasion. But I remember getting dressed for the visitation, looking at myself in the mirror, and thinking that I looked good.

It's hard to express how unprecedented that thought was, and how wrong it felt. It felt as if I were looking with new eyes. And it felt like robbing the dead. And it still does. The bubble of interest in girly things that I've mentioned now and again in my blog, has been bubbling rather more since Mom died. But those bubbles feel like betrayals. Do you remember the bit in Twister?

He didn't keep his part of the bargain.
Which part?
To spend his life pining for you and die miserable and alone.
That so much to ask?

OK, it's just a mood thing, but that bit of dialogue reflects the absurd-but-I-feel-it-all-the-same mood of the thought that if I were a decent daughter, I would continue to shun femininity after Mom's death, just as I did it in her life, because femininity belongs to her.

But there was that moment, that "Huh. I look good," moment. As if a part of my brain was waiting to seize on my feminine identity, and wasn't prepared even to wait a decent interval, not even until the funeral was over, before doing so. The woman is dead, long live the woman. Treason.