15 June 2011

i let you call me beautiful

You Don’t Have to Be Pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”.
 - Erin
James Franco for Candy Magazine.
I caught myself putting on makeup today even though I was running late to a presentation (unfortunately I was too late to enter, because of traffic, and so I ended up siting on the train reading a comic book for three cycles between the first and last stop just to make the trip worth it). Anyway, I was doing my makeup, and doing an incredibly pain in the ass kind of braid because my hair is particularly troubling this week and you know, it wasn't very enjoyable but I felt like I needed to do it because it was expected to me because of what I do for work and play: fashion fashion. Somewhere along the way I decided to make what I love, what I do. Even if I'm going to be poor indefinitely and be unsure of my security for quite awhile and you know, get those looks of both sympathy and pity when parents ask me, "What do I do?"

You know, that look. Sometimes I switch up my major when I'm telling parents of friends what I'm in college for, just to fuck with them. "Philosophy and Cinema Studies." And I see their horror, imagining their children proposing those possibilities to them and I cackle inside, I know it's not nice but well, whatever. I mean, I'm majoring in Gender Studies and Journalism, (so honestly I can just tell the truth and still get that reaction of horror) which are two of the lowest paying majors out of all of them. Fun. Promising. Dirt poor. But, you know, I find the future romantic and I am a dreamer, I like to get lost in my own brain and plan and plan and plan and plan, because the future has every possibility of being better than the past and the present, and I bank everything on those possibilities. 

But anyway. Being pretty. Too often it's just a ritual, sometimes I have to yank myself from habit and intentionally dress ugly to make myself comfortable. Because feeling socially acceptable and 'pretty' is different than feeling like yourself, you know? People have to 'put their face on'. People have to 'get ready to face the world' in the morning. There is that old tale, I think it might actually be in the original Alice in Wonderland (or maybe it was a Grimm fairytale? I love those) that the protagonist stumbles upon a princess, who has a collection of faces but no actual face of her own. And I would just stare at the illustrations of the faces for ever, longer than I would even read the story. We're like that sometimes, aren't we? We don't like showing our faces. 

Sophia Wallace and her series on Gendered  Beauty

I guess I could make the point of this post the fact we sometimes rely on makeup to approach the world, but that's done and stale. I mean, yes, but it's certainly not all we rely on. Everything we present ourselves as is a point of presentation and construct and our assumed reality. What we want people to see as us. That can mean anything, boy or girl or genderqueer or nongendered or what have you. I am lucky enough to identify as a girl, and so I am a girl, and most of the time because I am a girl I make myself 'pretty' even if I hate the stares and catcalling and honks. But I don't want to have to do that. I don't think I owe anyone anything when it comes to being pretty. I want to do it for me, not someone else, you know? What I present myself as isn't for someone else's benefit. 

I started playing with my gender when I was visiting someone in an elderly home, I have this hat, my black fedora, and whenever I wear it I want to be a boy and wear Dior Homme suits and slouch even more than I do and not be pretty. I feel like it's an act of rebellion just to wear a dudes hat and ill fitting jeans I stole from a boy I used to know. Everything you wear, everything you chose or chose not to do, can be an important choice. You can be pretty if you want to be, or you can not be, but I think, the important thing is that you make yourself aware of the reasons you are doing so, and hopefully you can also step outside your comfort zone and shake shit up. 

Because a dude wearing a skirt shouldn't be sacrilege (!! Andrej!!), a person who doesn't want to be manly but feel beautiful should feel safe to do so, you know, just these small but important things should be allowed to happen. Right? Right. I don't want future children to be beaten or disowned because we're scared of people who aren't like us, or didn't follow the unspoken rules about dudes wearing certain colors or wearing certain clothing or whatever. I hope one day it's just common sense, not abnormal. 

I let You Call Me Beautiful by Marty McConnell (my favorite poet)