Friday, March 23, 2012

The rainbow is the answer

I've been distant the last couple of days, going through the exhausting whirlwind of meetings and travel to finally end up here, where I get a blessed week of peace and rest with family, time to regroup and recuperate. This event was definitely the bravest thing I've done alone in a while, and while it was vastly rewarding, I'm realizing that the reason I want a career locked alone in a castle turret at a desk is because I'm so self-conscious in the presence of strangers. It can almost become crippling, the insecurity I feel about my appearance, my body, my clothing. No more so than in a strange city, as I was this last week.

I remember days in Chicago when I'd wear a pair of ambitious shoes, how I'd become convinced that everyone on the el was staring at me, as conscious of my wardrobe as I was. But I wanted to wear the ambitious shoes. I wanted to be the cute girl in leopard-print stilettos that all the guys were making eyes at. It's a simultaneous desire to be brave in appearance, to dress in such a way that everyone notices, and then a desperate fear of that same desire, a desperate fear of standing out.

Does everyone feel that insecurity, or is it just me? I notice how much easier men have it, in their comfortable generic loafers, matching their identical suits. They don't have to worry about those decisions. Or maybe they do--maybe I'm selling them short. Then again, maybe it is something completely different for women. Who knows. Teiresias, the only one with experience, said he'd choose to be a woman. So maybe it doesn't matter.

Does it come from being made fun of as a child? Being a dork in middle school and high school? Does it come from switching climates in college, having no clue as to how one dresses for winter, either over-dressing in massive ski jackets bought at Bangkok import sales, or under-dressing, in thin Chinese-print thrift-store shirts, on dreary early rainy gray days in fall, when everyone else had figured out it was time to wear a coat? Or does it just come from being one of these people who's always been more comfortable in the world of ideas, the world of words, and still has absolutely no idea how to move a body through space?

3 comments:

Audra said...

You ask many questions without answering them. I used to believe that the answer was in the question and relished the compliment “good question”. But I have discovered in the past few years that there are true answers to questions. There are correct answers and incorrect answers.

I am glad that you are thinking about clothing. It is an important topic. I did not know much about clothes until just recently. I can by no means answer all of the questions you posed completely in a blog entry response, nor am I an authority on the topic. But I do know some things and from one woman who lives in the world of ideas to another, let me share what I know.

Clothes are worth thinking about even though the Lord looks at the heart. The Bible talks about clothes a lot. Look at the Adam and Eve. They sinned, tried to cover themselves, but their covering was insufficient. God needed to offer a blood sacrifice and cover them. They could not do it themselves. This is a foreshadowing of Christ’s sacrifice to be our ultimate covering.

Our appearance often betrays our beliefs, weather we want them too or not. For example: prostitutes, football players in uniform, soldiers, brides. People who “people watch” are very influenced by clothing and body language. First impressions are influential and often guided by dress. “Dress for success” is a well known phrase for a reason.

Your insecurity (in my opinion) is probably related to a lack of education on the topic. Some people are naturally interested and have a trained eye, and I am beginning to admire them more than I ever did. Where I used to scorn them for being shallow and “looking at the outward apperance”.I was:

Ascetic: standing out as rough, simple, poor, arduous. There are good and bad motives for asceticism. Good motive: to separate from or cry out against worldliness, materials, impurity, and temporality. Bad motive: to make false claims to holiness or godliness; to solicit pity or charity. (borrowed from a recent study under Barbara Mouser)

Now that I am more educated, I feel free to concentrate more on my wardrobe (within my economic and time limits). I used to think that frumpiness was next to godliness. I have spent the last year learning about and meditating on clothing as it relates to the Bible. There is MUCH to say.

If I could make a humble suggestion, would you be willing to blog more about yoga (considering you are committed to that) instead of asking questions that you do not have the answers too? It is easy for you and I to come up with questions that other people don’t ask. I challenge you to educate your audience. I am very interested in your reflections as you live in each breath.

Ellen D. said...

I think most people think exactly like you do! Which, if you think about it, is very liberating. It is exactly why you shouldn't worry too much about how you dress/look overly- much unless you are in the mood. They are all wondering how _you_ think _they_ look and really don't pay as much attention to how you look as you might think/wish! haha. Even if you do look cool to a stranger, how valuable is that? And how long does that last?

Melissa said...

I keep thinking about both of your thoughts on this topic, especially how we answer these difficult questions that may not have answers. For me the issue of beauty, of what it means to be a beautiful person, is something I'll spend the rest of my life struggling with--not because of insecurity, but because of the relentless emphasis our culture puts on appearance, especially the cult of youth and anorexic body image. I know what it means to be beautiful--it means to glow outward from the inside. We've all met people like that, but it doesn't make it any easier to become one.