Last night my friend Michael Stone took me out for dinner in Davis Sq. He suggested that I should join iron blogger which is run by my house host Mako. He’s the second person this week to suggest I join, so I’m doing it. Since I graduated from Hampshire College this past May, I’ve been entirely unproductive, somewhat despondent, and very overheated in my temporary summer apartment. I’m living at the acetarium for the second time, except this time I have no pre-determined residency project. I didn’t want to go back home to Ann Arbor, Michigan after graduation, so my friend Hannah (who I met my first day of my first class in college) asked me to move to Boston with her for the summer. I love Hannah, and dislike Michigan, so we started looking for places. Luckily for me, Mako/Mika offered me my old room to rent just for the summer while their somewhat more permanent resident, Mayo, is away. I’m really happy to be back in the acetarium, even if I have no larger purpose in life right now. I’m figuring it out…And this iron blogger is great because I’ve been wanting my own blog for sometime, and this is a perfect thing to motivate me to actually do it, and at the very least, I’ll be doing one productive thing in my post-graduation fog. I actually want to start building my own website, in a well-it-is-2012-I-really-should-have-my-own-website-spirit, and I even went so far as to buy adelaida.cc, but when attempting to make the website I realized my coding skills (or lack thereof) leave a lot to be desired…so it never really got of the ground…If you want to help me with the making of my website please let me know!
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about presentation, specifically the presentation of my body through dress, makeup, hair. I’ve been talking about it a lot with my house host Mika. I think I’m very interested in it right now because my identity is really in flux in a way that it hasn’t ever been. As I mentioned, I just graduated-meaning my entire community, the community I’ve had for the past four years, had to disperse. My closest friends, the loves of my life, Hannah, Hayley, and Tharanga are spread all over the place. I’m worried about how we will keep our friendships alive now that we’re not returning to Hampshire. The plan is for all of us to move to NYC, so we’re all working towards that, but it doesn’t make it any less nerve racking. I have no job, and no concrete plan with what to do with my life, or how to make NYC financially viable. I know I want to go to graduate school, but I don’t know how to take the first steps towards doing it. My finances are also unstable(#jobless), and lately it feels like I’ve just been bleeding money, bleeding my savings. I also just recently got dumped by a boy I like very much and I’m also feeling extreme tensions of constantly underlying guilt for not being at home with my family, my dad, my sister, my niece, my grandma. People ask me everyday “What do you do? What is your job? Oh, so you go to school? No, so you’re still in school? Well, then what do you want to do? What kind of job are you looking for?” I don’t really have answers for them. Only that I’m figuring it out. I’ve been looking for a job. I haven’t gotten anything. The questions seem innocuous, but they shoot themselves straight down to that part of me that is doubting everything I’ve ever done in my entire life ever.
So, because of all of that and more, my sense of self and identity is totally in flux, not that it isn’t always, but it is now in a way that is very specific. I don’t, for the first time in four years, have Hampshire tright nowo go back to, to settle me, as the place where I can or will eventually be doing, what I love. Which is reading feminist theory, writing about issues of oppression to try to find ways to create more fluid expressions of (bodily?) representations that subvert violent norms. Or making films that deal with important issues of violence. I am expected to enter the work force a do a job? I don’t understand what that means.
SO. As a result I’ve been thinking a lot about presentation, how I represent myself to the world through the things I put on my body- and I think also I’ve been thinking about it more especially now because my friend Hannah is a performer, I see her almost everyday. She’s always, always, very conscious of how she takes up space, what her body is doing, how it can be read, not just through movement but the fashion of her clothes, hair, makeup, etc… Being around her a lot, and feeling my identity in flux, I have been much more intentional about my dress, my fashion, then ever before in my life, just as she is. It’s been fun really, trying to look weird, interesting, yet still sexy, or sweet, or mean. It’s fun to present myself to the world differently each time I go out, to play with my body to convey different meanings, to have the ability to somewhat control the interactions and environment I have when with other people.
Yet, it’s also got me thinking about my intentions with dress, and why I choose to wear certain things. There is always this tension between wanting to be interesting to the point of off-putting, and wanting to be sexy, to have approval in that way. Yet, often when I get the “approval,” I become extremely upset. It’s a horrible push and pull between wanting to be pleasing, and wanting to be weird, ugly even. And when questioning myself about why I want to appear sexy, or weird, or ugly, it sort of comes out to this idea of control, controlling a situation, controlling interactions in some way. Being able to guess how my body will be read in a situation by the means of dress that I am wearing. Guessing accurately meaing yes, I guessed you would have that reaction, which is why I wore this. I think it’s a reaction to want control over *something* in my life right now, as I don’t feel like I have much control over much….whatever control means….It also feels very fruitful and productive, as I don’t have any other projects I’m truly throwing myself into, my manipulation of how my body will be read in certain social contexts feels really important. How bodies are read determines how we interact with each other in the world and the manipulation of this, even ever so slightly, seems to feel like a promising manipulation of changing some problematic norms, somehow. Or maybe that’s just my fantasy, but it is a push and pull I’m interested in exploring, autonomy or the fantasy of autonomy? What does autonomy of body even means??
I also was talking to Michael Stone about this over dinner yesterday. I was saying that when I’m in the world I’m so aware that my body is always read through an evaluation in relation to a symbolically normative western heterosexual white male gaze and has been since…since probably I was about 12, or 13? Whether or not I’m “controlling” my body, my body image through fashion, I’m constantly being reminded of the image-of-my-bodily-self in relation to this normative evaluating gaze, and especially in a much more avert way now that I’m living in a city, and not the very odd-ball grass walls of Hampshire College. Every time I leave the house I am made very aware that this normative heterosexuality, my body in relation to the currents standard of beauty, in relation to femme womanness, is being made, this overt sexualization in relation to problematic sexual standards of “women’s” bodies is happening to mine. It happens every.time.I.leave.the.house.no.matter.what.I.wear. And because I’m in a city, I’m made super, super, aware of it. Which is a reason why street harassment is pretty problematic, but I’ll save the much needed discussion about street harassment for another blog post. And I’m not saying across the board, like a value judgement that this is wrong. It’s just that there are consequences to having a society that interacts with each other in this way, many different consequences and symptoms of these (diverse-yet-connecting) models of interactions. It seems that my hyped up interest in the presentation of my body comes from this need to control, experiment, or play, with this image of myself in someway. To make the sexuality that is often pushed onto me something that feels more “minjuste,” by me purposfully, intentionall crafting it. To make myself weird in someway, or somewhat ugly, to sort of queer up, to change, or shift what can be “sexy.” To make myself not just be pushed into the box of sexualized, but different, weird, odd. Hopefully to make people feel like….like they want to ask question to know something deeper than just another white 20 something lady walking down the street, something you can’t quite figure out-to throw off normative representations of femme. Maybe??
For example, last weekend I wore the mask from sleep no more to a party. I wore all back, with my favourite high heel boots, high-waisted leggings, a black lacy shirt, my hair in a 40’s-50’s style while still being modern, deep red lip, and the sleep no more mask tied to the back of my head. All very reminiscent of Mortica Addams. It felt great to be looked at as an odd spectacle, not unpleasent to look at at all, beaustiful even? but some odd puzzle, rather than just looked at. I think I’ll leave the deeper feminist anaylsis alone of queering femme body image that could make this relevant to more people besides just myself, for now, and instead just leave you with the always inspiring Beyonce.Love.On.Top.