Things I Will Own
While talking with my bestie (by now you should all know that M is my bestie) today we went on one of our typically tangential and fascinating discussions. One place we meandered to was ownership of ourselves. We are two people who know ourselves intimately- we ask ourselves what we want or need and are unlikely (at least in seriousness) to ask others to define those things for us. We follow through on what we want. We, as individuals, are the guiding forces in our respective lives and, unfortunately, this is a rarity for our modern world.
As we talked, we found that, once again and unsurprisingly, we both had similar discussions in the last few days. In short, both of us have been thinking about how we are in the world and how we are seen.
My discussion actually occurred with myself. I was exploring a website that showcased beautiful candid fashion photography. The writer/photographer often offers written thoughts along with his pictures. One thing I noticed was how he talked about the “style” of his subjects. Reading along, I started thinking about how I describe my “style” and myself. My personal style is something I’ve discussed with a few others, people whom I love and respect and therefore bounce thoughts off of. Those I have asked have said I have a definite style, unusual perhaps but quintessentially me. When I was a teen I wanted to be a fashion designer. While that is no longer a dream career of mine, I still enjoy viewing fashion, critiquing it, and, every so often, incorporating bits of it into my daily life. That being said, I am the first to admit that my “style” isn’t going to win me any points with the hosts of “What Not to Wear”. It is my style though and I love all of my clothing and what it says about me to me. Clothes are part of the “first impression” clues we offer to the world and mine say, unabashedly, “I’m alive and I like it.”
We discussed the term “alive.” We concluded that “alive” means, in this particular context, that we experience, as fully as possible, every aspect of the world. We act and interact with things that are outside of ourselves. We take advantage of opportunities as they arise and if they don’t arise, we make the opportunities. We see ourselves as active participants.
As M and I talked, I told her how I realized, during my discussion with myself while exploring the website, that what I wore was only one small aspect of how I was seen in the world. I realized that more than anything, my clothes are indicative of my larger lifestyle, namely one that is vibrantly alive. That word, “alive”, is how I would describe myself to the world. I engage with the world as often as I can. Instead of driving, an act that is perhaps more practical but who’s cons (namely a disconnection from things) drastically outweigh its pros, I walk everywhere. To get anywhere I must enter into the outside world. As I travel, I see the animals, people, structures, and plants that make up any given place. I exist within it, I engage with it, and, for better or worse, I follow, act, react, with energy to what goes on around me.
For me, life requires participation. I have made decisions in my life that have been influenced by this assumption. They are things that are important to me but that frequently are seen as deficient or undesireable, in one way or another, by the larger world. These are the things I own.
I own my skin. I am very fair skinned. I don’t particularly enjoy any sort of sun exposure, I’m from the Pacific Northwest, genetically I am northern European and this results in a quite pink and pale skin tone. If I were of a less “fly my freak flag high” mindset, I would own stock in self tanning companies. I would follow the instructions of every beauty article that says a “tan” equals health and go out and buy a massive quantity of industrial strength self tanner and fall into the fake tan ranks. I don’t have time for that shit so instead I covet and promote my paleness. I have fair skin.
I own my tattoos and piercings. My tattoos and piercings are representative not just of my desire to claim my body but also of my need for visual representations. My tattoos are symbols of the various journeys I have undertaken, each piece of jewelry or deposit of ink representing a moment where I stopped to reflect. The one I will get in December will be of a phrase that I love and sums up my feelings on this absurd life. I have tattoos and piercings.
I own my shortness. I am 5 feet 1.5 inches tall. I will never be mistaken for Gabrielle Reece. Most fashion magazines, stylists, and makeover shows constantly harp on how high heels make you look taller, make your legs look shapelier, and a whole host of other debatable crap. I will never own or wear high heels. To me, wearing high heels to appear taller is a form of non-verbal lying. I am short and high heels don’t change that. My legs are quite nice just the way they are. I also enjoy having feet that don’t make small children/myself burst into tears and being able to walk without pain (and given that walking is my main mode of conveyance, I feel this is important.) or causing permanent physical damage. I’m short.
I own my intelligence. I’ve never been keen on faking stupid just to get ahead in the world and to live up to the expectations that could help me do so. I’m fucking brilliant and I refuse to apologize for that. I am smart.
I own my alterity. I don’t fit in and I don’t want to fit in just because. I’m a freak, a weirdo, an iconoclast, an oddity.
So often it seems that the world is really just an immense amount of pressure from all sides dictating what one should, no, must, do. Magazines with crap Photophopping skills; adverts that tell you you will only be successful if you look like/have x; people who have embraced that same mindset and feel they are well within their rights to control and change you- these things are everywhere. It leads to phrases like “body acceptance”, “feminism”, “politically correct”, “transparency” being necessary. It leads to people apologizing if they fail to meet those outside standards. Instead, I own my “fuck you” attitude, my independence, my stubborn refusal to live up to any expectations other than my own. It is all part of my own personal brand of “aliveness”- and I own that too.