Butterfly Cauldron

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I begin to doubt my experiences are typical. . .

Maybe I'm lucky, or maybe I'm just odd, but I haven't really experienced the pressure to conform my appearance to social standards in ways most women seem too. Maybe it comes from the fact that I'm a fat girl and society has just given up on getting me to look the way it wants me to. Or maybe I've been getting pressured, but I just haven't noticed it. A few places I read have been talking about clothing/appearance choices lately (See here for example.) and it's got me thinking -- why do I choose to wear the things I wear? Why do I choose to style my hair like I do? To wear or not wear make-up? How much of it is my own free choice and how much of it is stuff I picked up from society?

When I was a little girl, my mother dressed me in pretty dresses (lots of yellow ones, for some reason) and shoes and barrettes and all the girly things that little girls are dressed in. I don't remember much of it, but there are pictures, so I know it is so. When I was old enough, I stopped wearing dressed. I don't like them. I don't like skirts, either. It's hard for me to move in them, it's hard for me to sit comfortably and I don't like the picture of me they present to the world at large. Part of that is because my mother wears dresses every Sunday and gets all prettied-up when she goes out and entertains. And, well, I had a decided need to rebel against my mother. But that was when I was a teenager. To this day, I don't wear dresses unless I have to. Why? Because I don't like them. I honestly don't. I don't feel comfortable in them, I don't like that it tells the world I'm a "girly" girl (because I'm so not). I don't like the expectation that I'm going to wear them, just because I'm female.

But mostly, it's comfort. I like the way pants feel. I like the way shorts feel, too. Even though the world wants to tell me I'm too fat to wear shorts, I don't care. They're comfortable. When it's hot, they're cool. I want to be cool and comfortable, not hot and cranky. Ergo, I wear shorts in the summer and pants to work. I don't think about if they make me look sexy. I don't think about if they'll make people look at me. I just think I want to be comfortable.

Some of that comes, I think, from growing up on a farm. There was a lot of work to do and you might as well be comfortable doing it. I also prefer to go barefoot. Because that feels better to me. I like the feeling of the grass or the rock or the dirt under my feet. The first thing I do, every day, when I get home from work, it take off my shoes. And the shoes I do wear are very specific -- sandals in the summer, boots in the winter. I don't wear tennis shoes or jogging shoes and I absolutely, never, ever wear heels. I cannot walk in heels, they make my feet hurt and why would I do that to myself?

I like bright colors and soft fabrics. I like funky patterns and interesting jewelry. I hate mainstream fashion, partially because none of it is made for a body like mine and partially because, aethetically, I find it displeasing. But where do those preferences come from?

I think what I'm asking is, the portion of our choices made because we simply like something, how much is that influenced by where we come from? If I hadn't grown up on a farm or had a mother who is stereotypically feminine, would I still have the same preferences I have? If I had grown up in a city and had a mother who eshewed 'girly' things, would I still prefer a bohemian look? Or would I be one of those women who wears heels and hose and make-up everyday?

I'm not making any judgements on what any woman wears, by the way. I'm assuming, at least on some level, that she dresses the way she dresses because she's getting something out of it. Maybe she enjoys it, maybe she's using it to send certain messages, maybe she's dressing to get ahead in her career. Who knows? I certainly don't, no more than she knows why I dress like I do. I'm just wonder if society, in general, has as big an impact on our clothing/appearance choices as some bloggers suggest. I'm not doubting it has an impact, but I'm wondering if maybe our family of origin has the bigger influence.

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posted by Zan at 12:03 PM

14 Comments:

I think your decision to where what ever you want is fine, because if you feel you're comfortable and confident, who cares what the market starts to sell? However, I think your belief if the "girly" looks is a bit skewed, not all women who wear make-up/dresses/skirts would be considered girly... like you, they just may feel more comfortable and confident in their wear.

12:26 PM  

Oh, I don't doubt that at all. It's never been my experience, but I can believe for some women dressing in stereotypical feminine fashion can be comfortable. I have certain issues with that look and what I feel it says about me. I realize these are internalized issues I have, not necessarily applicable to the world in general.

I'm also curious about how we define comfort. Clearly, it's different from person to person, so how do we each, individually, arrive at our definitions of comfort? I have a friend who adores her red, four inch heels. For her, those are comfort. Maybe not necessarily physically, but emotionally, it's comfort. For me, that's torture. So, how do we each arrive at those definitions? What molds us and shapes us and how much of that shaping can we undo?

12:56 PM  

Monks or nuns (buddhists) pay no emphasis to fashion or style. They treat them as something external and non-essential, so will wear anything as long as they are comfortable and non-provocative. It's great that you can play down the importance of what you wear, and the supposedly "expectations" from the society. Maybe you really can't be bothered, but I believe that all of us are like in a river. There's no escaping from feeling the impact of the flow through the course. Some attempt to swim against the flow with little avail, some drift in it, and some see how it flows and make use of the current to their advantage...

1:22 PM  

I love clothes. I love wonderful colors that cheer me up or calm me down. I love texture and line. I love clothes that have a touch of costume. Most of all, I love to be comfortable and look like myself. Like you, I am more Bohemian than otherwise, and fat.

What I really like are the clothes in the Making It Big catalog -- partly because the models are big and the clothes hang on them the way they will hang on me. When I look in the mirror the first time I put them on, I am not shocked at how different I look in them than I had imagined. I'm almost 5'2" and very round.

I know that my life history has had more impact on the clothes I wear than the fashion industry.

2:51 PM  

If I had my way, I'd be wearing t-shirts and jeans every day. Which is pretty much what I do. Sometimes I'll see a little more constructed shirt that i like and wear it. Sometimes I like to be a little more dressed up, but never in a skirt. I can't wear them for long. Mostly, I can't stand the hose I have to wear with them. They're EVIL.


I'm going to have to check out this catalog you mentioned. I always like new places to shop :)

4:47 PM  

Zan,
I'm sorry I have to be the one to rudely introduce you to reality, but maybe you should eat less and move more.
Y'know, I'm aware that society tells us that it's okay to wallow in moral relativity and engage in a mentality of "do what feels good to you," (that's called "hedonism," by the way), but the fact is that a lie, even when it makes one feel good about oneself, is still a lie although it's affirmed by everyone and the truth remains true even if everyone disagrees with it.
It's really not okay to revel in gluttony because that's "who you are and you're beautiful."
There are people who live with real problems not of their own making and real psychic hardships who would love to have the opportunities you do. Don't cheapen their problems with your pseudo-angst.

Also, you need to check your theology. I realize you may not consider my reaching out to you "gentle and respectful" as Peter commands (1 Peter 3.15), but sometimes the truth that we need to hear is very painful and we don't like it. If you're interested in learning the facts about Christianity (not the emotionalism and fire and brimstone stuff, although that's a necessary part of it eventually) and the outrageous claims of Jesus Christ, I'd love to discuss them with you. As for your beliefs and mine, maybe we can examine the evidence for our worldviews and religions side by side and see which one is based more on historical facts in evidence and which is more reasonable.
Thanks!

12:32 AM  

You know, I find it amusing that you think self-reflection is "pseudo-angst." Because I wonder why I do the things I do, I'm angsty? That's funny. Angsty was years ago before my doctors diagnosed my Lupus and we found the right medication. Now, I'm stable and healthy -- no thanks to the so-called Christians in my life who kept telling me I was sick because I wasn't praying enough or that God was punishing me for some unconfessed sin.

I'm well aware that other people have worse problems than I do. I don't deny that at all. And if those people want to come here and talk about their problems, they're welcomed too. The thing is, I can't talk about those problems because I don't experience them. If I did, I'd talk about them. I'm not making any claim to any sort of superiority or inferiority because there are people who have worse lives than I do. I'm simply talking about my life here, because it's the only life I have the right to talk about.

I find it amusing also that you just assume I overeat and don't move. That's typical, of course, but it's still amusing. The fact is, you don't know how much I eat or how much I exercise. You assume I'm wallowing in gluttony, but you have no real insight into my life aside from this blog. So, feel free to make judgments -- they don't matter to me and I'm sure they make you feel good about yourself.

And no, I don't want to talk to you about Christianity. Why would I? The first thing you said to me was an insult. I'm sure Jesus would be proud of you.

8:26 AM  

Oh, well, that's refreshing, in a way; an arrogant self-righteous I Have The Truth, You Poor Sad Sack Slobs evangelist of the more traditional type. After all this immersion in the Feminist Wars I was starting to forget about their existence. And just how very much even more -charming- they can be than, well, some of the less traditional types of evangelists! Hey, Anonymous! I just had lunch with Jesus, and He has a message for you:

"You're a self-righteous whited sepulchre asshole, and since when the hell did I go around nagging at people for trifling crap like their weight? Now go your way, my son, and be an asshole no more. Or, you know, at least, -try harder.- p.s. you have a big wooden thing or something sticking out of your eye; did you know? Also, your fly's undone."

Then we laughed and clinked glasses, and ate, and ate, and ate, and were happy.

11:45 AM  

Hey, what did you guys have for lunch? He's coming over to my place tommorrow for a Labor Day shendig and I don't want to serve the same thing :)

(It is refreshing to have a break from the Feminist Wars, isn't it? Helps focus on the real enemies out there.)

12:46 PM  

hey anon:

Your wickedness is transparent. How DARE you call yourself a Christian.

Zan, If I wore what was most comfortable, I wouldn't wear clothes at all.

Ben Franklin said it best:

"Eat to please thyself, but dress to please others."

But hey, do what you do and don't let haters like anon drag you down.

-laters

4:46 PM  

Your wickedness is transparent. How DARE you call yourself a Christian.
LOL! Gee, imagine that, a non-Christian telling a Christian what is Christian!
Clampett, please refer to the sentence I wrote about "harsh reality."
Sometimes the truth is very painful and uncomfortable for us, but that by no means absolves us from being subject to it, hmm?
Thanks!

7:43 AM  

Many non-Christians were Christians at one point in time, and most are much more intimately aquainted with the faith, its history, and its scriptures than are the self-professed evangelists who wander the internet showing their asses.

I am no longer Christian, but I taught Sunday School for more than a decade (adult-level classes) and attended a religious college. I daresay you don't represent the faith very well.

2:44 PM  

Many non-Christians were Christians at one point in time, and most are much more intimately aquainted with the faith, its history, and its scriptures than are the self-professed evangelists who wander the internet showing their asses.
Ah, the ubiquitous dogmatic assertion. How could the internet function without it?
But my real concern is with your potty mouth! Please don't lower the level of discourse with this kind of crude commentary, shangri la.

I am no longer Christian... Really! GASP! I'm shocked I tell you, shocked, shocked!
...but I taught Sunday School for more than a decade (adult-level classes) and attended a religious college.
Such a pity. Y'know, you remind me a lot of Pontius Pilate (He was a Roman governor.) He,too, stood staring truth in the face and was never willing to grasp it.

I daresay you don't represent the faith very well.

Hmm, please be kind enough to refer to my "Non-Christian telling a Christian what is Christian" quote above.

Thanks and have a wonderful day!

6:56 PM  

anon,

You have been misled by wickedness, I strech out my hand to you so that you may exit the pit and live in the love of your father.

Remember his words before you strike at your brothers and sisters yet again with malice, yet again without provocation, yet again using the arua of your religion as to hide the bile of your evil ways:

"You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:43-45

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that you? For even sinners do the same. Luke 6:32-33

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:33-35

5:00 PM  

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