Saturday, March 7, 2009

Rambling thoughts spurred by the last post

Thank you, dear readers, for your responses to the last post. I appreciate them all. I want to respond to each one of you personally, for you all had something interesting and provocative to say. I know I'll be writing again about all the topics I touched on. Aging, self image, body image, control, insecurity, strength, acceptance. I could pick any of these topics and devote an entire blog to it. But since I contend that "everything is interesting" I won't be doing that. Speaking of single subject blogs, my second side blog is not being attended to. Again, I am keenly aware that I am in need of at least three lives. Perhaps they'll cure death before I die. Somehow, I doubt it.

When I re-read what I had written, I had to disagree with myself about one thing. I wrote that I had not gotten over some of my anorexic thinking, "not by a long shot." I still have remnants of anorexic thinking, to be sure, but I am over most of them. And I want to acknowledge that, not just for myself, and not just to set the record straight, but for anyone who is suffering from an eating disorder. Yes, one can get well.

What's left? I still am attracted to extremely thin people. I admit it. One part of me recoils in horror as another part of me is attracted. But at the same time, I have come to find all shapes and sizes attractive. Unfortunately, I do not extend that to myself, but most of the time I just do not notice. Another thing that is left is what is called "body dysmorphia." When I look in the mirror I see what I feel, not what is really there. These days, this is a positive thing. I like the person in that mirror. It's only when I have to try on some pants in a dressing room that I notice I'm not thin.

In the downscale stores, the dressing rooms are a horror. The designers of these torture chambers are idiotic. For one, turn the lighting down. The room should feel candlelit, slightly romantic and luxurious. I'm not the only person who feels drained and stressed out after leaving a dressing room. The last time I tried on some jeans, I left the dressing room with sweating palms, and much to my shame, a mess. I was shaking slightly. Victoria's Secret has great dressing rooms, but they don't sell minimizing bras, so I don't go there any more. Listen up, Kohl's, if you want your next quarter to be better, pimp out those dressing rooms.

Now that I've veered off course, I'll try to reign myself in. One commentor had mentioned that Annie Lennox looked like she had plastic surgery. I'm not so sure, but I'm no expert on this. Here's what she had to say to Reuter's:
"I still want to be an empowered performer, an empowered woman. I want women to see that and think, 'It's OK, she's got a few wrinkles and it's fine.' I don't have to lie about my age ... What's to be ashamed of? And what is so wrong about being older?"
Lennox is 54 years old. She's just put out an album. Personally, I'm not all that interested in hearing it, but it's great that she's still at it. Patti Smith is still at it, too. Now, I'm fairly certain that she hasn't had "work done."

I'm not posting these photos to be catty. These women have been role models to me, as I once was a performer trying to buck the beauty standard and just perform. Of course, sex appeal and charisma are a big part of being a popular musician, no matter how edgy one is. But, there are some women who have either not relied on their looks to carry them or who have had great fun playing with their adrogyny. Patti Smith and Annie Lennox are two of them. Others that I can think of (off the top of my head) are k.d.lang, Laurie Anderson, and Sinead O'Connor.

Patti Smith genuinely changed my life. I wasn't a fan of hers. She was too "pop" for my taste. But I had never seen her in person. I was a bit too young to have seen her at CBGB's, and saw her play at at fairly small venue just when her album "Horses" came out. There were balcony seats and I was in one of them, but not for long. I was mesmerized. There was a woman on stage who was not seducing the audience with her sex appeal. She was as intense as any performer I'd ever seen. She looked like an innocent waif girl and a young street boy at the same time. She howled. She stalked. She twirled. She was doing exactly what she wanted, at least in my eyes. It was a revelation. I wound up at the edge of the stage, barely breathing, transfixed.

That week I started playing guitar in a band. I didn't give a damn what I looked like and what others thought. Seeing Patti Smith gave me that strength. Me, a terribly shy kid, almost mute, who had absolutely no faith in herself, no self-esteem, almost complete self-hatred, somehow, miraculously, played my guts out on stage. I still don't understand it.

Tonight, I'm trying to cover too much ground. The last post brought up a lot for me. The comments, too, touched me. And so, I'll end it here, for now. To be continued. . .

Addendum: I wanted to mention that TMC posted "Strength, Part I", a mosaic of strong women. I'm looking forward to Part II (and more?)


chayaruchama said...

Oh, my...

Julie, we're new to each other; I hope you haven't misinterpreted my comments [ or -more likely- I didn't express myself clearly]...

I'm a ninny, regarding lighting, photoshopping, etc.
In a video, or in front of a camera- a lot can be done.

I don't say : "don't fix your teeth", or "don't have plastic surgery"-

It simply saddens me that there is such pressure to do so.
[I wanted daughters, to try to stop this nonsense- instead, I have sons.]

She and Patti are wonderful role models- Patti is just as she is, which I found very comforting.

Regarding body dysmorphic disorder-
I taught a class- to innercity low-income kids- preteens-
On this subject.
They had to break up the event- it was such a hot topic, and went on past the expected time; boys and girls both, I spared nothing...

[This was in addition to the symposium I held on death and dying, and AIDS-
And the sex ed for 4th grade boys and girls.
No monies extracted, just the will to dispel fear and loathing and ignorance, and pull demons into the light of day]

I'm glad that you took the risk to perform- shy or not.
It takes a lot of chutzpah.

BitterGrace said...

FWIW, I think Annie Lennox and Patti Smith look great in the photos on this post. To be honest, I don't fully understand this horror of wrinkles that seems to be so common. I admit, it is a little disconcerting to see the aging process in someone who has been a great conventional beauty, but if you forget the face they once had and just consider them as they are, you can see that their beauty is still intact, even enhanced. Unless they have mutilated themselves with surgery, etc.

Your line about pimping out the dressing rooms at Kohl's cracked me up. And I love the story about your encounter with Patti Smith. I've never seen her perform, but I was a little redneck teenager in rural Tennessee the first time I heard "Horses." She had the same effect on me she did on you. I fell in love with her voice instantly.

jmcleod76 said...

Annie is still as sexy as she ever was, to my thinking. And Patti will always be a legend. I'll have to disagree with you, slightly, about k.d. and Sinead, though. k.d. is all raw sexuality; it's just a different kind of sexuality than we're used to seeing (come to think of it, that's true for Patti Smith, too. Hers is more of a Mick Jagger kind of sexuality). And Sinead, though she shaved her head out of a desire to minimize her sexual appeal, remains one of the most beautiful women in entertainment, to my eye.

Julie H. Rose said...

Chayaruchama, I am not sure what I wrote that made you think I had misunderstood you. You wrote you thought Annie Lennox had plastic surgery. I took that at face value. There's no problem, as far as I know! And my hat is off to you for discussing these issues with kids.

And perhaps because I wrote that I didn't put up these pics to be "catty" that this was interpreted as I thought Patti and Annie looked bad. I don't. Not in the least! It's just that USUALLY these photos are used to demonstrate how lousy a certain "star" looks.

And the misunderstandings continue. Jaime, I'm not sure we disagree with each other! The words I should have used is that all these women subverted the male gaze in some way. Even shaving your head does that, even if you still invite the male gaze in. It troubled many men that they found O'Connor attractive. But again, this would take an entire post to get into.

Here's a case where my picking my words more carefully may have been helpful, but that's not my style. Hey, a little misunderstanding is okay. At least we're having a conversation! To all of you, I love your comments. You are all thoughtful. I feel lucky to have such smart readers.