about self-consciousness

I worry about all sorts of nonsense when it’s about the girls. M would dance (more or less as freely as a witch around a ritual fire) on any and all types of music, jumping around – graciously, but not necessarily rhythmically – and demanding that I make a film of her. And then she would watch herself laughing unstoppably and laugh unstoppably at the images.

I remember the forming of self-consciousness about my image somewhere rather late, when I saw pictures taken of me a year before and I thought I looked really fat on them (I haven’t seen them in years so I cannot check if the impression was correct) – and how come I hadn’t realised it at the time (this would happen around 13-14)*. But this is not about body image – or only partially about body. I also remember being very annoyed, during one of the first dancing/aerobics lessons I took part in, at the fact that the movements I saw in the mirror were helplessly stiff, unwavy, inelegant, which completely stifled any desire to do that again – I may have had fun dancing, but it made me look ridiculous – therefore the self-consciousness won. It took a long time (and often many drinks) to dare to step on a dance floor and enjoy the thing I do, ignoring the potentially unflattering effect it has on my image.

However, although I have said `I` a lot while talking about this, this is not about me. It is about the fact that there is no record of me moving as a child – it was all before the time of recording every step, at least on my side of the curtain – and that it was a good thing, because I had all these years of feeling great about the world and myself. So I look at the girls and I wonder if the possibility they now have of being confronted with how they appear on so many more photographs and films will make them be self-conscious at a younger age. Or will it make them immune, because they will know how they appear from the outside all the time and they won’t get to be spooked one day by the spectre of the ridiculous? Will the fact that they will interact on the Internet with people who judge them immediately, as on fora, make them more wary of speaking their minds than when there were only our parents to state that something we said was stupid? Or will it teach them to weigh what they say more carefully and how to get respect from people by finding the right tone?

I’m not an `innocence preserved at all costs` ideologist, but I do worry – because none of this has anything to do with whether you are canonically beautiful `enough`, graceful `enough`, woman `enough` or even intelligent `enough` – you may be much of those things and still be held back all the time from the things that make you happy by your self-consciousness. Just as you may be smart and still worry that someone will crush your carefully built utterance with the terrifying weapon of making it sound ridiculous. And while the feeling of ridiculousness has its very important part to play in checking our behaviours, I am terrified in this Disney princesses – skinny teenagers – everybody speaks at the same time and wears the same sneakers – world. It’s probably very similar in essence with our own, and the girls will adjust just fine, but I would so like them to feel comfortable in their own skins…

 

 

* –Little did I know that it would, from then on, only be the other way round – always being dissatisfied with your appearance at a particular time and, a couple of years later, being surprised by your own pictures.

of everything too much or too little – diary entry

The rambling quality of this my virtual place makes it rather difficult to communicate properly with anyone who managed to define more accurately what they are writing about. Hell, I haven’t even defined accurately what language I’m writing in, although I seem to have chosen as main one the one with the most limited potential audience. But then again, I wasn’t writing for the sake of audience to begin with. However, the feeling I get gliding from blog to blog in this labyrinth of minds and hearts spoken online is mostly a tinge of envy for all those who have learned to take into account the potential objections of the mainstream voice, to make fun of themselves/not take themselves too seriously, but still to allow themselves to go ahead doing the things they believe in or love to do, unrefrained by the harness of self-censorship. I stumbled today upon this adorable example of what I’d call a mild preemptive rebuttal aimed at the Other’s judgment of some me as a minority view on things: `Now, I know your Tie-Dye and Mung Bean Alarm is already sounding, but stay with me if you will. ` – and I so wanted the sentence to be mine…

I know I’m being incoherent right now, but – once upon a time in Amsterdam, I had this moment of clarity during a night of being drunk with friends and made a whole speech (that I immediately half forgot) about how being a woman is all about wanting to be things/people, not necessarily wanting to have things/people. I believe I meant that, even when there are things a woman wants to have, they are mostly props for who or what she wants to be – a setting, rather, for the play of her own life. But more importantly, that the way a woman lives relationships most deeply is not by wanting to posess another person as a friend or lover, but by wanting to be more like them, to reflect herself in them and them in herself. However, this kind of generalising talk (or drunken clarities) has left me quite a while ago, and now I only dare to write or say things in the first person, the way they teach you to in the rather pointless assertiveness classes. I, therefore, believe that I have been attempting all my life to become something, while constantly looking at others and emulating the parts of them that I would have liked to be – or just looking at the dancers and wishing I had the guts to go out and dance. However, at some point I cannot help but wondering, in the cacophonia of voices I’m trying to hear and in the multitude of people whom I guiltily envy because they seem to have found their convictions and peace – is what I call my self-censorship actually not my voice? Is the not giving in to the extremes of all the things I might like to surrender to completely, the measure of how I personally cope with the chaos? I would so like to be the person who invents rituals for themselves and for the children, and yet I am so obviously the person who could not stand the ridicule of their own partner about any excess of sentiment…

Shall we just leave it at that? No tie-dye alarm here today – just no nonsense, no maintenance, no envying others for being real – they’re probably just hurdling along as well – why else would they be writing?