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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Page 6--Society Can Be A Bitch, Cont'd--Olivia Petrus

My ugly duckling phase of life began to dwindle and fade sophomore year, mostly a result of the advent of developing breasts. I eventually exchanged the circle of the stoned for a membership to a local gym, took a keen interest in Kundalini yoga, T’ai Chi, meditation and several other fascinating subjects of that nature. At last I had mastered the art of applying a light amount of makeup that accentuated my face rather than disfigured it into a blinding billboard of atrocious colors. I finally managed to slide into jeans that flattered my figure and t-shirts that fit; normal teen casual, or what some would label the “post modernist non-feminine pant world”. I even began to experiment with more female, or what Cosmo would call, “chick, bohemian, flirtatious, sex kitten, smoky, sex vixen, dream objectification of the male fantasy, sex cheerleader, sheik…. the list goes on and on in a drone of superfluous and ridiculous adjectives that sound ‘pretty’” outfits, and even discovered a fashion secret most shocking to a

I had ultimately rejected skirts and dresses in favor of jeans and t-shirts, which I believed were more comfortable. Then I had a “fashion epiphany” during the summer, when the humidity and heat would become unbearable so often, and it was that sundresses were actually the easiest and most comfortable things to wear. Not only were they easier and more comfortable, I would get several compliments on them, and would be praised for “dressing like a girl”. Initially, that drove me away from wearing them often until I graduated high school because I did not like all the strange attention, especially considering the fact that I was not adjusted to being complimented on my outfits and somehow managed to perceive them as threats. I suppose culture and society did influence me in that respect; American sure learned how to become terrified of damn near everything after 9/11. A compliment was not to be taken lightly; it could have easily been interpreted as a bomb threat or precursor to some sort of terrorist agenda worthy of raising the terror alert level to at least orange. That’s what I thought anyway.

The way I present myself to society, and how my outer appearance is judged by it, is usually not something I consciously consider when I throw together a hurricane of an outfit in the morning. My ever-drifting mind is the eye of this metaphorical tropical monstrosity: calm, cool, and detached from the whirlwind of action my body is in, rushing around throwing on clothes or makeup, just trying to be on time to school or other responsibilities in the morning. The influences are far more subtle, and much more driven by common sense and instinct. For instance, it is not likely I would wear a pair of boots as a fashion statement, or as a response to seeing some celebrity wearing them in Hollywood, but more due to the fact that it was snowing or raining outside and cold. In my mind, I would be wondering why in the world someone would wear a pair of thick boots in the mild and warm climate of Hollywood, trying to cast aside the observation they are pouring sweat by claiming that they do not sweat, but “glimmer”. If I wear a sundress, it is probably because I was feeling too lazy to put on pants that morning, or felt “fat” as so many of my female sisters understand this phenomenon, and wanted something comfortable to deal with.

I see how influences in culture and society impact the way people dress, especially for women. The stereotypical, ultimately unattainable ideal of thin, Barbie blonde, disproportionately large curves to emaciated waists and minds, the expectations of some narrow-minded individuals for us to be “seen and not heard” and conform to several other, all-pervasive double standards percolating in the collective unconscious of the male species for the greater part of history, still dominates the way many women perceive themselves or feel they must live up to. So women feel more inclined to starve themselves, foster a drastically low self-esteem they aren’t faintly even aware of, and dive into the pages of shallow fashion magazines because they believe they are suppose to, and live by those debilitating standards. Beyond the feminist perspective of our American pop culture, men are by no means immune to these unrealistic standards that may even at times perpetuate a sense of looking down upon women as inferiors, not equals. Society tells men they must be strong and muscular and absolutely, positively masculine, for if they are not, they must be homosexual or, in laymen terms, a “wuss”.

Though less common, this can drive men to exercise excessively, swallow handfuls of steroids or diet pills, believe that spritzing themselves with Axe cologne really will cause multiple attractive females to have sex with them when they walk down the street, believe that they are to dress a certain way to demonstrate their masculinity, or that talking down to women is acceptable, judging them by appearance first and foremost is the standard, and groping them or making sexually inappropriate comments to them is just fine and dandy.

Society, like life, is a bitch. No wonder my mind takes quick stock of observations and drifts off quick back to my dream world. Who would really want to consider these unfair implications any further than one would have to? I may be an aloof space-case, but I am proud of this. My attention deficit disorder attention span keeps me from ever becoming too immersed in those false and despicable stereotypes for any extended period of time. So although I do not have a great fashion sense, will never be the woman who turns heads when walking down the street, or be plastered across the feature pages of Vogue, I am grateful and never would want it to be any other way. I will never be exactly want society wants me to be, and honestly who could ever be what society wants them to be with ideals so high and unrealistic? Yes, the ugly duckling phase sucked, being made fun of all throughout my grade school and high school years sucked, but it would “suck” more to be an adult that believes she must starve herself to gain acceptance amongst her peers, that having her bottom groped on a subway train is a compliment or plunging into credit card debt at age twenty four because she “absolutely had to have” the designer clothes from Chanel is a rite of passage. I am very lucky my mind will not even allow me to dwell on these things for more than five minutes. Instead it is remembering all the fun I had playing street hockey when I was ten. Sure this brain of mind might not be completely productive, and can get me into troubles when things I must do out of necessity are not tended to, but perhaps this is more a beneficial aspect rather than a hindering element of my personality; it keeps me from being enamored by all the bullshit.

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