Monday, November 10, 2008

Being Seen: Are You What You Try To Be?

When I get a new haircut, it is one of the only times I am consciously thinking about how I come across to other people. For example, while I might hope that my choppy bob comes off as “young sophisticate”, I am usually just praying that it doesn’t come off as “mental patient” or worse, “shabby Victoria Beckham imitation.” As much as I’d like to deny it, I place as much hairstyle-choosing faith in those who will see my hair as I do in my own power to choose. And though I am at least aware that I’m doing it, I am not alone in the time-and-money consuming pursuit of a certain and specific persona.
Everything a person appears to be is at least to some degree the result a contrived and conscious effort. Like, if I was really a young sophisticate, would I be so concerned with my haircut broadcasting it to the world? In every choice one makes (at least in their young, keeping-up-appearances years), one is cultivating a brand, a symbol, a projection of oneself. If a girl hopes others will think her an aspiring pop star, she will probably wear faux-distressed jeans, a bedazzled tank top, and Rainbow flip-flops, if that’s what she thinks music darlings favor. She’d probably talk about her recent trip to LA long after it was recent, and her screen-name might be “Luvz2SingXO”. Just as an author would develop a character so that the reader would believe and maybe like her, we each cultivate ourselves – how are character appears – for our audience – society. As anti-self as this may sound, it is inevitable and undeniable, for at least in younger years, that how others view us is how we validate ourselves. Through our clothing, our speech, our screennames and Facebooks and preferred hangouts, we are creating an image, a reflection, a brand of ourselves that we are just hoping the rest of society believes. If someone appears to be fashion-forward and worldly, it’s probably because they wear expensive-looking dark fabrics in flowing skirts and pepper their daily language with delicious morsels from foreign tongues, be it correct or not. We are hardly at fault for wanting to portray ourselves in certain ways, but just like the author I mentioned above, we have little to no idea of just how our efforts to appear actually come across. Our potential Mariah may think she looks like the next Grammy’s darling, while everyone around her thinks she’s silly to wear a tank top in November and thinks she should stop bleaching her natural brown hair. The Francophilic Fashionista’s trans-Atlantic banter may come across as offensive and her many skirts may make her look like a bag lady. Do we ever know when our attempts at creative costumery fails? I can think of any number of people I’ve seem who could not possibly see themselves how I see them (as an example: I think all can agree that Spandex does not come across as confidence after a major weight gain). And what do we do, if we find out that people are thinking that our attempts at looking like a young sophisticate make us look like a Jersey sale rack? We can not care, of course. But just as everyone, consciously or not, tries to control how people views him, everyone lives in a society and at least to some degree has to cultivate their appearance in order to be accepted. Maybe there are people who don’t think about this phenomenon, or who just look great without trying, but in perfect keeping with my point, the people around then probably think they look like slobs, or sluts, or are trying too hard. We can wait until we’re say, thirty, and such things don’t matter anymore. Or we can go on trying to convince other people – and ourselves – that we just don’t care, to hell with what people think of us, it doesn’t matter anyway. And just to make sure everyone knows we don’t care what they think, we might wear a lot of black, buy a MacBook, get a young-sophisticate’s piecey bob, and start a blog.

1 comment:

kitotterkat said...

Loved this, Anna!! :) It was very honest and humorous. I think it's very relevant to society today, because it's something that everyone struggles with. I liked how you didn't elevate yourself- reading this in the perspective of someone who admits to changing her outward appearance to influence her image was interesting for me, and establishes credibility. Awesome blog! :)