Saturday, 27 June 2009

Feeling comfortable in your own skin

is important. Michael Jackson obviously did not feel comfortable.
I was not a Michael Jackson fan. That sort of music does nothing for me. For me it is just a noise. It was good marketing which sold Michael Jackson. It was also because of what he was originally, not because of what he became. He was a sad individual who wanted to be something he was not and could not be.
Most of us would like to look different in some way. Few of us would, even with the money, go to the lengths he did. Still, there is an enormous industry devoted to 'the way we look'. We are told it matters. We like to look at 'nice'. Our ideas about 'nice' vary from individual to individual and culture to culture but we are always told that 'nice' is 'best'. That's human.
'Nice' also means not too far away from what is considered 'normal'. Deviation beyond this point is not desirable. If you have money and it can be changed you should change it we are told. We are not allowed to feel comfortable inside our own skin, especially if something can be changed which will make us more 'like everyone else'. We really do not value uniqueness.
My mother certainly did not like it. Christian Scientist that she was the fact that her eldest daughter was disabled was a matter of acute embarrassment for her. She tried to make me at least look and dress 'like everyone else'. The problem is that I never did like floral, frilly, pink or pencil like garments. I did not want my hair back combed into an uncomfortable style which required maintenance. I looked utterly ridiculous in a leotard and tights trying to hold on to the back of a chair in a church hall trying (absolutely unsuccessfully) to do ballet warm up exercises because 'all little girls want to learn ballet'. I can never quite forgive her for that and the many other humiliations she put me through in an effort to convince herself that there was nothing wrong. How could I possibly feel comfortable in my own skin when I was constantly told that I was wearing the wrong one?
There is absolutely no hope for me. I have never been 'like everyone else'. My hair is going grey- and I do nothing much with it. I am short. I weigh more than I should. I don't own a dress. The only skirt I own is my clan tartan kilt. Some of my clothes come from the charity shop. I do not wear make up.
I feel more comfortable inside my own skin now though than I ever did when I tried to be someone else.


Katy said...

Gosh Cat, what an interesting post. I think there's a real paradox at work in some respects with regard to the "uniqueness" question. On the one hand as a society we claim to value uniqueness - talents, skills, gifts, abilities in whatever shape or form they come - and yet at the same time it is more often homogenity that we praise. I don't know if you've seen the film "American Beauty" but it captures and illustrates this tension very well I think.

Your experiences of your mum and growing up sound very challenging. Of course as adults we can see - maybe we know! - that the issues your mum was expressing were everything to do with her (and perhaps her views?) and nothing to do with "you" as such. But the trouble is as a child we really don't know that: we blame ourselves and our lack of "perfection" for the unhappiness of the adult - and it takes our teeth (fangs?!) to be much longer indeed before we fully appreicate the truth of it and to have the strength and resources to carve our own opinion.

My own feeling of being "different" as a child was different from yours, but I relate very closely to what you've said and I rarely articulate it as such, so thank you. My father died when I was 9 - just one of those terrible unpreventable things. But I burned with shame and humiliation for years because of it I realise now, and I think it did turn me against my own femininity etc for a long time - outside my own home, I just wanted to be invisible. Luckily, as also for you from what you've said here, the adult me finally strode into view, blew away the veils and sorted me out :-), but I remember the feelings all too vividly.

As for MJ, I've never been a huge fan really so I'm surprised to find myself very moved by his death. I think he was rather a tragic figure in lots of ways. Perhaps his own inner adult was never able to emerge and rescue him.

catdownunder said...

Thankyou Katy.
I think my father made the ultimate comment on MJ last night when he asked, "Who's Michael Jackson?" (I am certain you would love my father - and I am happy to share him - but he knows nothing about modern 'pop' music!)