Great Expectations, Or "Duh" Jules, "Duh"

As I was growing up my mother had certain expectations of me, physically, that she hoped to see me achieve. While I can't say I failed to meet the expectations (in the sense that I did meet some of them by sheer will), I also can't say that nature had the same physique in mind that my mother had hoped for, which she reminded me of on more than a few occasions. I was, in certain ways, disappointing to her and I knew it.

As I grew up and started dancing and acting, I somehow assumed that there also were expectations of me to look a certain way. Most of those beliefs were spawned in college and my early 20's either through a few directors who'd discuss us as if we were cattle, or one particular choreographer who wasn't kind to me, but they've stuck around somehow and I only recently realized how much they've fucked with my head.

I wanted to be an actress and I think a lot of actresses are concerned with how they appear to others. No matter if they are an ingenue, (required to be lovely and soft and doe-eyed) or a grandmother (required to be perhaps silver-haired and twinkly eyed), a "quirky" best friend character or a overtly sexual femme fatale, each actress gets a template of how they are supposed to look for...who? The public, the audience, the agents, the camera, the makeup team, the casting team or director.

And I'm not just talking about Hollywood, I mean any actor who is serious about her career in any town they are in. I'm sure male actors go through this too. Performing is a potentially narcissistic job. You are your canvas. You look at yourself, your reactions in the mirror. How a posture looks. What roles we can feasibly play. And women are double whammied in many cases because just as consumers we tend to worry about our looks and bodies more than others.

I was having a conversation yesterday with a co-worker, she made an off handed remark about both of us, our age etc that made me kind of wake up. It was an odd moment, as we were talking about freshmen and all of a sudden the situation and her remark set off a few light bulbs.

This is going to sound stupid. I'm just admitting it now, because it does sound stupid and horrifyingly self involved, even to me, but like many personal epiphanies, it's only really epiphanic to the one experiencing it. But I realized no one in my truly adult life has placed any expectations of me to look or be or age or dress a certain way. Other than myself out of some old old conditioning from childhood and college, anyway.

No one cares. No one cares if my hair is long or short, or gray or red. No one really has an opinion if my skin is fresh and dewy or starting to sag and line. No one really is concerned if I gain or lose a few. If I cut my hair to please myself, no one else is really gonna worry about it. If I eat what I want until I am actually full and I get a bit pudgy, simply by accepting my slagging middle aged metabolism well, I'm full and enjoyed the meal. If I wear sneakers and mom jeans it isn't really going to impact anyone's life. I am not required to look any particular way at all, so I might as well look the way I want to fucking look. No one cares. My life is really not determined by how I look.

I have no idea how I convinced myself it was going to be, my life. Perhaps old dreams die hard and realizing now that the original dream was flawed to begin with, is helpful.

I know this sounds stupid. And vain. Uselessly vain. I really do and I'm not proud of it, not at all. But it was a good thing to realize yesterday, because it means my stupidity and vanity will diminish and my happiness and creativity will increase. There is an irony there that in the aging and physical diminishing, may actually come real power.

Comments

  1. There is a certain truth that age affects the way people react to a person. I have a problem dating men my own age because they seem so old! And my own personal fears about other people saying the same thing about me has caused me to white-lie about my age in online dating profiles.

    I am fortunate, I suppose, that my genetics make me able to get away with slicing 10 years off of my age. And I do have a "beauty" regimen that I've followed since high school (because of an acne problem).

    Most men are surprised when I tell them my age, and say it doesn't matter. But then several of them have faded away soon thereafter, not because of what I looked like or what I had to offer, but because of my real age, I think. Or maybe it's because they feel they can't trust me!

    In other situations, where I've met men without the aid of the internet, and age has come up, I've generally told the truth about my age (much easier to lie with my fingers than my lips), and it really hasn't made much of a difference to the large percentage of men.

    But it is a conundrum. I hate that I have to give out "incriminating" information such as age, when it's really irrelevant to my looks or abilities.

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