“Alright, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup.” One statement to paint a complete picture: dramatic entrance down a gracefully curving stair, self-applied make-up, some of it askew, maniacal gleam discernible about the eyes through the slash of heavy liner and mascara, and a bizarre, over-the-top garment suitable as a costume worn to the party in The Masque of the Red Death. The thought crosses my mind that I may be standing on that edge. One should not be one’s own reality checker, methinks, but all my fellow fashion mavens are far away and mid-coast Maine is not a haven of style; I stand out anyway.
I ruminate on appearance, style, and dignity among other things these days as I update my wardrobe and organize myself. It’s really about eyebrows, you see. I’d noticed several years ago that my eyebrows were disappearing but I didn’t do much about it. I never had any early instruction about makeup from my mother. She wore makeup, but I wasn’t allowed to in high school when I might have been interested. By the time I fled the nest, the style of the time was very natural(no makeup, no bra.)
I was a bit of a hard ass toward my mother and her use of makeup and hair colour. One of my favourite aspects of life is how ironic life is. Beware of what you criticize or where you take a strong stand because chances are you’ll find yourself experiencing the flip side. So here I am, occasionally colouring my hair, (it’s fun! And it’s not really to cover the grey but because I don’t have enough grey yet to be all silvery and family elder-ish). Since my colour and mini makeover in early December I’ve been doing a basic ten minute face, even though I don’t really go anywhere. But! I’m ready. So I learned that eyebrows are really the key. Not enough and you look old, too much and you risk the wild old person look. So I at least have to do my eyebrows daily and one thing leads to another and most days I go the lot including lips and it takes me ten minutes.
But eyebrows are weird. Not only do I not have enough, naturally, I still need to pluck some hairs. And the light here is not great so I got a lighted (and magnified; that’s a scary view) mirror so I can see what I’m doing. Still, they never look exactly the same, which I think is normal, but when is it too much, too dark, too thick? I’m making this a daily occurrence so that I can get used to seeing myself with eyebrows but I wonder if I’m doing this properly or at all in the ballpark. I can’t consult with Ann. She’s way less of a girl than I am and has serious eyebrows and would never waste her time trimming and plucking. She looks the way she looks and gets on with life.
Which leads me to Henry David Thoreau and his words,’Beware of ventures requiring new clothes and not a new wearer of clothes.’ Yah but, every day I’m newer than before. I’m a change agent and as I become more myself I’m different from who I was. It’s all stuff to do and play with while we’re here experiencing so-called reality. Even our bodies, while they are vehicles for spirit (Energy? Consciousness?)and can be considered a manifestation of that spirit, still, are ultimately cool tools for experiencing this consensual reality. So why not have fun with the vehicle, trick it out? The current generation has embraced that big-time, with piercing and especially tattoos. I’m still too much of a naturalist to want to permanently mark my body but clothes are another thing. So fun, changeable costumes. And eyebrows.
It occurs to me that eyebrows would be a good thing to tattoo but what if you ended up permanently surprised? I like to think that I can figure things out so surprised would be not so good……. Which leads me to dignity. The original definitions of dignity were all about status. My Short Oxford English Dictionary, 1964, lists as the first definition: 1. The quality of being worthy or honourable; worth, excellence, desert. And the related, Dignify: to make worthy or illustrious, to ennoble, to honour. ( I like the illustrious part. Having lustre, luminous, shining bright.) However, my Random House Unabridged (1987) lists the first definition of dignity as: 1. Bearing, conduct or speech indicative of self-respect or appreciation of the formality or gravity of an occasion or situation. And dignify: to confer honour or dignity upon; ennoble.
I think that most people endeavour to behave within accepted norms so as not to lose dignity (in the newer sense)to avoid being vulnerable to ridicule. Worrying about the potential loss of dignity doesn’t sound like a lot of fun although by the older definition having worth and excellence are good things. I’ve always thought that it’s best to go for the laughs and so amuse myself and if others laugh at me (evidence of undignified behaviour) then I’d planned it all along, hopefully adding some mirth to the world.
Today I’m modifying that idea a bit. Five years ago today my mother died in the SICU of a hospital in San Diego. I spent time with her before she ended up there, when she was recovering from her surgery, and then saw her briefly, lying vulnerable and mostly unclothed, unconscious and really mostly not in her body in the SICU. My mother was concerned all her life with what others thought and a younger self might have judged both of those versions of herself as being without dignity. But I’ve come to realize that dignity ( worth, excellence) is connected to the spirit and as long as the spirit is there, in the body, there is dignity. As she was closer to not being, her dignity was also thready, but not gone until she was. Our spirits dignify (make worthy or illustrious, luminous and shining bright) our corporeal beings. From this perspective, everyone is imbued with dignity, illustrious beings of shining energy. How cool is that?
So I will continue to garb myself stylishly, even if all I’m doing is walking the dog up the hill in the woods. Maybe I’ll try some surprised eyebrows for the laugh factor…….. The idea alone makes me giggle. And I’ll work at creating new, interesting designs for clothing to dignify the idea that life is about play and fun and what feels good. Thanks, Little Mommy.
And I’m ready for that closeup now……