Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Cult of Fluffy Tarts

I have eyelash adhesive stuck to my upper lids: small, mascara-coated blobs in my sight periphery at all times. When I try to pull one off, it stretches out like rubber cement until a tiny bit disconnects and the rest pops right back into place.


And why was I so tarted up? I participated in a regional chorus competition last weekend. My thoughts on this weekend are interfering with my focus as that damn adhesive is interfering with my vision. All my doubts and discomforts and enjoyment of the weekend are mixed up and I can't quite sort out how I feel.

It's funny how the people you know online can pop into your thoughts. This weekend brought Clark and Yvonne to mind. I think Clark would have been in his observational element, but I don't believe he would have been very comfortable. Yvonne's writings on cult-like thinking were also present in my mind.

And I think that's where my discomfort lies. Can I be a part of this chorus in spite of all this pageantry and all this GroupThink once a year? Can I come along for the music but pass on the Kool-Aid?

The vermilion lipstick, the shimmery eyeshadow, the matching costumes, the teased hair, the emoting on stage and the choreography--it all kinda makes me squirm. (Well, OK, I like the red sequins.) And it's funny because it once was. May I remind you?


But I was in high school them, and I so desperately wanted to fit in. Twenty years later, I have a better idea of who I am (thanks in part to that drill team experience).

Now all this get-up and all these rules about how we must present our bodies seems contrived and claustrophobic and...fluffy. It feels like a celebration of an archaic philosophy of womanly beauty or a limited view of womanly goals and purpose. For much of the weekend, I held myself apart thinking, "Why am I here? I am not superficial and empty-headed like these others. I am superior."

I posted the top picture above on Facebook because I thought it was so funny and unlike me. One response stood out because it made me realize that the commenter has this image of me: she has pigeonholed me into that category of women that I was holding myself above: non-thinkers, overly focused on outward appearance, the ones who need to identify with the group. My picture was not a funny juxtaposition of who I am in real life; it was an illustration.

That hurt.

And then I got to talking to some of the sweet, kind, old ladies in my chorus who quilt and garden. And it turns out one of them was a rocket scientist who worked for the federal government during the Cold War. Another was a women's rights advocate in the 1970s along with the women who started NOW. In addition to that, our chorus can boast of a Marine, a sign language expert, several lawyers, multiple political advocates, researchers, engineers, scientists, and a Motocross racer. These women are not fluffy after all.

Some of my chorus members love the trappings. They love the make-up and the hairspray, and they want us to sing and dance. Some love the music and the shared motivation to improve but find the trappings of contest weekend distasteful enough that they sit that weekend out.

Most of us probably fall somewhere in between.

We don't belong to this chorus to define ourselves. We belong because we've found one common element and we're willing to celebrate it. This feels like a deep and important discovery even if it doesn't fully settle all this dissonance I feel. Democrats do not all think one way; Christians are not all conservative; barbershop singers are not all empty-headed, attention-seeking, rule-loving performers.

For now, I'm in. Next year for contest weekend, I may avoid the woman with the teasing comb and the one with the blush brush as much as possible, but I'll let my inner Scott and Roger shine for the performance while hiding my Clark under a bushel. I'll come to sing with this varied group of smart, driven, accomplished women. That dress up like tarts one weekend of the year.

23 comments :

  1. Most of us do fall somewhere in between. You're doing something you love, and that's enough. And I think you look fabulous in red lipstick - not every gal can pull that off!

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    1. Hey, thanks! I'm just thankful it's blue-ish--those are the shades I can wear.

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  2. Gosh, this was interesting. I love your honesty in describing how you felt superior and then realised the depth to the other women. Maybe it's not so much falling in between as accepting all aspects of ourselves? For instance, you mention the desire to be superior, which everyone has, and we also have the desire to be equal with all. We're unlikely to get rid of either aspect of ourselves so we might as well love them! (And yes… easier said than done!)
    Anyway it looks like you had fun - thanks for a thoughtful post and so interesting that my Cult post came into your mind!

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    1. Thanks so much for this comment, Yvonne. Yes, accepting all aspects, that's good.
      You know, one of the reasons I love reading your blog is because you often write about something that I was recently thinking (and bring new thoughts to) or you write about something that pops up in my life soon after. Of course that's probably cause it's on my mind. But you always get me thinking!

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  3. *snorks* I LOVE how you ended this. And I do so very like seeing inside that pretty head of yours. You think good thinks, my friend.

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  5. Your case for being a Clark, thank you very much Mr. Wakefield Doctrine. You love to sing, you CAN sing, so sing. The rest is glitz and fluff. Besides, you rock vermillion lipstick and red glittery clothes.

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  6. Huh. This was quite surprising to me. I never once figured that women who get all done up for a singing competition would be empty-headed. Of course, I never really put much thought into it. I guess I just saw the done-upness as a uniform of sorts. Albeit, a very girly uniform. Plus, you are performing. I wouldn't assume that the persona on stage is the same as the person off the stage. Have fun with it! I know there's some scott in there somewhere! :)

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    1. Well, there you go--so much more open-minded than I. I have some sort of prejudice there, for sure.
      Oh, there's definitely Scott in here. All that doing, after all.

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    2. Or perhaps you've been around performers more than I and have run into more people that are like you described. I've got my own first impression problems I'm trying to conquer. :)

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    3. Don't worry, Christine. I didn't think you were being judgemental of me!

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  7. It is interesting how outward appearances can cause us to judge (others or ourselves). I was thinking about this a bit last week, too. John and I were on a cruise and all decked out for the formal night, and I realized that the other people at our table would probably never guess I was a typically-jeans-wearing puppy raiser. They seemed surprised enough that we had spent the day kayaking and snorkeling. The thing I have learned as I've gotten older is that everyone has a story that transcends the first impression.

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    1. So very true, Kristi, and I still get caught up in the outward appearance. I judge too quickly, and I worry about being judged, too. Hence this whole post. :)

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  8. Its so funny to hear your take on this . After seeing the NYC Choir this weekend I was thinking of you and how much I would like to get back into a choir again. ... anyway...hot is your color!

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    1. HOT is my color!!!! Holla!!!!! I don't know what any of that means.

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  9. Do you know that when I saw that pic of you on FB I was totally surprised and confused!! I thought "Wow! That just doesn't look like the Sarah I know...but she must be doing something pretty special to be all 'tarted up'" (I really didn't use any of those words, especially the tarted up.... I just basically was surprised, and then thought you must be in a performance.)

    I love how you sort through this, my friend. Such wisdom and clarity around something I think we all struggle with as we belong to the various 'groups' in our life. You came to the perfect conclusion!

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    1. Yay, thanks, Chris! You ALWAYS say the right thing to me!!! Thanks for reinforcing my high opinion of myself--who doesn't like that?!?!?

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  10. 1. WHERE IS THE VIDEO OF YOUR PERFORMANCE?!
    2. My first thought when I saw your tarted up picture was "show choir". Not so far off, was I?
    3. You were DARLING in your high school drill team picture!

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    1. 4. Not to say you aren't darling NOW.

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    2. 1. We don't have a video yet!
      2. I'd say you were spot on! I want to sing with Emma!
      3. When I look at that pic, I think SKINNY!

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