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.
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.