"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Sunday, May 12, 2013

face value.

Now Playing: Teardrops on My Guitar by Taylor Swift (he says he's so in love, he's finally got it right, I wonder if he knows he's all I think about at night) 

So part of being a liberal arts student is you spend a lot of time being exposed to different ideas and different ways of expressing the self, and lately I've become obsessed with the idea that...that women are misrepresented, in society. We're not as black and white as society tries to make us - we are all of us squares being forced into round holes, but women I think suffer from this most of all.

I've spent a lot of time alone, to the point where I'd almost forgotten how to associate with other sentient beings; to a certain extent that's still largely the case. But now that I have been with people, some of them long enough to confidently say that they know me, I have become increasingly...frustrated with people taking me on face value. That is a massive part of the manic pixie dream girl - people make wild assumptions based on what they see and, usually, they're just totally not accurate.

Part of totally not understanding other people at all is becoming overly good at understanding yourself, and trying futilely to be understood - I have learnt how to say, loud and clear, that I AM UPSET or YOUR EXISTENCE ON THIS EARTH KIND OF MAKES ME EUPHORICALLY HAPPY. And people are taken aback, when they realise just how much of a contradiction I am, how enigmatic I can be. But...isn't that the same for all of us, really? For all the times we try to chain ourselves to stereotypes and tropes we are all such bizarrely complex beings and it is an insult to say you know someone from face value. I may only be seventeen but if you think you can gauge seventeen years of laughter and tears and heartbreak and pain and opinions and loves and hates in a few seconds and a quick dissection of my outfit then you are gravely mistaken, sir.

If you meet me there's no telling what you'll think of me from first impressions. In some settings I'm quite loud and a bit of a flirt, outspoken and confident and sassy, but those are the times that I feel the most nervous or am feeling the full brunt of social anxieties. When I am being myself I need a lot of time and space for talking, but more importantly, more time and space for silence. I can convincingly pass as twelve years old or twenty five and still be 'myself', or versions of that.

I've met people who have tried to treat me like a baby without realising that as the youngest of a very tight knit family unit I am all too used to being overcoddled and don't need anymore babying. I've met people who have come onto me far too aggressively and been indignantly angry when I ran away, without realising that flirtation to me - like to everyone - is not a means to an end but a pastime, an expression of sexuality that you condemn unless you extract pleasure from objectifying my body. People can be amused for hours on end by my antics but are then horrified when they realise the obvious; that my quirks come from a long battle of scars and insecurities. I am so tired of people being so shocked, horrified, disgusted...that I am human.

When I am angry I will lash out. When I am upset I will cry for hours on end and freak the shit out of you. When I am happy I will become this bubbly giggly ball of lunacy who wears way too much pink and walks like springs are attached to the soles of my shoes. I have always struggled with insecurities and awkwardness and social anxieties and a whole plethora of irrational phobias, and lately this has been manifesting in depressive episodes and panic attacks, which are really very scary. But the hardest part - about depression, about binge eating, about mood swings and panic attacks - is the very real and justified fear that people will lock you out in the cold because you're crazy; for all the things that happen to you, for all the real things and real people who have caused so much real pain, the greatest crime in this fiasco seems to be that I am incapable of being a machine, incapable of being a pretty face with no soul.

The sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me is that I am human, and that is okay. The most touching thing in the world is not love, or lust, or sympathy or empathy or even trust. It is understanding. I just wanted so badly for someone to understand me.

I'm part of this project that I am super excited about called The Bare Truth Campaign, which is aimed at destroying social attitudes of beauty and embracing awesomeness in its many forms. As part of the project all the models were told to come up with a 'personality' shot - a photo that is supposed to express the model's personality. Can I just say...I love this idea. I hate how models are just treated like coathangers; some of them aren't even considered pretty. They're just skeletons to drape clothes over. It's disgusting.

But when I first found out about this, I freaked out. How does one condense an entire personality into a photo? I know artists and photographers do this every day but...I'm a writer. I'm used to having linguistics and rhetoric and poetry and prose do the work for me. A picture tells a thousand words, I truly believe that but...it's not my medium, and I'm very uncomfortable with using it to express myself.

So as I was thinking of what I could possibly wear and what I could possibly do and I could possibly architect a single still frame to express myself I realised that...you can't. I don't believe that personality can be expressed like that. So I've been talking to the photographer an the organisers and...I have a really cool idea but you'll have to stay tuned for it. No spoilers!

Now that the weather is cooler I wear pretty much the exact same thing to uni - my favourite blue coat, which is actually a hand me down from my sister, but I love it to pieces. It's got a very unique silhouette - very 50s, fitted to the waist and then flared into a full skirt like a dress. I like it because I get drowned in most coats - some of them have no shape at all, and I hate it, and they're normally far too long because I'm only 5'2". The gold details are very minimalistic but kind of military and the colour is gorgeous - the perfect navy blue.

But my favourite part about the coat is that it's always hiding a little mystery. Every day I'm wearing a new outfit and I like the great reveal of the zip from neck to knee.

I know that something as simple as a coat can alter how people perceive you. In between my spaghetti straps and outrageously short skirts I am not one well known for being an inspiration to the lovely Muslim ladies at uni, but I did see one admiring my coat, because although it is very fitted and flattering it has a very modest neckline and is quite a conservative style and, worn with high boots and stockings, hardly shows any skin at all. I don't know what to think of that, really. I don't mean that in a good or a bad way. It just reinforced the idea that has been swirling around my head for a long time that people judge you on face value, and that's perfectly okay. As long as they don't think they understand everything about you based on the cut of your coat.    

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