Tuesday, May 23, 2006

this post is way too long

Warning: this was written like 2 weeks ago but wasn’t quite ready to be published today. Mostly because of the wedding yesterday. Yes, before you ask. I was gorgeous. And so was odie.

So yesterday I was asked why I hate the show “what not to wear.” . . . and I found myself unsure exactly of how to answer this question.

The first objection that comes to my mind is the simple fact that this show in on a channel called TLC, which at least used to be known as the Learning Channel. What not to wear? That’s just stupid. There’s not much learning happening there.

I think I must have watched about 5 hours of TLC shows this weekend – not my first choice but I was pretty much held hostage in a hotel room. I must admit that at first I was amused. Until, after turning them off I went to bed depressed and feeling uglier than ever. It was just like I was back in Junior High. My clothes aren’t nice enough. They don’t always match, although G-d knows I try. I have no sense of fashion which has always frustrated me. Its not like I’m not interested in looking cute and trendy, but honestly I’m not good at it, and even more important I am far more interested in looking and feeling like myself. Dave and Janie, you guys have taught me that more than anybody (and I’m super excited to see the colorful combinations of clothes that you will let corrina wear once she is big enough to choose!) But when these shows were over, I felt ashamed of the spongebob squarepants shirt that I so proudly wore all day, and was ashamed of my style-less mop of hair. It is no coincidence that I have a hair appointment an hour from now. Something happened during that night that I just can’t shake. And I don’t like the feeling.

I feel so constrained and attacked by this beast called fashion. It’s strange how confident I can be in so many areas of my life, but when it comes to my clothing or my overly bushy eyebrows or small breasts I feel timid and even ashamed. Why am I so afraid to take fashion risks? I think its connected back to when I was young and some significant exchanges I had with my mother. I love her to death, don’t get me wrong. But when I think about taking fashion risks I think of those little comments when I was young, y’know? I remember one day my parents promised to take me to McDonald’s (I did not know about the evils of global conglomerates in those days, forgive me). My dad, not caring or understanding the need to look pretty (bless him), allowed me to come along in my house clothes. It just didn’t occur to either of us that I should change out of my camouflage pants into something a bit nicer for public view. And then we picked up my mom and she was so upset, she didn’t let us go to McDonald’s. And I was so sad. And I just didn’t understand why I looked so inappropriate for people to look at me.
And there was another time I think of when I was a bit older, like 12ish or something, and I just got this nice hand me down button-up shirt from my cousin or something – it was purple, and was just a little too small, but I really wanted it lots and so spent about an hour finding an undershirt to go underneath it and I worked so hard and I felt so pretty and I left my room feeling so proud and pleased with myself and then my mom told me to wear the shirt properly because I looked dumb and everybody would laugh at me.

Please don’t think my mom is horrible. I love and adore her dearly.

Anyway, needless to say, after being told pretty much every week that what I chose to wear was stupid and that people would laugh at me if I went out in public, I am a bit sensitive and unconfident about color matching or personal appearance.

Self image is a funny thing. So are childhood moments like this that stick with you for a long time.

“What not to wear” is like those moments for me, watching it on television again and again and feeling for all of these people. Their entire wardrobe, life choices, and sense of identity are torn apart in front of millions of people. There was this big tough biker guy who came in looking, appropriately, like a biker guy – leather, t-shirts, big beard. He came in so happy. And then after the main part of the show they gave an interview with him and he said that being in the show and dealing with the comments made was THE hardest thing he’s ever done. And he was a huge biker guy. Pretty harsh. And why? To what end? To amuse me. To fill my day for half an hour, this person’s self-perceptions are torn apart and redirected, althought its ok because they got $5000 worth of free clothes. Problem is, he went in looking like a real person, but came out looking like a cookie-cutter of everybody else on TV. And that made me really really sad.

Why is material consumption and personal looks and attractiveness seen as the ultimate answer to all of our problems? Why do we believe these people will have better lives once they learn how to style their hair? Why do I? Why do I waste my time with this, and why is TLC spending millions of dollars to perpetuate this destructive lie?

There are many days where I don’t feel beautiful. But no matter how nice my clothes or hair are, I don’t think I will ever stop having those days.

And the other reason which just kills me is that there are reasons why people dress the way they dress which aren’t dealt with at all. An abused lady wears baggy clothes due to her painful past. A low-income worker can’t afford anything nice because he is paying for his family. And they are given $5000 to get new clothes. Why are we spending so much money “fixing” the symptoms and not the cause of negative self-image or economic inequality? Why not use the $5000 to pay for healthy counseling for this lady? For an educational course in a trade or University for this gentleman so that he can gain skills and provide more for his family?

It just doesn’t make sense.

So, I guess, that’s why I hate the show “what not to wear.” There you go.

4 comments:

Sarah said...

excellent post, bre. most excellent. It really sucks for those of us of a larger frame (i.e. the fat girls) sometimes. The whole obsession with body image seems to be a core part of North American culture and doesn't seem to be going anywhere soon. It makes it really hard to be happy with oneself when your culture is telling you constantly, through a variety of media, that fat=ugly, you=fat, and therefore you=ugly. What bollocks! But I still take it so seriously sometimes.

I remember once at Prov when I was having a particularly hard day. One of my Korean friends came into my dorm room and said 'you got fat since last year. why?' I'm sure she was just, in her way, wondering why my body had changed and expressing concern for my well being. But the remark devastated me. Such a stupid little thing.

I'm sure there's a culture out there where fat doesn't equal ugly. maybe I'll move there, when I find it.

Tricia said...

Thank you for voicing my sentiments much more adequately than I ever could!

JAnie & DAve said...

Way to go Bre!
Boo TLC!
What right do they have? I mean, even if the show were NICER and called "Let us help" or something, it MIGHT be okay. But it's rude and intollerant and I think it sucks! BOO!

(sorry Janie! Had to say it!)
-Dave

Cheri Dueck said...

Anyone who wears $5 spiderman shirts from the boys section at Superstore is cool in my books! (or was it superman?)

What Not To Wear is just an evil invention of our consumerist society. Just makes everyone think that what they have isn't good enough so go out and buy more crap.