Tag Archives: A Different Drum

On Free Thinkers and Trends

Trends are designed to make us buy shit. Not literally shit – that’s never been trendy, because there’s plenty of it around. You don’t even have to go to the store to get some (literal) shit – it’s available right there in your home. Or at least on the sidewalk in front of your home. Thanks, neighbor dogs! And cats. And raccoons. No, trendy items are only trendy if they require effort and expense to attain.

I once loved magazines – loved, loved, loved magazines, with their bright, shiny pictures; with their neat little packages of information and inspiration; with their message of eternally-springing hope. I’m speaking of women’s magazines here, the kind with a fashion focus – not, say, Ms. But the raison d’être of a magazine is to get you to buy shit – clothing, “beauty” products, purses, toilet bowl cleaner, fitness gadgets, what have you. And how do the marketers do that, dear reader? You know the answer as well as I – by making you believe that your life is somehow lacking, and that your life will be so much better if you buy this particular shit.  But you’re not – lacking, that is. And your life will not improve if you have in your house any particular consumer item that is advertised in those magazines.

So yeah – lately, the shine has worn off magazines, as far as I’m concerned. I’m just having a hard time seeing past the ads, despite the sometimes-good writing that I find buried between the ads. Have you ever tried this? Take a magazine – whichever type you choose. Flip through it, and tear out any page that has nothing but advertising on both sides. Make a note of how much slimmer your magazine now is.

And blogs! Some of my formerly favorite blogs, sort of online magazines, have morphed into vehicles for selling shit. Writers whose points of view I once looked forward to reading are now more focused on convincing me to buy this blouse, that moisturizer, and that other mascara. Jeesh! If I wanted that, I’d buy a magazine.

Here’s where I lose credibility with some of my younger readers: I do not care what the latest fashion trends are. The beauty of reaching my advanced age, 52, is that I feel just fine about choosing clothing that covers my nakedness, is comfortable, and suits my own ideas about what looks good on me. Are those snazzy-to-me shoes “so last year”? Who cares! Does this hat remind you of your grandmother? That’s your problem! Do the cool kids not approve of my simple, practical purse? Tough shit, cool kids! Who asked you anyway? I use a purse to haul around things that I want to have with me when I’m away from home, not to impress the cool kids.

And really, that speaks to my personal philosophy: You should do the things you do in life because they please you and express your inner essence – not because they might impress someone. It’s a key distinction. I taught high school until recently, and every day I would pass in the hallways clumps of black-clad “emo” types whose carefully chosen outfits carefully toed the emo party line. They made a big point of being “different,” but all in the same way. As I passed, they’d get louder so as to attract attention. They were trying very hard for a negative reaction – from teachers, from parents, from peers. I see people like this on the streets of Tacoma, in their oh-so-similar hipster outfits with the baggy gray beanies, and they’re mostly out of high school, yet many of them are still angling for the disapproval of passers-by like me. I find that sad. Why should you care about what sort of reaction you can draw from perfect strangers? Do you really need me, a middle-aged person, to validate what a badass you are?

Then there was S-, a student in my classes the last few years before I retired. She wore the oddest, coolest outfits, which she often designed herself out of scraps of cloth, old garments, and funky items cobbled into accessories. But she did this to please herself, and for that reason, I was always delighted to notice and to compliment her wardrobe choices. S- enjoyed what she wore, whether others approved or not; she was expressing herself.

I want to dress like that too, now that I no longer have to meet someone’s expectations for what’s appropriate. Not that I want to wear silver lame skirts and tiaras, like S- did, but it’s wonderful to be able to please myself, sartorially. And it’s such a relief to realize that, no matter what event comes my way, I already have something appropriate in my closet. I don’t need any new clothes! Take that, advertisers.

And that goes for electronics – so I’ll say no thanks to an expensive smart phone. I have a computer at home, and I don’t care to snap photos of myself in various locations throughout the day and post them for all and sundry to admire. You like your smart phone? Good for you – enjoy! You think that I’m hopelessly uncool because I don’t have one? Who cares! That also goes for social media. I enjoy Facebook, especially the goofy videos that my friends and “friends” post – that porcupine eating a pumpkin – too cute! And I like to read what distant friends are up to. But I’ve heard that the cool kids have left Facebook behind in favor of Instagram, Twitter, and God knows what else. Who cares! Not I.

I was noodling around on the internet, looking for others’ interesting thoughts on being a free thinker who doesn’t unquestioningly follow fashion, technological, and/or social trends. Most of what I found related to the Free-Thinker Movement – apparently devoted to freedom from religious dogma and clerical control, with past ties to the anarchist movement of the 19th century.  I’m greatly simplifying here, but – in any case – this was not at all what I was looking for. How disappointing! Where were the articles, essays and websites devoted to thinking for oneself in daily life? I did, however, find this good bit from Urban Dictionary website (always a fun read):

Free Thinker

A philosophical viewpoint that opinions or beliefs of reality should be based on science,       logic and reason. Ideas should not be derived from religion, authority, governments or         dogmas.

A free thinker should not reject nor accept any proposed truths of organized religion,           established norms, media, etc. They should determine if the belief is valid based on their     own knowledge, intuition, research and reason. Just because other people believe in it,         doesn’t mean it’s right! Use your own judgment and think critically!

by Autumn’s Modesty, September 19, 2009

Thank you, Autumn! I’ll bet she doesn’t waste much time reading fashion magazines or trolling the mall for external validation. So – here’s to free thinkers. I shall do my very best to be one.

The Musings of a Late-Blooming Rose

Last night’s dream left me with clammy, sweat-soaked sheets and a heavy ball of nausea in my gut.  I was chained to a mule train, but we weren’t mules – we were matrons. An endless train of lumpy women with bowed backs, flabby butts, and thick ankles, we shuffled forward along a narrow dusty path, hauling heavy loads on our backs. We were so many that our plodding had worn a rut deep into the earth, and walls of gray clay rose on either side, hemming us in.  It was cool and damp down in there, but up above the sun shone. I paused to look up, but the women behind me jostled me back into line.

“Keep going.”

“We’ve got work to do.”

“Gotta pick the kids up from soccer practice.”

“PTA tonight.”

“Repairman’s coming at five.”

“Get back into line, sister.”

“Whatta ya think you are, special?”

And so I fell into line, too tired to look up at the sun, too weighted down with backpacks, diaper bags, and – Oh dear God, a mini-van !

Well, the mini-van’s been gone for a while now, replaced with a sleek VW station wagon, and …wait a minute, hold the phone! Can a station wagon be sleek? See, I thought I was making a more stylish choice, but it seems I’m back on the chain gang, shuffling through the dust. And here’s the thing: I only had one child, and now she’s off at college. So why is it so hard to shake off this mommy self-image? Why is it so hard to make choices in car, clothes, comportment, activities that reflect the fascinating, mature, worldly woman I really am? Is it, perhaps, that this fascinating woman got trampled in the dust of that endless train of trudging matrons?

You know how sometimes you wake up mid-dream, vivid images still spinning around your befuddled head, frustrated because you want to finish the scenario, bring the story to a close? And, once in a great while, you’re able to go back to sleep, rejoin the dream, bring it to a satisfying conclusion. Here’s how I’d end this one:

I glance up once more at the tantalizing sunshine high above me. The unthinking, unfeeling women behind me give me a shove, this time to the side, out of the line of trudging drudges.

“Get out of the way, dreamer.”

“Yeah, you’re holding up the line. Move it.”

And, befuddled, I set down my load. From high above me, I hear a musical sound – was that laughter? I look up and see faces looking down at me. Merry faces, laughing eyes, and a pointing hand.

“Looks like they lost one.”

“Hey, you down there. Want to come up?”

I glance around, feeling a little panicked.

“Can I do that?”

“Sure you can! Come on!”

And a hand reaches down toward me, then another. Someone dangles a long, sparkling scarf. I reach up, but those helping hands are just out of reach; the end of the scarf tickles my fingertips. Well then, there’s nothing for it but to climb. I dig my fingertips into the cool clay of the canyon walls and find that I can grip, can lift myself inch by inch above the plodders, closer and closer to the sunlight. Words of encouragement rain down from above.

“Look, she’s climbing! You can do it! Come on!”

I slip once, nearly falling back into the abyss, but I haul myself up, exhausted, to the lip of the canyon, where soft, strong hands reach down to grasp me. Hands with sparkly rings, brilliantly polished nails, dangly-bangly bracelets that tinkle. And up, up, up they pull me until I’m rolling onto the soft, springy grass. I blink into the sunlight and see myself surrounded by women – lovely, colorful, fascinating women – and all of them smiling at me.

“We’ve been expecting you. Come on – let’s have some fun.” And off they go, dancing, strolling, swaying, striding across the lawn, toward what seems to be a party, a wild, outdoor festival.

Now that’s where I want to wake up.

And, in fact, I am waking up. And, upon further reflection on this dream, I realize that the women trudging in their rut all looked an awful lot like me. You see, there isn’t any one particular person who encouraged me to be a mommy drudge, a drone, a drab, duty-bound automaton – not friends, not my child, not even my ex-spouse. (Well, he didn’t exactly encourage me to shine, but still…)

And there’s no one who’s going to lift me up to the next phase of my life, not even my dear friends, nor my amazing boyfriend. I have to make that climb on my own. But I’ll bet I’ll have lots of company on the way – other women my age who are waking up from a dream to find that the sunshine’s just out of reach – but reachable. Let’s climb up out of our rut together, toward the sunshine. I want to see what that party is, just over the horizon. I’ll bet there are lots of fascinating, fabulous women over there, and I’m going to be one of them. How about you?