I’ve apparently taken a long leave of absence from blogging: I blame the flurry of work and writing that accompanied finishing the MLIS (which is done!).
So here’s a little post/essay to interrupt your regularly-scheduled OITNB viewing. If you’re like me, you immediately tried to find the song that ended the first episode. Because I find it Deeply Inspirational, here it is:
The topic here is my tangled attempt to explain something I articulated poorly. I said I deliberately dressed in a performative way, which was vague and confusing. What I said was a lazy shorthand for what I should have been more specific about.
So, here is the not-shorthand version:
The personal is very public at this time (see: social media, particularly Facebook), and it’s often unfiltered (Twitter, anyone?). Like so many other people, I use social media (Facebook, in my case) to construct the image of myself I want others to have. We’re all yelling at people to ignore the man behind the curtain, to varying degrees. The genius and pitfall of social media is, that if you put thought into it, you become your own PR person.
I do something similar with clothing. I construct an identity that functions as a tent pitched protectively around the things I want to keep hidden. I’m not talking about physicality, though I certainly could (but that’s not very interesting). Every time I get dressed, I put on clothes and throw a blanket over myself. Part of that is shame (emotional, physical): I need to cover something up. Part of it is hiding: my clothes are my blanket fort.
In a contradiction (the confusing part), clothing as performance can call attention to myself, which is not what I want. It’s inevitable, though: who can ignore a walking blanket fort? So what is going on? It’s deflection: look at this, but don’t look at me. In a culture obsessed with distilling things to a perfectly flat surface (a phone screen, a laptop), it’s simple to turn the human form into a “virtual” social media feed. I ask you to look at what I display and only what I outwardly display.
The outward display leaves limited space for comments and engagement, which is the effect I want to have. It’s the picture I’m posting to prove that God’s in His heaven– all’s right with the world (here — “Pippa Passes”– talk amongst yourselves!).
Clothing as performance thus provides me with a shortcut way of expressing (publicly) that I’m okay, confident, colorful, and unashamed. I am representing myself (on a daily basis) in the current cultural vernacular of virtual reality. Please understand that I am not talking about social media; I’m talking about how 24/7 existence is increasingly interpreted as a newsfeed. I’m not talking about lenses in the college-essay way, either. I mean that reality really is merging with virtual reality. There’s not even a lens of separation. I am here copping to taking advantage of that.
The real reality– myself, the machine parts that power the display– is safely encased. (I’m not going to blather about whether or not there is such thing as objective reality; head over to Reddit if you’re interested). Few people deconstruct an object that appears to be working perfectly well. We count on people not probing beyond their phone screens to see what’s really going on, and I’m counting on people not to pick at my sleeve.
It works remarkably, or maybe worryingly, well.
This post is deliberately image-free. The featured image is a picture of the sky. That’s it. The sky. Make of it what you will, though, as we always do.