The Allure of Reinvention

If you’re friends with me, chances are in the past month or so you’ve heard me repeat over and over again that I’m trying to “find a new/my aesthetic”. It’s become an obsession, really, and denying it would be counterproductive and would take away my inspiration for this post (so by writing this I’m acknowledging that I bring this up too often). I’ve been consumed by the allure and intrigue of finding “my” style and figuring out what makes me feel like my outward presentation, consisting of clothes, makeup, and other decorations, represents the best version, or what I think is the best version, of myself.

This obsession, this consumption, reminds me of a performance art piece that I “choreographed” with two other artists and friends (“choreographed” because I’m referring to choreography as a general structuring of a performance, instead of the more commonly understood “making a dance”). This piece, which I don’t remember if we titled, was about this obsession — the  preoccupation with the decorative, with outward presentation, with performance of an exaggerated self. We lined an “aisle” with our clothes, shoes, and accessories, neatly folded at first, and as we dressed and undressed ourselves over and over for about 15-20 minutes, we trended towards chaos. Entropy resurfaces here again. Bags on our head, mismatched shoes that didn’t fit, a pair of pants on one arm, a skirt on the other, mass chaos is what we decided this obsession leads to.

So that, that being mass chaos, might be where I’m headed.

I don’t really think that will be the case, but by hiding behind a mask of Bareminerals and other brands found at Sephora and sometimes CVS, I am both presenting a better self and subconsciously (more consciously this morning, as I carefully concealed the dark circles under my eyes), and hiding the “uglier”, more chaotic version, whatever that may be.

But I have had to ask myself recently why does this matter? Why take the extra 20 minutes in the morning to cake products on my pores that probably just need to breathe? In a way, I’m taking more time for myself than I had been before. By spending this time focusing only on what makes me feel better, more presentable, more me (even though I could be becoming less “me” at the same time), I’ve created a ritual that could be considered a celebration of myself. I actually really just like makeup, too. I like the colors, the different looks you can achieve. I love watching makeup tutorials, even though I rarely take the time to recreate the looks. I clearly love participating in the capitalist side of the makeup industry, because I have accumulated enough makeup to probably exceed the amount of money currently in my checking account.

But still, I have had to ask myself recently, why does this matter? No one else cares about what I look like other than me. Maybe I like the attention of it. Maybe I like the way that the attention that my face attracts compliments the attention blue/green hair brings. I consider myself an introvert, but we all tend to indulge and wallow in the attention of others right? No matter how many times we say that we “don’t care”?

And in terms of what I wear, maybe I’m building an aesthetic, or I’ve finally grown out of my uniform habit after two years of freedom and have learned how to actually pick out clothes. Maybe I’m just figuring out how the pieces of the wardrobe I already own fit together instead of complaining that I have nothing to wear (when I literally gave away 6 bags of clothes last summer and still have way too many – this is the kind of issue you run into when you haven’t grown significantly since middle school). Or maybe I’m striving to be like the people that I notice walking down the street. The people whose style I admire and who I take a moment to watch as they seem to have their life together.

The issue here, I think, is this idea of “seeming”.

Part of me wants to “seem like” I have it together enough to look how I think good looks when I go to class every day, or anywhere for that matter. I think the only reason I’ve kept this possible façade up for this semester is that I haven’t yet become exhausted by it. This act of “seeming”, this performance of a different (or maybe not so different) self, hasn’t yet made me feel like I’m trying “too” hard or doing “too” much.

I’m “seeming”, but maybe I’m just playing with different ways of being. Ways in which I can better appreciate myself and take time to do things that make me feel more present and more proud of this self. Outward appearance, of course, is not everything, but I do feel a little bit better when I blend away the dark circles and blemishes, and darken my eyebrows a little bit. When I put together an outfit I really like, when I recreate my aesthetic, when I redesign “me”, I feel some kind of different. Good different, a different that I didn’t feel last semester when I wore my uniform of sweatpants, a sweatshirt or oversized sweater, wool socks, and my red Dr. Marten’s (ironically though, as I’m editing this to post I am in fact wearing sweatpants, wool socks, and these red shoes, topped off with a full beat — which is makeup lingo for lots of makeup slapped on my face). Of course, these things aren’t bad, but again we’re focusing on the allure of reinvention. The obsession with consumption and indulgence in the self.

So with the masks I’ve been doing more often and the time that I take out of my morning for me, I’m falling in to the trap of reinvention. I’m falling for things that society promotes; and yet, I’m finding a little bit more of myself as I do these things and think critically about these things and why I’m doing them and what I gain and what I’m doing for me in this process of redesign.

And it goes beyond the superficial, right? Obviously you’ve noticed that I’ve been writing a lot, but this is really nothing knew. I’ve always written, but for more specific purposes, and never just about the inspiration that I find from my day to day. I found that when I wasn’t indulging in myself in any kind of way, I wasn’t taking enough time to find inspiration in my mundane. So maybe, in a general sense, I’m just playing with mediums of expression that go beyond the movement I rehearse or devise in the dance studio.

I wouldn’t be writing this post if I didn’t take the 20 minutes out of my morning to “beat my face”, because I wouldn’t have anything to write about.

I wouldn’t have started focusing on creating more, both in words and otherwise, share my thoughts, via words and movement and perhaps otherwise at some point, had I not made a commitment to finding out what makes me “me”.

Even if that means a little bit of redesign.

Center(-ed/-ing)

How can I learn how to center myself when self centering is understood as self centeredness and gets translated into arrogance? It becomes over confidence; it is seen as too much. “Too much”. How often is anything women do, black women in particular, dumped into the category of being “too much”? Too loud, too quiet, too much makeup, too little makeup, too much of this, too little of that, “too” of something no matter what we do.

So if I center myself, if I take the extra time to look at myself in the mirror and genuinely admire what I see, if I take the time to indulge in myself and in the things that I love, if I pause to appreciate me, is that “too much”? Am I doing “too much”? It seems as if I haven’t been doing enough. I haven’t cared for myself enough, because someone else or something else always seemed to be the focus. Something else was always my center.

So if I put me back at the center, when does the too little, become too much?

via Daily Prompt: Center