Ingratitude! thou marble-hearted fiend...

“Ingratitude is treason to mankind.” James Thomson

Wednesday 7 July 2010

In which I (wo)man the barricades in a slightly jaded fashion.

Every time I see my Muji smock I think "I should throw that out." Then I put it on and wear it because, despite making me look sixteen months pregnant, it is amazingly versatile and for that reason I love it. It can be worn over leggings or jeans or pajamas. It's cool in the summer but warm with layers in the winter. It has a delightful blue and white ticking stripe which goes with everything. It doesn't bind or chafe or cling and it has a sort of classic shape, so while it is true that it is an extremely comfortable and casual garment, it is not the sort of caftan-tent that might signify you have given up all hope and shrouded yourself in preparation for burial.

Just this morning I threw it on over my minimal summer sleepwear because my dressing gown was in the wash and I prefer to avoid startling the postman with the sight of my merrily unbound bosoms. And now I feel like a Jane Austen character doing some delicate watercolours in the sunshine in a meadow. I'm pretty sure it makes me look like one too. Or Edina Monsoon.

Having read this and this and this, (thank you Invisible Woman and That's Not My Age for the food for thought) I'm feeling a bit bolshy. I used to think that Trinny and Susannah and Gok were sympathetic and understanding, acknowledging that not everyone is or can be young, tall, slim and modelly, but actually, is that all we're hoping for? Forgiveness for our grave inadequacies? Tight knickers to make us look slimmer so we don't need liposuction?

Just altering the script a little - changing thin to healthy or firm or flattering - is that enough? I would prefer the whole of this misogynistic appearance industry to please get off my back about how I look. Also, I know this undermines my argument, but I would rather look like Germaine Greer, Patti Smith, Grace Jones, Molly Parkin or Zandra Rhodes than any of the automatons proclaiming the new black.

We are all formed and twisted by patriarchy and consumerism and fear, inescapably so. Like many others, I am ambivalent and conflicted about femininity and image and appearance; I refuse to care about it and I can't help caring about it. But some women are living well in it and with it. Swearing and spitting, dancing and raging and not worrying about how it looks, or at least not letting their worries stop them.

I am an ordinary person in my middle years, slightly eccentric, more than a little lazy and I have other stuff to do than worry endlessly if I am putting forward my healthiest, firmest, most flattering self today. I  love the creativity and drama and glamour of dressing up, but now I have a chest of drawers to paint, for god's sake. And I need to buy dog food and dental floss.

And on that note, let us all look upon the awesome spectacle of Miss Grace Jones, in her smock.


  1. oh lord, tell me about it. i am so very profoundly sick and tired of riding that pendulum - yes, i care, no, i don't care, yes i'll embrace the joy of food, no i shall feel guilty over it, yes my body is good and serviceable, no, my body is IMPERFECT! on and on it goes. in my next life, if i have to be a human, i want to be a male human. i think they're a little less complicated and flaunt their flaws proudly.

  2. Well said! The patriarchy has shifted in ways as well. Now, women of a certain class and education don't not have to be tied economically to men, more career opportunities, but also perhaps less pay and still sexism. What has persisted insidiously is the way in which women are continually defined by their bodies and what is wrong with their appearance. As a queer man, I certainly understand this dynamic as my body is continually told to be more muscular, more tan, more smooth, more youthful and so on. Perhaps one would say that the rise of the metrosexual has brought about some symmetry to consumer capitalism continual corporeal whispering, but symmetry should not be the goal, rather a complete horizontaling of the system where all souls, all bodies are valued.

  3. i guess i spoke too soon about the simplicity of the male experience. there is obviously more to it. my apologies, ktk, for oversimplifying.

  4. I agree with Mr KTK all souls, all bodies, all ages! And I'll take Grace and Patti over Trinny & Susannah any day.

  5. Thank you both. And thank you for overlooking my writing errors. Proofread needs to be my new motto!

  6. Despite my, er, affliction of spelling nazism, I didn't see any mistakes in your comment. Your brilliance and eloquence outshone them!
    Anyway, proofreading is pandering to the patriarchy! Inclusivity for spelling and grammar, equality for interpretative expression! More misspelling, less (mis)judgement!
    As Mr Leonard Cohen so wisely and graciously observed, "There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in."
    (I am a bona fide, red-pencil-wielding spelling/grammar fascist, but I am trying to change. And that lyric always makes me well up. )

  7. Also, thanks for having a little convo here guys! I love it when the comments take on their own life.

    PC - It's good to question this stuff isn't it? If you're on the pendulum, you're aware and conflicted, which I'd take over complacency any day.

    TNMA - They're great stars, great artists, aren't they? Grace is far from what I'd call a role model in many ways, but I admire her creative work, and she was such an intrinsic and emblematic 80s star - she's really one of a kind. Patti - well, what can I say?

  8. I couldn't wear a smock. I'd look too much like some country yokel.

  9. i have two smocks. they cover my belly which, when you unravel it from the intricate origami knots which stop it from dragging on the floor and picking up sticky bits of apple and cornflakes, needs a little more *coverage* than it used to. that being said, i love a Vogue and I study the sage advice like someone who should get out more. and it doesn't even pay off - in NZ I tried to impress my friends with a McQueen jacket and a Christopher Kane top - they looked at me with a puzzled frown, told me they had no idea who they were and that I should just put on a frock instead. So, ah, there you go.

  10. Harridan, you have the noble excuse of having birthed many babies. I also like the *coverage* aspect of a smock, but I nurture only an overfondness for cakes and beer and other embiggening ingestibles.

    Also? Hahahahahahaha: cornflakes.