The revolution has begun, comrades. Well, a revolution has begun, and I am very, very excited. Details to come, but when you see the smoke, know that things are changing; definitions, representations, inclusions and exclusions...
Before I started my year of communications, my sister (who had helped me with/done for me my application) gave me a bunch of scholarships she thought I should apply for. A few of them were specifically for Pasifika students, and I thought I had an okay chance at winning one... until I read through the applications in their entirety, and discovered they all required a letter from my pastor or youth leader. Because if you're Pasifika, and you're on the right track (which is going to university - preferably to study law, not communications), you must belong to a church.
I didn't. I had left my mother's church when I was sixteen (and hers is a born-again church of mostly Pakeha anyway), and had since owned my atheism. I didn't apply for any of those scholarships, and I'm pretty certain that if I had, I wouldn't have won one, because if you are not religious, you are not really Pasifika.
On our trip there are few months ago, Vincent and I came across painted signs and bronze plaques that read "Jesus is the foundation of Samoa". We mused to each other what the foundation was before the missionaries arrived, but it didn't change the feeling of belonging I felt.
Before our trip, we had both taken part in the Advance Pasifika March. The march was intended to unite Pasifika people, and to demand a voice, independent of political parties, for all Pacific people. At the time I thought I would like to extend that to a voice independent of religion, but it seemed a good start, and I was happy and proud to be part of it. I joined the facebook page, and felt connected to other Pasifika people, in spite of our differences. One of the organisers had said the march was about supporting each other, though our experiences may be different, and I believed that meant accepting one another. Until I read a post praising those who had taken part in a march against the proposed gay marriage bill. The march had taken place in South Auckland, and was attended by mostly Pasifika Christians. They held awful, offensive signs, and MPs from National, Labour, and Mana spoke(/lied; the National MP claiming most other MPs in his party had voted against the bill - wrong. He later told the truth to another journalist. It seems his party leader has set a precedent). Some of us who objected to the movement's support of a protest advocating hatred and disrespect (as well as the protest itself) voiced our objections, and were responded to in a rude, self-contradicting, patronising manner. My statement, that I was no longer happy to be a part of the movement and was leaving the page, was replied to with "good riddance". It was glaringly clear to me that to be part of Advance Pasifika, you must be conservative and religious, not to mention bigoted. (I want to make it clear that there are religious people who are not bigoted, even if I know few of them). Some others who disagreed with the post; who support gay marriage, and equality, remain a part of the movement, and I admire them for that. They make me feel like there is hope for a Pasifika identity that is not defined by religion.
But right now, it is. "Jesus is the foundation of Samoa" really means Samoan culture is so entwined with religion - mainly Christianity and Mormonism, that religion defines it. Religion is part of every funeral, every wedding, everything, and if you are not religious, you accept that; you have to, if you don't want to go mad. You also have to know that you are not going to be fully accepted as belonging to Samoan culture, because if you reject religion, it seems you are rejecting Samoa.
And that hurts. I have tried so hard to belong as Samoan, and felt so happy since I began to feel like I do. I feel as if I have been knocked down, and all because of the unholy union between religion and culture. The two are related, no question. But they must be able to be separated - they must, if people are to be united, and able to move forward.
On Neighbourhood on Sunday, Siliga David Setonga, creator of Popo Hardware, talked about his experience as a Samoan living in New Zealand, and the implications of the distance. One of those was his ability to see, and to question, and to reject aspects of Samoan culture, such as sending money for funerals of people he doesn't know. It was almost shocking to hear someone so Samoan talking freely about choosing parts of Samoan culture in which to engage, and which to reject. It gave me hope that this might become possible for everyone, and that without losing our Samoan-ness (or other Pasifika identity), we will be able to reject "god" and his associated laws and prejudices. Some people believe in god, and that's fine. Some people don't believe in god, and we need to be allowed to do this.
On a related note, I want to say this. I absolutely, unequivocally advocate gay marriage. No couple who love each other and want to be married should be prevented from being so; no-one has the right to tell them that their love is worth less than that of any other couple. And civil union is not marriage; it's barely a poor cousin. Apart from the fact it doesn't include the same rights as marriage, it just doesn't feel the same; and I think I know, because I had always planned to have a civil union because civil unions are available to all couples, but when it came to it, it wasn't enough. If there has to be a separation between the religion notion of marriage and the legal notion, then maybe that's a good thing, because marriage does not belong to any religion. My marriage, which is full of love and happiness and every other good thing, has no "god" in it. It is a legal and symbolic joining together of my life and my husband's, and certainly not anything to do with anyone's notion of a higher power.
I'm discovering the joy that is Louis Prima. The name has always been vaguely familiar, and so has the voice... but the sound, which hit both Vincent and me like a brick when we watched the first episode of Treme a few weeks ago, is completely new to me, and I love it.
The sound of this song suits my idea of New Orleans, and also life the way I know and like it, perfectly. It's chaotic. It seems nonsensical sometimes, but as often as it is, it's actually making perfect sense, in a way that's hard to comprehend unless you're looking at it from the right angle. It's so, so joyous, and the kind of joy that doesn't deny the murkier realities of life; one that acknowledges them, and says you have to get your kicks where you can. Amor fati.
I read an interview with the excellent Alain de Botton recently where he talked about doing things at the last minute as being a result of the fear of doing something badly finally being outweighed by the fear of not doing anything at all.
It wasn't at all the focus of the interview, but it was the part that most struck a chord with me. I've suffered from a similar fear for most of my life; that of trying but not being the best. I'm not sure when it began, but I do remember feeling pressure to get the best mark from a very young age, partly from my parents and partly from kids in my class who would give me a hard time if I didn't. It wasn't their fault; I nearly always got it, so we all expected I would, and they couldn't know how that was affecting me - I certainly didn't. In form one, I faked being sick on the day of the school athletics finals because I was in the 100m sprint finals, and I knew I was going to come third. Once I knew I wouldn't be in the top ten, I started walking the school cross country. I had always left things until the last minute (I distinctly remember informing my mother at bedtime that I had a school project due the next day... many times), but it wasn't until secondary school that it became a protective kind of thing; if I got a good mark, I knew I hadn't spent more time on it than I needed to, and if I got an average mark, I would tell myself that if I had tried harder it would have been a good one. Even through university I would ignore the late penalty I incurred on nearly every assignment and just take note of the mark my work had actually been graded, not thinking about the fact that getting it in on time was part of the point. I was never one of those dicks who would tell everyone they hadn't studied, but I privately felt like I was in control, and that I knew my potential. I felt like I didn't have to worry about being the best as long as I wasn't really trying.
It wasn't until fairly recently that I realised I wasn't in control at all. Years earlier I'd started to put it together during a discussion with my sister and her over-achieving friend about the trap of being smart. The friend had topped almost every subject all through school and university, and been head-hunted by an engineering firm. She worked there for a year or so before she realised how unhappy she was, and why she was doing what she was doing; not because she loved engineering, but because she was extremely good at it. I think I was in my first year of university, studying communications to become a journalist because I was good at English, and thought there's no way I'm going to do that. At the end of the year I said I was taking a year off, and after that year off I began my BA elsewhere. I felt as if the lack of direction would free me from the constraints and expectations of being good at something, and that the time lapse would free me from the competitive side of studying at the same time as my school friends. But I was still afraid of trying. I noticed it with basic things; if a bus was at my stop and I wasn't quite there, I'd never run for it. Why? Because what if I missed it? Then I'd have run for nothing. But I still didn't recognise it in my coursework. Nobody knew me, so no-one knew what I might be capable of and hold me to it, which was important, having been motivated solely by that for so long. I might have begun to feel okay about failing, and doing badly - things I needed to learn - except that I was lying or being evasive about my marks to my parents, so that doing badly was always tinged with guilt. My transcript is an embarrassment, but I'm glad I can look at it and not feel measured by it, which was how I felt by all of the good marks I ever got in my life.
I haven't stopped being afraid. Since I entered a writing competition in fourth form and didn't place, I hadn't entered one again until this month, when I entered the most low-risk competition possible (in my mind), under a pseudonym, and with a piece I deliberately wrote in an hour and didn't redraft. I've been so afraid of trying and not being the best, it's crippled me, and I didn't even know it. I learnt how to do things just for me, and that was good, but it meant I became afraid to share them, unless I had absolutely no investment in them, which is crazy; I feel more comfortable sharing things I have done that I don't think are particularly good, or that I don't feel I have put much into, than the things I have. Most people do the opposite of that!
I don't really know where to go from here, but I think, without always being aware of it, I'm trying to change. I've learnt to be confident enough in what I think of myself that I don't need other people to value it. I realised that being able to share things I'm not good at isn't a bad thing at all. But I still have to learn to try without being afraid, and to feel confident enough to share things I think I've done well. I'm sure there was a time when I wasn't afraid. When I was about six or seven, I used to perform all the time, including this dance, which I discovered again on YouTube last night. That kid was cringe-worthy in many ways, but she was her own person. (And didn't mind at all that the photo she did the I Love You bit to was a school portrait of her own cousin, complete with cardboard frame.)
Oh, Alain. You're so insightful, even when you're merely leading into an insight. Self-improvement is a lifelong commitment.
It's quite appropriate that as I write this, I'm peering over the top of the laptop to watch the Steve Martin remake of Father Of The Bride. I've had weddings on the brain since seeing this post on Miss Moss with beautiful photos from a South African wedding, and talking with Vincent about the wedding we're going to the weekend after next.
As I've said before, I love weddings. I love the idea of two people deciding to throw in together, and wanting to do so legally and publicly. I love the speeches, and the dancing, and the flowers, and everyone who loves the couple and whom the couple love celebrating together.
This is one of my favourite recent weddings: that of Margherita Missoni. The theme was Italian Gypsy, and looked fun, and comfortable... and she looked kind of heavenly in her custom-made (of course) Missoni dress.
On the subject of dresses, I adore the one worn by the bride in the aforementioned South African wedding. It's similar to the dress my mother wore when she married my dad nearly forty years ago(!!!), except hers had a very seventies neckline. If Vincent and I did decide to have another wedding with everyone present, I'd like to wear her dress, slightly modified. That's if I could fit it; she was five months pregnant, but I think my hips are still bigger than hers were. Let's blame that on the quality of meat and dairy in 2012, shall we? Anyway, do look at the album on the Modern Hearts website. The wedding is beautiful, and looks like one where you just want to be near the person you love.
What to wear to other people's weddings is, in my opinion, almost as difficult as choosing a wedding dress; more difficult, in my experience (my dress was one I had owned for several years and bought for twenty bucks from Supre). The happy couple knows the theme and mood of their wedding, and unless their invitation conveys this or you know them well enough to know what kind of wedding they're likely to have, it's so hard to know what to wear! Our imminent wedding is especially hard; I've met the groom once, the bride never... they're both corporate lawyers... and their invitation and gift register are respectively the most hilarious and offensive I have ever seen (and I have seen invitations to family weddings with typos and biblical misquotes). If the couple aren't hippies or stylish, is it okay to have a few bare inches of torso?
Enough thinking. It's Sunday, and the second day in a row I've lost track of time and not eaten lunch... Here is the most memorable end to a wedding, and best end to a film, ever.
1. A Frigate Bird Sings. Vincent and I, plus my sister and aunty, are going to see this on Saturday night. I don't know what to expect; it was highly recommended to us by a completely biased Samoan source, whereas the reviews I've skimmed written by palagi have been unsure - I felt perhaps unwilling to be critical, but maybe also without an understanding of whence the story came. But while I hope it's excellent, I don't mind; we're going just as much to support Pacific theatre and to do something different as to see something great (and at $25, it's not really that much more than a movie on a weekend night).
Image from Auckland Theatre Company
2. Shoes. I've just ordered two pairs (slightly crestfallen as, although they're still on sale, they're no longer buy one get one half price, as they were on yesterday, doh!), one of heels and the other wedges; an investment in my resolution to wear what I want to, even if I think people will look at me funny. The photos on the website aren't great, so instead, look at these beauties Solange wore during her Vogue Fashion Photo Blog. I'm really into Dries Van Noten shoes at the moment, especially ones that remind me of some of the things my Mum wore in the eighties. (I've seen these in better colours, but I can't find them on the internet... the style is what I really like though. Power dressing to the max.)
3. Christmas. I received an email from Cookie Time today, asking me to complete a survey about their Christmas cookies (I buy a bucket every year; some years they don't make it home), and it has fertilised the seed that is always there in my mind and my heart, waiting until it's okay to start playing the music and pulling out the decorations. It's little things like Cookie Time Christmas cookies that make Christmas so ridiculously exciting; when else does a uni student in a terrible shirt printed with cookies come in to your workplace to take your order for mini cookies? What flavours will they have this year? Will they bring back the banana chocolate chip? I love Christmas. I LOVE IT.
4. My last antibiotic, tomorrow morning. Kidneys that don't hurt. A body that doesn't shake, then sweat, then shake, and then sweat again. Skin that doesn't ache. A head that doesn't hurt. Food that stays in my tummy.
5. Labour Day, which is next Monday 22 October. In case you don't click on the link, did you know New Zealand workers were among the first in the world to successfully demand the right to an eight hour day? Labour Day celebrates this right, which was won by a Wellington carpenter in 1840, and was first marked in 1890 by a parade of Trade Union members and supporters, who also wanted to pressure the government to make the eight hour working day a legal entitlement.
Every year is a tough year for unions, but it seems this past year has been particularly hard. They've been treated like shit and then discredited by media, betrayed by moderate liberals, and dismissed by people completely ignorant of their situation and demands. But they've soldiered on, and they have to. Labour Day is now just a day off to most people (or a chance to get double-time), and we deserve it. But we owe a thought - and our thanks - to the unions before us, and those working today to protect our rights.
The first thing I read on the dear internet this morning was an article about an abortion clinic in Invercargill that has been forced to open and operate in secrecy because of the largely conservative/misogynistic population. Until now, doctors in the area had been refusing to perform terminations, so on top of the emotional stress of an unwanted/unfeasible pregnancy, women have had to travel to Dunedin or Christchurch. I had planned to come here and launch into a tirade about the hypocrisy and the patriarchy and some general What The Fuck. But you know what? It's Sunday. I'm resting. And I don't want to give you sour stomach. That shit can wait until Monday.
So instead, I'm going to share with you some things I've been enjoying (which doesn't strictly mean they are happy, as you'll see). I hope you enjoy them too.
1. Sad YouTube. This tumblr (which I found through Rookie; you have to follow the kids to know where the fire is!) is a beautiful and often heart-wrenching selection of YouTube comments, lamenting or simply acknowledging a time, place, person, or feeling associated with a song. The creator suggests you click on the link to the song, which will open in a new window, and then read the comment, which I support, although it can be a bit too much. While undoubtably sad, the comments are a reminder of how temporary life is, and how that connects us and gives us reason to live the best way we can. (Having said that, I mostly just focussed on the sad aspect of that, and loss, and I enjoyed that just as much; more, possibly.)
2. Diwali. Yesterday evening I left the house(!!!) for half an hour to visit the Diwali festivities in Aotea Square. We arrived at dusk, to a performance that blew me away with its exotic, mystic and unattainable beauty, before the rain began to fall and the crowd dispersed like water in a hot pan, reconvening under trees, and shop canopies, and information stands. I loved it. I loved the music, and the dancing, and being surrounded by people connected so strongly with India, knowing their culture is so old and yet modern at the same time. I've been mistaken as Indian since I was a kid, and strangely, I felt as if I fit at the festival, which is funny because my enchantment felt so naive that it should have made me feel even more of an outsider. I bought some Dahi Puri which didn't look anything like the Dahi Puri I have had before and then we navigated our way home down squalid Queen Street, and although our Diwali was brief, it was one of those times where I felt completely at one with my situation. The square will be set up until tonight with performances throughout the day and the food-stalls open until 9pm; if you're anywhere around, you won't regret the effort.
3. My son Oscar, and my nephew Oli. Oli has ben staying with Oscar for about a month, and apart from the usual settling period (including a bit of the green-eyed monster over a certain much-loved aunt), they have been as two noisy and somewhat smelly peas in a pod (which they once were). Oli's welcome bark complements Oscar's welcome wail very nicely, and it's quite nice getting home with hair all over my jeans and wondering whose is whose.
4. Jessa Johansson. Without always meaning to (a fortnight ago's homage to Downton Abbey was totally accidental; I haven't even watched it!), I seem to wear what I see. During Mad Men, I always find myself wearing lipstick more frequently, taking more time with my hair, and wearing more pencil skirts. The week of Boardwalk Empire, all of my fine pleated skirts and loose knits came out, and so did my black boots for the first time in months. But since Girls, I have found myself wearing all of my favourite things in my wardrobe that I hardly ever wear because I feel like I'm dressing up - which is precisely why I bought them - and I haven't felt more comfortable or myself than in those things... and it's because of watching Jessa. I loved everything she wore in Girls, and have a lot of similar things but I hardly ever wear them because I live in Auckland and not New York, and in Auckland people shoot you if you look like you deliberately put on what you're wearing. No more. I wore a fur coat in Waikouaiti, and the amused looks didn't kill me. People probably just thought I was crazy, and that I can handle. It's not entirely untrue. Taking inspiration from Joan and Betty and Margaret is fun, but the time has come to Own My Look.
5. Something the other day reminded me of the scene in Eagle Vs Shark when Damon is about to go home and does the cockhole bit to Lily. I couldn't find it on YouTube, but I did find this one, over which Vincent and I have been giggling since last night. Have a good Sunday. Bitch.
In spite of my kidneys, my sweat-glands, and my aching head, I made it to Billy Bragg last night. Late; the Town Hall is like that friend who says "I'll be home at six" meaning "Dinner will be on the table at six-thirty and I'd appreciate some help", but no matter - the first half was Mermaid Avenue, and while that was enjoyable, there was a distinct increase in energy and feeling when he returned from a tea-break for the second half, which was all his own music.
He sounded fantastic. While initially I thought the crowd sycophantic when they laughed at jokes, I found myself doing it too after a while; I suppose having been late it took me longer to get to know him, and to want to laugh. I was a tough crowd; completely sober, fresh from three days in bed and contact with only Vincent, my doctor, and one of the surgery's receptionists, in that time. My vision was slightly blurred after the exertion of a two minute walk from the bus-stop. But more than that, I felt slightly removed; far more sensitive to the situation (seated, an audience of much older people who were very quiet) than I would be usually. It took a bit for me to really connect with the songs, and to his immense credit, he did it. I've never felt more sadly (not sadder; I hope you know what I mean) listening to Must I Paint You A Picture than I did sitting there, watching his face as he sang the words he wrote about a relationship running out before love did. Yet I think he was at his best when he sang his songs about more public political things, like tabloid media and personal responsibility, and Trade Unions. Those were the times when it felt like he was crusading; trying to ignite, or reignite, flames of action. This is a song I had heard only once before he played it at the show (just before we left, while I was deciding between boots and wedges, and Vincent was on Youtube). It was brilliant.
I'm not going to talk about what he's saying. I just want to say why this song resonated with me so much. From childhood, we're told on one hand to ask; to question, and to see how things are for ourselves. But we're not really encouraged to do this. Trust is beautiful, and valuable, and presented as such, we're expected to display it freely, unless given reason not to; never the other way around. To me, this song is a reminder that we don't have to trust anyone who hasn't earned it, and that it's both our right and our responsibility to doubt. Doubt what we read in a newspaper. Doubt what the government tells us. Doubt the figures companies present us with.
You might think I'm paranoid; compared with lots of people, maybe I am. But my level of paranoia is relative to the lethargy of the wider population. The minute Rumsfeld admitted there were no weapons of mass destruction, I think something clicked in me. For the first time, I realised that there was a level of power where a lie didn't even have to be maintained; where perception didn't even matter anymore. Anything could be said, and what did it really matter? When there is money at stake, there are no rules; no code, no ethics, and no morality. It can make life confusing; National claims the country's finances were a mess when they took over 2008, Labour claim the books were in order and there was a surplus. Or it can make me investigate, and look at who I might believe and why, and then believe them as a conscious choice. At the very least, it makes me think I don't have to believe anyone, and that is important because the way information is presented to us/the way we are bombarded with messages, is as if all of it is true, or complete, when we know that it isn't. Once we get into the habit of questioning, we're far more likely to hold to account those who try to deceive us, and are less likely (hopefully) to be hurt by what they peddle.
The other part that stood out to me was when he says "But everyone who loves that kiss n tell, they must share the blame as well". Like the post-death of god realisation that we're free, it is a scary but also really positive thing to know we have a part in these things. We tell the people who lie and cheat that we don't care about that by voting for them, buying their papers, and going to their parties. Spectators are part of the game; they can affect the outcome, and most times we're more than spectators - we're active participants. It's hard giving up things that might not seem so bad; I don't think it's right to take photos of children when they're being dropped off at school or on the beach with their famous parents, yet I still read Suri's Burn Book, and every time I do, that's another hit on the website and more reason for those photographers to carry on doing their shitty work.
This was a lot longer and more serious than I had intended for a Saturday morning (now afternoon). I won't give you an insincere apology; I had to say it. Instead I'll give you this. Nietzsche bless Steve Coogan, Thorn In Their Sides. May we all be Thorns In Their Sides.
I found this last night when I was dying on the couch, and Vincent was dying in the bathroom. He accidentally ate some peanuts (but is okay now), and because it was so much fun last time, I've gone and gotten another kidney infection (and am not okay, but at least I've stopped sweating).
I've been entranced by this song since I was little and knew The Left Banke's version. I think I knew quite early what unrequited love was, from Anne Of Green Gables and an imagination given to romantic stories, but I thought the song was simply about heartbreak, and I loved how wistful it sounded. At the cafe where I worked when I was sixteen we had a strangely high number of soundtracks (the most popular at the time was Dawson's Creek), and I used to listen to the Vonda Shepherd version of the song on the Ally McBeal soundtrack. It was around that time that I fell in love for the first time, with someone who didn't love me, and in the self-conscious way of a sixteen/seventeen-year-old, I spent a lot of time thinking about what a sad state it was; the saddest, I thought for a long time (though not anymore). I'd always thought unrequited love the epitome of romance in movies and books, but only when it was men pining for women; my experience was decidedly unromantic, full of unhappy drunk afternoons, not eating, and an infected nose-piercing.
When I listened to this it struck me how important it is to have articulate and creative people in your life, and how connected they make you feel to other people because they show how universal things are. Listening to it, I remembered when I first fell in love with Vincent, and how everything - songs, books, movies, seemed to be about us, and how heady it all felt; like nothing was in focus except us and the time we could spend together. Billy Bragg is a hero of mine, although what he does is so natural (plus he is alive) that I don't think I properly realised it until this week. He was the first socialist musician I ever knew, and he also wrote some of the most beautiful lines about love (usually not very happy love) I have ever heard. In some ways I feel similarly about him as I do about Springsteen; they're so genuine and their intentions are so real and honourable that it can be almost embarrassing to listen to them, like they're showing you some enormous scar, or telling you a story about being bullied for wearing a cape to school. But within that feeling is one of safety and admiration, and a desire to be as much like them as possible. On Friday, my beloved sister, Vincent and I will go to see Billy Bragg play the Town Hall. I feel lucky that the two people I will be with at the show are like that; true to who they are and genuine, that it makes me feel both proud and protective of them.
Half of the show will be his own songs, and the other half the songs he and Wilco did together using previously unheard lyrics by Woody Guthrie (the Mermaid Avenue albums). Woody Guthrie's daughter Nora got in touch with Billy after hearing him play at a Guthrie tribute concert, and offered him the lyrics, which I think is fucking awesome. There are lots of songs I hope to hear during both sections, but I can't imagine being disappointed by any omissions.
Having said that, a Billy Bragg show wouldn't be complete without this song (awesome version found by Vincent a few nights ago).
I used to think of Solange as like lesser Beyonce (I know; and I'm the youngest of three girls, so how could I?!). Then I realised I didn't really know anything about her and that I'm not really into Beyonce, so lesser Beyonce was a bit shit. Then I read an article about Solange, and decided that although I still don't really know much about her (I know that people who write about her go on and on about how cool she is, but it feels like what they really mean is how cool are they that they can recognise someone cool who's black, because they are idiots who live in the sixties, but want us to think they are normal - which is liberal to them - people living now), she seems like one of those people who is fairly normal but is brave enough to do things, and wears awesome clothes.
Clothes are why I had to listen to this a few times and see what Vincent thought before I was sure I liked this song, as opposed to the clothes she wears throughout. This song makes me feel excited about summer, and it actually makes me exercise a little bit so that my bum doesn't hang out the bottom of my shorts and that when I dance only my bum is obviously shaking, and not all of the bits that were jiggling away when I was prancing around to Bowie yesterday morning.
I've always felt afraid of going to South Africa, because I'm not white - even though I wanted to visit places like Sharpeville and Soweto to pay my respects to the people who were killed there - and because the first South African I ever made friends with here in New Zealand had the most racist parents I have ever known (and I grew up with kids from unusually racist families; hello Epsom in the 1980s-1990s, and Church of Christ since its founding to infinity), and because my Maori friend who visited was treated horribly by the majority of white South Africans she met. But then I see things like this, with incredible landscapes, and beautiful people; people whose only part in the horror of apartheid was suffering, and I think maybe I will...
Today I read an article in Smith Journal about a young Australian couple who are cycling across Australia, living off the land, camping at night, and interviewing people they meet along the way who have rejected the prescribed capitalist lifestyle for time and happiness. It's something I've been concerned with since I got into philosophy, and especially since I fell in love with Vincent.
Compared with most of my friends, I'm a hippy. I've been into environmental issues since I was a kid, and although I have never lived overseas, I've think I've always been quite aware of my existence in the wider world than I know first-hand. But more than that, I have never wanted a career (which at times made me feel like there was something wrong with me), I don't give a shit about having money in the bank, and until recently though I might never own a house (and had wondered if I might be ideologically opposed to private ownership of property). I value personal freedom and creativity. And further even than those things, I have an unusual appreciation for empty time.
I have a few magical friends whom I consider proper hippies (according to my own definition). They are women who have completely rejected norms - norms that even their liberal friends subscribe to, and forsaken material things they enjoy, to live authentically and responsibly and creatively. They have little or no money, and when they do have some, they might spend it all on one thing that they find beautiful, or smaller things that cost more than they might because they are better for the land and better for people. They are extremely political, and have beautiful ideas about things because they have made time in their lives to think about them; really think, not just in response to things, but just because things are.
I think people often forget what living responsibly is. We get so caught up in cultural obligations that we overlook the natural ones; our responsibility to the land, to humanity, and to ourselves. Capitalist norms mean we think we have a responsibility to find the best-paying job we can, and to work as many hours as those jobs require, because money is how we measure things, and we trade off the hours we work with things to make our non-working lives more comfortable, without wondering if it's actually worth it.
It's no revelation that this isn't how we have to live, yet I feel like we're all apt to forget that because so few people in life have nothing to sell. There are very few of us (obviously I'm talking about you reading this, and me) who don't have any choice in what we do for a living. And we forget that our jobs are to make a living; we can adapt according to what living requires. We just need to think exactly what that figure is, and what we're prepared to compromise in our lives, and what we aren't prepared to compromise.
I'm writing this partly to convince myself that it is okay to make these decisions, which is funny because I know it is, but it's hard to feel that it is alright to choose what you believe over what people you love believe. I have lived the way I do for a while, and it's felt hippy enough, but if I want to do certain things, I won't be able to stay a hippy, and I have realised that is non-negotiable to me, besides which I am ready to take it to the next level. I'm not claiming to be forsaking money; I'm just rejecting the lifestyle that will give me less of it and ask for more of it. I want to be in control of my life; I want to own a patch of land that I love, not just because it's mine but because I chose it, and I want to make something that I did myself, and I want to have a brood of gorilla babies and dogs, and I want to be allowed to do it for myself, because that's who I am.
Authenticity is a battle sometimes, but I believe it's worth fighting for.
Next time I pass judgment on something based solely on information received from someone else (even if it is someone I trust), please tell me to piss off. I mean, I do stand by what I said (which was what I read; that the New York in Girls is strangely, unrealistically, and irresponsibly white), but that's not all I have to say about the show (nor was it all the writer said, but I couldn't agree when that was opinion rather than fact). The new fact is (opinion being fact when it belongs to the person presenting it; maybe like the difference between inference and implication), that Girls is great. It's funny. It's interesting. And it's held my and Vincent's interest in spite of the limited empathy we have for the characters - in fact, the limited like we have for the characters (Hannah's character being a notable exception as she is awesome and I really want to be her friend), which is usually a turn-off; it might be a weakness in my viewing habits, but I really need to have someone I can cheer for.
But what I think I like best about Girls is that it doesn't make the sixteen-year-old in me feel bad. I grew up during the Dawson's Creek era. Dawson's Creek was supposed to be accessible because the kids were geeks and Dawson was painful. But it wasn't. Jen had immaculate hair (for the time), and Joey had a certain way of saying words like 'becoming' that made her seem thoughtful and endearing (which, to my humiliation, I imitated to the point where now, thirteen years later, that is how I say those words). And in spite of the fact they were outcasts, things happened; people fell in love with them, they had sex with each other, and they were commercially pretty, and skinny. They made me feel inexperienced, and boring, and when I cut my hair short like Jen's (scary pattern emerging), I got zits between my eyes from the copious amounts of fudge I had to put in my hair to make it do those curl things hers did.
As I got older, the problem didn't go away, even though I was supposed to have stopped being insecure when I finished school. The two times I watched The OC, I felt fat, and unfashionable, and very limited by not being the child of neglectful millionaires. Other shows about kids my age weren't much different; the drama might have been slightly more realistic, but money was almost never a problem, the clothes and hair were straight out of Nylon, and everyone was non-Jewish white, stick-thin, and so symmetrical-looking. I always seemed to be wearing flannel pajama pants when I watched these shows, and at home, instead of out living a life worth watching.
I'm five years older than the women in Girls, but it doesn't mean I'm immune to what I see on tv. I know what normal is and what it isn't; I know that the people I see don't eat entire cakes on their own, or put sugar in their tea, or do so little exercise that they have to lie to their doctors about it, or have to buy new undies because the old ones were constantly wedgie-ing them (front and back) because their bums were about 1.3 times the size they were this time last year. I know that my appearance is not the most important thing about me, and I'm (perhaps scarily, considering the things I've just written) more secure than I have ever been in my entire life. I love my life, and I wouldn't swap it with anyone's, real or fictional. But when everyone is skinny skinny skinny, and they never fart, I can't help feeling like I'm not doing what I'm meant to be doing. If I still feel like this now, my sixteen-year-old self would be unable to handle it; she'd drink too much, and say horrible things about other girls to make herself feel better, and want all of the products advertised in the breaks. She'd be a mess.
Hannah, the central (and my favourite) character in Girls, looks like a normal person. And she has sex all the time; awesomely uncomfortable/uncomfortably comfortable sex, and she says things during it that I never read in Cosmo. The most stylish character has a bum; like an actual bum, and she wears trousers so you can see it. They don't look like they've just had their hair done all the time; in fact, Hannah looks like she gets her hair done by the same person who does mine (ie me). And so the focus is on the things they do; what they want, what they learn, what they don't learn... and even if it's unusual it seems less so because they seem normal (normal! even thought they're all bankrolled by their parents! Yes friends, I have learned to relate to rich tv people).
After I saw Tiny Furniture, I thought I hated Lena Dunham's writing, and I couldn't understand the fuss. I think I need to see it again. Maybe she's the voice of her generation, maybe she's a voice of a generation, maybe she's not. But she's indubitably a gifted writer, a great actor and director, and fucking hilarious. May I leave you with the best eyebrows I have ever seen, and a recommendation to support Girls, both as a funny and well-written reflection of Gen Y life, and as a step in the direction that will let girls worry about things worth worrying about.