transitions, art, and body image

Transitions are hard. Hazel’s been having a difficult time with the transition back to our home routine, especially at night. We had to walk her back to her room many times this evening, and she cried and screamed and stamped a lot. It’s tough on all of us. We gave her a lot of hugs and snuggle time, but for the entire duration of our trip we all went to bed together, and she doesn’t want to go back to going to sleep on her own. Also, our neighbor’s dog had to be put down a day or so after we left on our trip. We found that out literally as we were leaving for the airport. That, combined with the death of my friend’s dad make for some challenging topics on Hazel’s mind.

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Today our nanny got out the face paints at Hazel’s request, and when I saw her after I got home from work, she had a rainbow kitty face on, complete with multi-colored nose and whiskers. She wants me to do more tomorrow.

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Helping my student with some orchestra rep this evening was fun. My body remembers pieces even when my mind has forgotten them. I enjoy the experience of coming back to something I learned when I was at a different technical stage. There is the pull toward the old way, long since changed, and then the careful, deliberate process of re-learning the notes with the new way. It is quite satisfying to be able to do something better than I did it before.

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Here’s some commentary I like on the recent Dove ad. I am tired of seeing thin white women as the only exemplars of beauty in the media. This commercial would have been more powerful if “I’m more beautiful than I thought,” didn’t directly translate to, “I’m Caucasian with blue eyes, and I’m thinner than I thought.” How about beauty having a broader definition? How about breaking the steel linkage we’ve created between fat and ugly? How about celebrating our bodies? I recently found my way to another site whose purpose is to cultivate and view positively the shape of a mother. I have been getting quite down on myself lately about the things that have happened to me physically as a result of my two pregnancies. I have that flap below the belly button, and my belly is rounder and larger than it used to be. I had even started to contemplate surgery to correct those issues. While I have no wish to judge anyone’s choices, mine included, I want to refocus on appreciating what my body has done, how it continues to let me interact with the world around me, and all the things about it I enjoy. I want to pass those positives on to my daughters, instead of the wish to cut bits of myself off so I can get a little bit closer to an acceptable form. This is an ongoing struggle for me and for so many other women.

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2 thoughts on “transitions, art, and body image

  1. Melissa says:

    Hi Mary – the body-image issue is so thought-provoking. After I saw your post, I just let it sit for awhile. Then, after a few days, I started seeing other people refer to the Dove ad as ‘so important’ and ‘this made me cry,’ etc. So, I thought I’d have a look. Hmm….okay…interesting gimmick. Then I went to the link you suggested at the top of your piece. Wow – really good commentary! Thank you. For me, one of the things that is so invidious about these images and this sort of campaign is a combined assumption of the validity of immediacy (the strangers were ‘friendly’ for a few minutes – who knows you in a few minutes and who can process another person in a few minutes and who can then describe well that stranger to yet another stranger in a few minutes?) along with the unexamined assumption that describing a person means giving a physical description. Once I know a person, I can’t really describe what they look like anymore. I recognize them on the street, of course (usually), but I’m not so bothered about the shape of their chin, or color of the eyes, or size of their jeans . The less well I know a person, the more likely I am to notice conventional features. But when I see my friend, it is a radiance – whether it radiates joy or sadness or curiosity or concern or something else- that shines on me in their presence. That’s what’s beautiful about my friends. Sometimes when writing, I challenge myself to describe a person as fully as I can without giving any revealing physical details. Can I get someone to emerge that way? I think that’s the only way I can.

    One last interesting thought – just after you posted this, an unsolicited catalogue came through the mail slot, from a company literally called ‘The White Company’ – with your observations in mind, I flipped through and was chilled that it really was ‘The White Company’ ALL the models where caucasian, thin, lovely, etc. There one was small picture of a sleeping Asian baby. And while I shouldn’t have been shocked, I suppose, it was one of those ‘oh my…’ moments. The catalogue has been recycled.

    I’ve gone on for a bit – a soapbox? How appropriate.

  2. cellocatnw says:

    Melissa, it has amazed me, having gotten attuned to it, how incredibly white marketing and products usually are. We had an ABC book, of all things, that we got rid of, which included pictures of children and a couple adults. There were only three non-white kids in it. One of the black kids was yelling/fighting, and the other was undressing. There was only one Asian kid. There were plenty of gender stereotypes, too. Ugh. And of course, the nurse was a little white girl. The policeman was a white man.

    I just think that a campaign called, “Real Beauty” which sticks to the same restricted definition of thin/white = beautiful, and fat/non-white = not beautiful, and relies on our culturally driven desire to fit into the first category and avoid the second at all costs, has nothing to do with real beauty at all. It may as well be called, “Another insidious way to get most of you to feel bad about yourselves”.

    Coming up with physical descriptors is something in writing I find challenging, for sure. As such, I want to get better at it, while attempting to navigate the traps placed by our beauty standard, which encourage us to make villains fat and heroes thin.

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