I’m old (NaBlo: Day 5)
I don’t want too many things to change. Turning thirty-six and having anemia (and therefore being tired all the time, on top of my other health issues like having a bad back and whatever else is wrong with me–I don’t even wanna think about it because it’s too depressing) has really made me feel draggy and sad and crabby all at once. I look around me and I see things that upset me that I don’t even want to bring attention to because I’m sick of worrying that I’ll hurt someone’s feelings with opinions I’ve had as long as I can remember. Really? Have you guys just not met me? I am a walking advertisement for my opinions.
I do like some change. I like positive change. I like moving closer to a world that enables people to live freely, not that I think we’re necessarily doing that in most ways, but some. I like watching my kid grow up, and my friends find happiness, and taking control of my life, and working on my flaws.
I don’t like the kind of change that comes in order to sell things. I don’t like when Facebook freaks out and tries to think of ways to be more like Twitter, and I don’t like that WordPress is working hard to create themes that mimic Tumblr but I can’t even play around with the theme I’ve had for years because it has become OBSOLETE (a little Twilight Zone for you there) and I can no longer access it, although I guess it’s still allowed to be my theme, until I find it too broken to go on. Then I am forced into change by the whim of fashion.
I do try to check out every new theme that WordPress announces, but I find that they’re all the same: ways to show off pictures. As if those of us who want to write, and just write, have no place. Everything is big and clunky and ugly, like Fashion Bug jewelry in the ’80s. I wonder when we’re going to get back to Geocities-like designs. Sometimes I think, “Why is society/pop media trying so hard to resell us things we declared unfashionable, and dysfunctional, less than twenty years ago? Is it because we’re out of ideas? Is it because they’re so powerful, and they can?”
When things move fast and you don’t move with, you gain a distance that I want to believe is clarity. I remember a friend saying “Oh God, _____ fashion trend” one year, and two years later taking a selfie wearing that very thing. Does she remember her original distaste? Did she become numb to it, like hearing a crappy but catchy song on the radio that eventually becomes tolerable thanks to repetition?
I’m not afraid of being thought of as old-fashioned. I’m afraid of insecure, defensive people who lash out, and especially when those very people are people I love. Call me a coward, but that sort of I-have-an-opinion-You’re-judging-me confrontation is pretty much my least favorite thing ever.
What does this have to do with books? I’ve discussed before the idea that we’re living in a post-Bridget Jones world. “The lady doth protest too much, methinks” is something we quote, and people swear that the ones who are the most homophobic are deepest in the closet. People talk about romance novels, and I freeze, because this is an aspect of what I’m discussing. “…I don’t read romance anymore.” “Why not?”
Well, I find many romance novels still sexist and problematic, especially the latter. They enforce gender roles that teach that gender is not a construct, even though it is. As a librarian, keeping my mouth shut when a parent said “It’s because he’s a boy” or “She’s such a little GIRL” or “She has always liked this thing that we’ve bought her since she was born and gosh, it’s like we can’t connect the dots to figure out why”–that last one not in those words, of course, but that’s what I hear. Now that I’m not actively working, I let myself say, SOMETIMES, “You’re right. A person can’t possibly like X unless they have a penis/vagina.” People laugh uncomfortably.
Is it that if we take away our constructs, we have nothing to tell us what to do, how to be? I find that if I’m going to read romance, I’ll be reading the historical ones, because at least when they’re being sexist they’re being, you know, historical. We say, “It’s 2013! Why is there still ____?” Well, because we act and think and see so many things every day that makes that horrible thing a reality.
Tell me the last time a girl was allowed to be a tomboy in TV and movies that is a contemporary story–a real tomboy, the kind I grew up with, the kind I was. I wasn’t called a lesbian for having short hair and wearing (sigh) overalls and wanting to play outside. I wasn’t told I couldn’t do those things because I was a girl. My daughter was told in her elementary school that girls didn’t play video games, but she was a girl who loved playing video games. So where did that leave her?
I’m a thirty-six-year-old woman. Why do I still get these messages every day? “Women wear makeup.” But I don’t wear make-up. “Women own a lot of shoes.” But I don’t own a lot of shoes! “Women love wine.” Wine tastes yucky to me. (Oh God, what does it even MEAN when someone says “It’s an acquired taste”? It’s like, “You’ve gotta do something many times before you stop actively disliking something because maybe then one day you’ll like it.” But why would anyone want to do something they don’t like because MAYBE one day they will? BECAUSE EVERYONE ELSE DOES IT.) “Real women have curves.” But what about my friends who are tiny and willowy and beautiful? They don’t cease being REAL.
STOP SAYING THESE THINGS. They don’t mean anything at all, except “I have been told this so many times I believe it, and then when I see something that doesn’t fit, I don’t know how to deal with it.” People get scared. They lash out. They think, “But this is how things ARE!” Doesn’t fashion alone tell us that things are NOT, that the world shifts around us and we can buy in or not, as we choose? Marriage has always been one man and one woman. The nuclear family has always been the best kind of family–is this why we tell ourselves that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it? So that we can live that very phrase even as we apply it to something small?
Maybe this is bothering me a lot lately because I’m old. Maybe it’s bothering me because I’ve been watching a lot of Once Upon a Time, which plays with tropes we’ve embraced but cannot quite afford to throw them off. Subvert them occasionally, yes, but altogether? No. The ground would shake beneath us far too much.
Maybe I’m being old-fashioned. Maybe I’m overreacting, but it’s nice not to feel controlled. Someone else might call it rebellion for rebellion’s sake, and that I am only going against the crowd. I don’t think so. I take that which makes my life fuller and happier and discard that which doesn’t. The world telling the people I love that they are not beautiful until they cover or alter their faces, change their bodies, and like only a subset of things instead of whatever they want is not a world that nurtures them. A world telling people who don’t want those things that they are wrong, that they are bad and deviant and disgusting is a world that tortures some to gain a stranglehold on the rest.
But then again, maybe I’m just old.