Monday, September 11, 2006


I joined Netflix a couple of months ago, and Gavin and I have been indulging ourselves once a week or so with the classic, old, or strange movies that we could never find at Blockbuster. Gavin's a fan of the noir genre (partly because of the ultra cool hats), and I've always liked old films, so we have a good time with it.

We saw a movie I've wanted to see for a long time -- Freaks -- and it was even darker than I thought it would be. If you've never seen this movie, it's about a circus in which there are two distinct groups: the "normal" people and the "sideshow" people and the interactions between the two groups. There are no special effects; the sideshow folks play themselves.

Since this is a pre-PC movie, I feared it would be belittling or sensational (especially since it also involves an attempted murder), but it wasn't. The physical differences are portrayed in a matter-of-fact way, and by the end of the movie, it's plain that the "freaks" are those so-called "normal" people who have emotional and ethical handicaps.

I've noticed, over the past few years, my increasing invisibility as I age. Stranger's eyes slide over and past me without stopping; most don't talk unless I talk first. In fact, the people who most usually interact with me spontaneously are other women my age.

I am not quite sure I can put down in words the elusive thoughts that connect my feelings of invisibility to the movie. The connections are there, tied up in societal definitions of beauty and our current narrow definition of it. I know so few women who are truly happy with their bodies, truly comfortable within their own skin..."I have to lose a few pounds"..."look at this fat roll"..."my nose is too big"..."I can't stand this cellulite".

I look at my friends, though, and they are gorgeous. *We* are gorgeous. We've earned every one of our years, sometimes at high cost, and we've persevered. We're the survivors of our generation and we have much to share with the world around us.

When I look at women's magazines, the "beauty tips" are all about "this year's face" or "this year's look". Do we really all have to look the same to be attractive? Because that's the thing about older women: we look lived in. Who and what we are is written on our faces and our bodies. There's no "this year's look" for us; we have each found our own way to look, and our own style, and sometimes I wonder if that's why society doesn't want to deal with us. Like the "freaks" in the movie, we're individuals. As young adults, we could try on different personas, different ways to look, and we could blend in with the crowd if we wished. As we get older, though, our individuality becomes too great to hide behind similar makeup and similar fashions. Our life experiences have marked us. We don't all fit in the same tidy package...and most of us don't want to anymore.

Or maybe it's just me, and I'm doomed to become the crazy cat lady down the block.


Anonymous said...

The very subject of how ads, tv shows, and other media play off the fact nd promote that you too ca look like the star of youe choice was a topic of conversation last night. My question was why would this product touting to make me look like someone else be something I want to purchase - I like the way I look and it would be a shame if we all looked like the girls/guys from sex in the city or Friends. I think the term "freaks" is incorrect in many instances... mostly it is just be yourself that will gain you the lable of freak. I know someone who puts flowers all over their purple car...I am sure many say that it is freakish behavior - However, I find it to be an extension of the owners personality, a personality I much enjoy and find intriguing. Just y opinion, but who knows maybe I am just another freak on the web!

Veronica said...

What is with crazy ladies and cats? Don't get me wrong, I have three of the little critters, so I'm well on my way. I just wonder if there's a method to the cat madness. Like, maybe the cat could give a shit less how it looks, and neither could the Cat lady. The cat is inspiration for Doing What I Want & to Hell With The Rest of You.