NYNY: Glamour and Self-Love

I haven’t made any serious attempt at glamourie in years.  I made certain uses of it in my younger days, of course: I had a damn fine Don’t Look At Me … but I never really managed the opposite effect.  It’s pretty difficult to tune your aura to “Hey Look At Me” when your self esteem is as bad as mine was back in the day.

These days I don’t generally bother—not in a strictly magical sense, anyway.  Or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the magic I do isn’t, in the strictest sense, clamor.  The volume and sort of magic I’ve been doing for the past three years seems to have put a good shine on my charismatic aura.  The work I’ve been doing for the last six months has escalated that to a neon glow.

Of course, it helps that I’m pretty good looking.  The caricature I use as my profile pic is just that: I am neither as buff nor as overweight as I depicted myself; my beard (sadly) not so glorious, but my hair can be on a good day.  I love my tattoos and my piercings: two rings in each ear, one in each nipple; tattoos on my shoulders, under my collar bones, and between my shoulder blades, and another planned for the base of my spine when next I see my tattoo guy in KC, all of which I drew myself.  And, though I do say so myself, whether it’s drawing, typing, jewelry, making masks and talismans, performing magic, or wild monkey sex: I am damn good with my hands.  (Why, yes, I went there.  Did you think for a moment that I wouldn’t?)

I take care of myself: I pay outrageous amounts of money for high-quality, no-scary-shit shampoo and conditioner.  I use non-toxic hippie-made (literally: I’ve met the hippies) toothpaste, deodorant, and laundry detergent.  I eat as well as I can, given that I’m on the college meal plan—which, sadly, means that I’m eating way too many conventional and processed foods—and supplement it with multivitamins.  Until the last week or so, when the weather turned to shit, I walked everywhere, which amounted to anywhere from 3/4 mile to 4 miles a day—to and from the apartment, around campus, up and down the stairs (not to brag or anything, but I have fucking fantastic legs).  I’m taking a twice-weakly yoga class, which is doing wonders for me both physically and spiritually—my arms haven’t looked this good since I left Larryville and stopped doing jewelry 40 hours a week, and I walked out of class feeling more than a little godlike Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

Even in a burlap sack, I stand out in a crowd.  And the body I’ve been blessed with is well-emphasized by the way I dress.  My style has always been unique, and as a full time student, clothing and costume are … interesting.  For the first time in my life, I’ve got pretty much free reign in the way I dress: full time, all day, every day.  I can paint my nails in outrageous colors.  I can wear my kilt or my skirts or my robes or my Rennie gear whenever I feel like it.  I wore skirts more often than pants until the weather turned to shit … for some reason it bothers me more to get my skirts dirty.  The attention it gets me is overwhelmingly positive, and the people who are bothered by it are people I don’t need around.

This is the glamour I work in: magic to refine myself until I shine; costume which reveals my nature and draws those like me; radical authenticity to distinguish myself further.  (Though, I will say that failure to grok on the part of some of my audience is tempting my Scorpio nature to go into full-time information management mode.)  Pretty much the only thing I can’t get away with is the sarongs, which just have too great a likelihood of flashing “innocent bystanders”.  But … I have not always been so fortunate.

From here, I find I must segue away from glamour and the NYNY project into the Land of Rant.  I enjoy costume. I enjoy costume for its own sake, and I understand it’s role as a tool of communication. But there are inevitable issues of privilege tied up in discussions of costume, which I feel need to be addressed.  And, in the grand tradition of the feminisms with which I identify, because the personal is political, I will do so in as personal a manner as possible.

Working in jewelry and retail, I have always been forced to keep my appearance within certain limits: my tattoos are all under the “t-shirt line”; my visible piercings are relatively discreet, and my jewelry “tasteful” (I made all my earrings myself, so of course I think they’re damn classy, but they’re also not going to startle anyone who doesn’t have a problem with any dude’s ear’s being pierced); of necessity, I have an entire wardrobe of costumes specifically aimed at looking the part of the competent craftsman.  I (not-quite-half) jokingly refer to these as my “normal people costume”.  Still, jewelry was a more forgiving industry than many.

Living with my grandfather after my failed life in St. Louis, I was forced to live in exclusively butch costume full-time. For almost a year and a half. For the first time in my adult life, I was back in both closets. I felt like I was living a lie. In a sense, it was good for me: it taught me that I can never live that way again. It led to bitterness, rage, and no small amount of drunk driving home from the nearest gay bar.

Leaving jewelry, I am moving into academia—a field which will I will be allowed many indulgences, but with its own strange pruderies. I can’t say for certain how well my gender variance will be understood: I don’t know for certain what institution I will work for in the end, and no one can say with any certainty what the Academy will look like by the time I’ve gotten my doctorate (there’s some fucking changes afoot).

So while Jason is right to point out that we are frequently at the mercy of others’ perceptions, the degree to which he concedes the field is deeply problematic. Not all of us can afford to tailor our clothes, for example, nor are we all at equal ease within the roles to which we have been assigned. It is not just inappropriate, but outright harmful to assume that it is a moral failing—an overabundance of ego or self-image, as Jason frames it—to resist the assimilation represented by mainstream costume.  Some of us do not fit within it very well, and other simply do not fit at all.

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1 Comment

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One response to “NYNY: Glamour and Self-Love

  1. Very thoughtful work. I can definitely agree with your thoughts on dress/privilege and I had spoken about my thoughts on the matter on my blog but yes, I do agree with you. I think the problem is that there seem to be only two extremes – cannot play the game at all or can only play the game. I like to think that as adults we know where it's appropriate to wear a suit (wedding/funeral/job interview) and know how to blur the lines to still suit our sense of self outside of those specific occasions.

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