Monday, August 13, 2018

I'm Not Looking for Your Gaze

When I was in college, I had a subscription to Vogue. I enjoyed reading the magazine on weekends while eating scones. Then suddenly and without warning my interest went down to zero and I cancelled the subscription.

I began to say that I liked style but had no interest in fashion. I can't even look at most magazines anymore. I don't just not like them; most of them even bother me. I do, however, like the catalogs from Anthropologie. I can't remember who it was, but I saw something recently that called their catalogs a fantasy--this person said that they imagined a faraway, exciting life where everything is perfect and that we like them just because we're trying to imagine ourselves living that false, impossible life. I disagree: I don't travel (at all--and I don't mind that I don't) (and there are other things that I don't have in common with the images) but I relate to those Anthropologie images more than to any others. That's why I like them, because I see me in them, not because I imagine myself to be someone else when I look at them.

I was looking at an email from Modcloth last week and I realized something. Now, some of their images are similar in style to Anthropologie's. And this email had six pictures in it. Two of the pictures I really liked and two I didn't like much and two I mostly liked. I realized that in the two that I really liked, the models weren't looking at the camera. In the two I didn't like, the models were looking right at the camera. And in the other two pictures, the models were looking mainly at the camera but kind of off center, as if they were just looking in that direction but not quite right at you. And that was it.

I like the images that are about a person and this person's identity, not about being seen.

I don't care about being on trend because I have no personal interest in trends (I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with liking trends if you truly like following them and keeping up to date just for your own interest) and I don't need anyone to see that I'm on trend. In certain contexts, sure, you need to dress to look professional, presentable, authoritative, etc. But I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about just casual days of existence. And I'm not just talking about clothing.

Often (more often nowadays, honestly) I don't even like the outfits in the Anthropologie catalogues. There are plenty of clothing items that I would never wear. But it isn't about that. It's that dreamy quality, of nature images and wood and stone and books. It's that imagining myself going about my day and my interests. I'm looking at me, not imagining someone else looking at me.

I'm past the point of that direct-in-your-gaze look that says, here I am and this is who I am, what are you going to do about it? I have no rebellion in me. I'm too busy standing and being. I'm not trying to prove who I am to anyone; I'm just being who I am.

I don't care if you don't see me, and I don't care if you don't realize who I am. None of that will change the fact of who I am.

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