Thursday, July 09, 2009

Folk Music Reconsidered, and Self-Image

Now that I've left Charlottesville, I've been slowly collecting songs and albums that I loved when I was a DJ at WNRN. My latest purchase is Songs from My Funeral by Snakefarm. It is a very strange record. It's a collection of sort of electro-folk, sample-heavy, rhythmic renditions of old American folk songs (e.g. "Laredo", "St. James", "Frankie and Johnny"), with processed female vocals. I can't stop listening to it. The lyrics are all sad and most of the songs are violent, but the arrangements are so bizarre and energetic that it's mesmerizing, kind of like how Nick Drake's songs are all sunshine and suicide. I'm finding it to be great studying music.

This reminds me that I need to buy Nick Drake's entire catalog. It seems like good summer music.

It's funny how mental fatigue works. I find that if I've been studying intently for several hours, I don't feel like doing anything even mildly cerebral when it's time to take a break, but I also can't really unwind enough to focus on something passive like TV. I end up doing a lot of online window-shopping and not buying anything. Collaterally, I sometimes read blogs about shopping and fashion. It blows my mind that people my age spend many thousands of dollars a year, every year, on clothes. Maybe that's because I expect to be throwing much of my discretionary income at my student loans for the next several years.

I also find it particularly mesmerizing to read the "fashion" blogs of people who seem to have no idea which clothes are flattering on them. One person whose blog I find objectively useful (because she posts a lot of real-life pictures of J. Crew clothes that I normally only see in highly-retouched website pictures on size 0 models) often posts dressing-room pictures of herself wearing clothes that look terrific on her and then immediately says that she disliked x or y about the fit and decided not to buy the outfit. Then in the next post she's fawning over some shapeless thing that isn't at all flattering and saying that she bought it in three colors.

It just gets me thinking about body image. Having lost about 40 pounds in the last three years, I'm now what I consider normal-sized—not skinny, but squarely within a normal weight range for my height. The variety of styles of clothes that I can now wear is huge compared to what I used to feel comfortable in. Still, it took me a couple of years to get used to this. I used to feel very uncomfortable showing my legs at all, so I wore jeans all summer long and my only skirts were full and past the knee. The first time one of my friends told me that miniskirts were comfortable, I laughed at her. Turns out she's actually right. They also look kinda cute on me, whereas mid-calf-length skirts just make me look shorter than I am and make my legs look wider (since the hem cuts me right at the widest part of my calves). Still, it took a lot of very carefully scrutinizing myself in dressing-room mirrors before I was willing to buy my first short skirt, which I think was on sale at Ann Taylor Loft for less than $20 (probably why I was willing to take the risk).

I wonder if other people whose bodies have changed are still clinging to outdated notions of what flatters them.

Getting over these outdated perceptions is a really fun process. I will now try on pretty much anything that appeals to me even a little bit, because I know I can't depend on my preconceptions to tell me what will look good. This is how I ended up, last summer, buying a strapless, white, form-fitting dress with huge pink and yellow flowers splashed across the midsection. (Also at Ann Taylor Loft for about $20.) I couldn't believe it at first, but I look great in that dress, and I feel great in it because it's so different from the other things in my closet.

Just a few thoughts about, well, not fashion per se. Dressing oneself, I guess. My old friend Rebecca from high school once told me her secret for always looking great. "I only buy things that make me look and feel fantastic," she said. "I never settle. That way I can pick anything out of my closet and feel awesome all day long."


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