Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Beauty for dummies

I look around me every day and I'm amazed by how many pretty girls there are out there. Beauty is definitely not scarce around here. It's everywhere, on the streets, on the internet, even next door. There's plenty of pretty girls trying to get noticed and turn heads. But then I wonder, if beauty is in such large supply, why is there a market for it? Maybe it's because the demand is huge and people need to be surrounded by and enjoy beauty like they need clean water. And maybe what makes the difference between the best-selling editions and the rest is the complimentary set of goods it's wrapped with.

I've always believed it's not as important if you look like the cover of a magazine as it is whether you're kind or smart or entertaining. It matters and it always will, beauty is what lures people to us, like fish to bait. But on the long run, I don't think it's enough. I will vote for substance over appearance every time. Because I live with myself 24/7 and I don't just need to love what I see in the mirror. And that goes for everyone in my life. If I'm not hot enough to be your friend, maybe we shouldn't even bother.
I have my own definition of beauty and I would be a hypocrite to deny it's been heavily influenced by the images of acceptability of the society I've been raised in. But I believe that being healthy is more important than being thin and that a good complexion is way more beautiful than all the make-up you can hide it behind. I dress whacky sometimes, but at those times I feel great because I'm wearing the things I love. If I do step outside the lines it's because I've found something comfortable that cheers me up. I avoid being noticed, but when I am, I disdain being criticized. And that's because I don't impose my standard of beauty on anyone and I only want them to leave me alone in return.
And all that doesn't matter that much anyway. Because you can curl your hair and lashes and you can pretend you're made out of porcelain with all that foundation on, but an ugly personality will eventually shadow all that hard work put into stealing the spotlight. I like going around unnoticed because I believe it's enough if only the right people see whatever good sides I have shining through. I may seem awkward at times, pretentious to some and annoying to others. There may have been plenty of guys I sighed about who saw through me, but the best ones I know took the time to know me and loved whatever was there.
So in this world where beauty is around every corner, I'd rather lay low and enjoy myself. I know it's easy for me to talk, being petite and cute, but beauty is really just a lure. A pretense to get people to give us their time and attention in the hope they will find what they were looking for. Whoever said it really nailed it. We aren't a body, we have a body. So why not use it in the best ways we can? And always remember our body is a tool that connects us to the material world, not our identity and not the only thing we are worth being loved for.

Monday, May 30, 2011

I'm happy

It's funny, but even though I still hold the habit of complaining about this and that, I'm actually happy. I have major plans, but no major concerns. I'm in such a quiet place and the only reason I would move on from here is the constant pressure coming from the outside. Otherwise, I'm happy.
I spent the weekend at the cabin in the mountains, reading in the hammock, under the trees. There was a puppy sleeping close by and all I could hear were his sighs, the birds singing, the insects in the already tall grass and sometimes the wind. It smelled a bit like cherry blossom and a bit like freshly chopped wood. I could spend forever in that moment and I intend to, actually. Once I'm done with my dissertation, this summer I won't miss one weekend. When I won't be going to the cabin, I'll go to the countryside and when I have to be in the city, the forest is just a few steps away from my home and I can go on a picnic. There's stacks of books waiting for me and that amazing sun and the shades and the grass are just there waiting.
I'm pampering myself with fruit every day. I'm overdosing on strawberries and cherries and lemonade. I dream a lot and vividly and kitty's waking me up every morning just so that I can catch the sunrise and salute it properly with a yoga exercise that helps me find a point of balance every day. The cards and horoscope all say my energy level is high as ever and the little things that keep me back are piece of cake for me to handle.
And on days like this, I know what they mean. I had a lovely morning reading, had walnuts for breakfast, work went by like a dream and I met my dear friend FoxyLove for a walk and a chat. We had ice cream and raided the market, where I got these sweet cherries and other veggies and fruit. My apartment faces the east, so at this time of the day, it's really refreshing to sit here in my underwear and catch up on my work. The lilac I brought from the mountains greeted me alongside my kitty when I opened the door. I wonder everyday why it is so hard for people to let go of trying to feed me their own definitions of happiness. I keep saying, and I don't know where I heard it, that every truth is simple once it's revealed. Spells break, people change, we get older, but not that much wiser.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Fighting the good fight

The US is celebrating Mother's Day today and I just happened to read the op-ed of one of my colleagues which seemed very ambivalent about women and their role in our society. He made a reference to the cultural custom of women not being allowed to sit at the same table with men, which is still enforced by some ethnic groups today. And at some point he says that women's emancipation has been ailing. And that women now think they deserve everything, although they can't perform all the jobs men do and haven't permeated elite fields. And that men have accepted women at their table out of pity and as a compensation for this lack of success in acquiring equal rights.
It's really hard for me to work in an environment where there are only men. It's hard because they feel like they have to "behave" around me and that makes them uncomfortable. It's hard because they talk about women as sexual objects and most times they enforce the double standard when judging them. It's hard because men who work together do act like frat boys, although I've never felt intentionally excluded from their guys time.
But it's going to be even harder to go to work and shut up about all the things I want to say in response to that piece of writing. So I'm saying it here. Women have permeated elite fields. They are in top politics, in the army, they run huge corporations and they are top achievers in academics. I was very proud to read this post on Femisting which shows that women are almost half of the people awarded PhDs in the US. Also, I've read that this year it's the first time women have surpassed men in terms of number of college degrees. In Romania it's already been the case for some time, including the PhD level. Some of the most powerful emerging or developed economies are ruled by women. Brazil has a lady president, the chancellor of Germany has been for quite a while now a woman. They are secretaries of state, members of Supreme Courts, ambassadors or chiefs of Parliaments. The underlying paternalistic character of Romanian politics did not get us very far. It's not that we lack competent women, they just hit a glass ceiling at some point. Tell Sweden, Norway or New Zealand women don't belong in politics. And then some. When women entered the workforce massively, after World War II, the country GDPs rose considerably. Pepsi, Kraft Foods, IBM, Xerox, Yahoo and many more leading companies have executives or chair women leading their worldwide businesses. I'm only ashamed at the fact that women in powerful positions aren't such a mundane thing it would just be superfluous to give such examples.
Some of these women and many more performing in top fields, as well as all the amazing ones we all know, are also mothers and wives and daughters. Men complain about having to be civil around us, about women expecting them to honor and respect their work and care, but is it really such a burden to acknowledge how hard it is to balance a job, housework and care? Reading for my dissertation, I keep remembering all the things I've distanced myself from while working around men. I had forgotten that women not only work harder for a career, but they have to do so while experiencing pregnancy and child rearing and being expected to do all sorts of other chores, as well as care for other members of their family. In some societies it's less the case so, but in Romania most men are offended when asked to take out the trash, help with the groceries or do the dishes, let alone take parental leave. I have some amazing male friends who can take care of themselves and others. They cook, can sew a sock or a button and help their mothers, grandmothers and girlfriends with the housework. But then again, I know so many others who get mad if their mothers don't iron their shirts or if a woman sits at the same table with them and speaks her mind.
So yes, call me a crazy feminist. I'm tired of trying to sugar coat it and I'm tired of avoiding to be antagonized because of it. I don't see why women don't deserve respect and I don't see why they don't deserve equal rights. Change may feel threatening, but it gets better every day.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A hard day's ramble

OK, so after two looong days in which I tried to catch up with all the work I'm years behind on I found a couple of minutes to post here my babbling from Mischievous Sweethearts. You should visit it, though, if you haven't already, my friend FoxyLove makes some really good points and is a gifted writer.
I, on the other hand, am the laziest person I know. Yes. Now I'm gonna complain again. I have two months left to write my dissertation and I barely have an idea for the research. I'm thinking of writing about the large percentage of people entitled to child rearing benefits who for several reasons don't receive it. I also have to write and publish an article if I really wanna become a PhD student this fall, as I've recently made up my mind. I'm exhausted and I can't even remember my own name, but here's hoping tomorrow will be less about walking around the city and doing housework and more about having some me time and hitting the books. Hopefully, I'll also get myself together to share the recipes I try every now and then. And more blabla about my plans.