Burning The Ugly Pants: Join a 2010 personal style makeover (Part Six)

May 28, 2010

Close your eyes… Go back to where you felt your most powerful, your most beautiful, your most YOU. Where are you? What are you wearing?

I go back to the darkest, most dangerous blue, the colour of my cottage lake writhing under the fury of a Quebec North wind. I am a woman most confident at the extremes, leaning head first into the blast, my toes curled into the freezing sand. Challenging the forces of nature, I channel their power through a ragged pair of Disney 101 Dalmatian pajama pants. Bits of frayed fabric blow out behind, joining the loose sleeves of a plaid Salvation Army shirt tied at my waist. My hair is my flag, and I fly it with an almost devilish pride. I throw out my arms and dare the wind to take me at my most.

Anne Bonny ~ What a dame! Pirate, feminist pioneer - such an inspiration! Although I may have to dial down the cleavage... maybe just a touch...

Need to catch up on this Saving Cymbria blog serial?

“I’ve been thinking about dressing more like a pirate.” I said, between bites of a TV supper on the couch with my husband.

Not the kind of statement you want to leave hanging. But hang it did, for a torturous 10+ seconds before the awkwardness shook itself loose. The awkwardness was all on my end, but that’s nothing new. You know you’ve got a good man (and don’t I know it!) when he can take these sorts of things in stride.

“Nothing extreme,” I continued, “just going for that sorta’ feeling.”

He nodded (a gesture of heavy meaning from the man), grunted “yah sure,” and went back to his munching. As I said, a good man. Housekeeping out of the way, I took the next logical step – COLLAGE…

I collage~you collage~we all collage! Go ahead and make your vision tangible with a personal style collage. All you need are a few fashion magazines and some scissors (oh, and glue). Snip outfits and individual pieces that connect you back to your power moment. Or, if you’re having trouble defining/refining your inspiration, simply collect images that tickle your amygdala, and wait to watch your style patterns reveal themselves in your collage. Stay tuned…

(image sources)

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A blindingly yellow blond moment

May 27, 2010

I read the disclaimer at the bottom of the TV commercial with a chuckle – ‘Actor Portrayal’. Sulu’s lab coat only a prop? No… really? You’d have to be pretty spaced out to need that memo! {note deliberate foreshadowing}

As Star Trek’s original navigator waxed on about Sharp’s Aquos Quattron TVs, with their wondrous new yellow pixels, I couldn’t help feeling a little smug, even world weary, in my disgust. Is our culture really so desperate, really so lost, that screening a brighter yellow has become our definition of progress, even joy? Is a sunnier sun really worth so many extra hours’ earnings behind a desk? As if we need another excuse to hide behind a screen! How tragic… How sad… {note buildup}

Suddenly, a blindingly yellow seahorse came on screen and blew me away. Wow! Sulu wasn’t kidding! I felt a real twinge of emotion, of … dare I say it… joy? There was a simple, yet irrefutable, glory to the colour. I’d been so blind! Who am I to deny my people a touch of the sublime? Yes, a brighter yellow can make a difference – all the difference! It can be our one small push back against the darkness of a universe all too eager to swallow us whole…. {note contrast + (slight) hyperbole}

Then Sulu gently reminded us that we can’t see the new yellow on our old TVs. {note this blond turning bright red…sigh}


Cleaning In Character: Because there are ways of making life fun… even cleaning the bathroom

May 26, 2010

...because what could be more fun than sharing your struggles with a colour coordinated, early 20th century, Eastern European peasant girl?

Remember Puff The Magic Dragon? Remember how little Jackie Paper abandoned his best friend for “other toys,” and how heartbroken Puff “sadly slipped into his cave?” What a horrible lesson to teach kids! The idea that one outgrows one’s imagination is not only absurd, but cruel, and can even be crippling for certain personalities. Next time you’re in a long lineup, watch what happens… The children immediately evaluate their environment in terms of story possibilities and novel sensations, while the adults generally shuffle around getting bored and/or irritated. Which sounds like more fun to you?

National Geographic's next cover

What if we could protect our imaginations the same way we now wear sunscreen to prevent (or at least stave off) wrinkles? I, for one, refuse to compromise what continues to be my most powerful tool in how I interpret and interact with the world. Globalization has exposed us to so many differing cultural worldviews; why not explore the possibility of your own unique construct? Why not make life a little more fun?

Sure, I felt a bit silly cleaning in costume, but only at first. It was incredible how much more bearable (let’s not get carried away here) my chore became after I added the story. Try it for yourself! Your imagination is a whole lot closer to the surface than you’ve been led to believe…


How (not) to leave a tip for your office cleaning staff!

May 24, 2010

I used to laugh at those stories about girls in the 1970s needing pliers to do up their jeans – not anymore! Turns out there’s a reason why fashion’s perennial pariah, pleats, were welcomed back as the prodigal pants of the 80s. The hippies thought they’d put an end to war too, but then along came 9/11 and the skinny jean trend, and we’re right back in the dark ages.

There I was, wedged into a cramped stall in our office washroom, enmeshed in an epic struggle with two stonewashed denim sausage casings – the kind of jeans you have to peel rather than pull. They’d been almost bearable when I’d ratcheted them on in the morning, but by our 4:27pm duel, my thighs had set stiff like a couple of cement filled foundation tubes. Ever been so claustrophobic you started fantasizing about jerry-rigging some primitive form of culotte out of old recycling bags and packing tape?

I’d just flushed (sorry TMI), and was jumping up and down, heaving on the waistband, when an odd thing happened. One quarter, one dime, and two pennies, popped free of my front pocket and dropped into the – still flushing – toilet. I watched the water swirl, then settle, leaving my small collection of coins adrift in the bottom of the bowl. I ask you this… What, pray tell, is the etiquette in this sort of situation?

I made an executive decision; I left a tip. I thought of sticking a post-it on the seat to explain, but what would I really say? That I my pants were too tight? That I think another woman’s dignity can be bought for a measly 37 cents? The office cleaning woman and I wear the clothes of different cultures, and now my jeans have driven another wedge between us. It’s no wonder the hippies were wrong about war – just think of all those stems and seeds they left for the rest of the world to clean up.


Escaping The Joplin/Hendrix Birthday Curse

May 21, 2010

Headlong into twenty-eight...

Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kurt Cobain… the list goes on. At twenty seven, the creative brain must make a choice: to embrace its talents, or, through self-destruction and/or social conformity, escape them. The buoyancy of youthful idealism cannot be sustained. Once its intoxication, the powerful high of potential, begins to wane, it’s easy to see how a person could be drawn to the false grandeur of drugs. The latter would become even more of a temptation if the creative individual’s talents had been overindulged at a young age (ie: prodigies). Excess praise, however justified from an outside perspective, would have the dangerous effect of validating a child’s underdeveloped, self-centric understanding of reality. A child who has engaged with the world primarily through intelligent adaptation of her/his talents couldn’t help but develop an exaggerated sense of control over life. Combine this unreality with a lack of learned social empathy, and you’ve got a disaster waiting to happen.

There’s more to the curse, of course, such as exhaustion, overextension, disillusionment, and THE SHOCK. When creative production has been your currency, it comes as a terrible shock to discover how widely its value can vary on the global exchange. Turns out there are plenty of people who don’t need to “produce” to feel engaged and satisfied with life – lucky bastards! Some folks… wait for it… actually thrive primarily off human interactions. Weird, I know. But then again, I’d be lost without my circle (and my G!). Can you see the conflict?

At twenty-seven, the world comes crashing in. It is no longer possible to ignore alternative worldviews, and even the acknowledgement of differing motivations can be paralyzing to someone whose self-image, if not their entire self-worth (Joplin), has been dependent on narrow self expression. For authentic creative growth at this stage in life, the individual must be willing to integrate these new universalities into her/his work. Successful integration requires a compassionate understanding of these new value systems. But how do you prioritize/balance the demands of these new systems against one’s intrinsic creative independence?

Creativity is by nature self-indulgent, being, in essence, a personality’s violent rebuttal against the known (we’ll leave death for another essay). It doesn’t take long to discover how eager the world is to intrude on our self-direction. So how does one balance these new priorities and demands being made on our energies by the differing worldviews we’ve now gone and validated through successful integration into our creative work? Once you know how much your “No” will hurt someone, how do protect your creative time without feeling like a Jerk?

As someone who can relate (possibly more than I’d like to admit) to the struggles above, all I can say is this: you know who you need to love, so love them with everything they deserve. And, if you wake up to a dismal, snow laced, May Birthday, just grab a piece of office cardstock, some multicoloured highlighters, and go prove to the world that not only did you escape the curse, but… screw it… that not all of us were put on this earth to collect Royal Dalton figurines!

(Note: not that there’s anything wrong with that…um…vocation)


Oh Calgary! Couldn’t you have waited till Tuesday to break my heart?

May 17, 2010

“Is this a stop?” I called out politely after an unsuccessful battle with the bus’ back doors. No one answered. I was sure I’d seen my bus # on the sign right outside the window – and the bus had bloody well stopped, hadn’t it!?

Maybe I was just asking too much from a Monday… for one (just one) of my fellow ‘civilized’ public transit customers to come forward with a word of help for one of their own. I know this is the start of the week; and I know Mondays come with their own set of rules, but…

As the bus pulled away from the curb, a man, two shoulders down, finally spoke. “Looks like you missed your stop,” he said.

Be proud of me, dear readers… I let him live.

But just like Calgary’s weather, its people are prone to Chinooks. My faith in humanity was restored five city blocks later when a woman opened a door for me, then held it for that extra glorious ½ second that takes a gesture straight from courtesy to comfort.

Yes, all was peaches and cream until I came face to face with The Sun’s Front Page. Why, Calgary, why? Can’t a girl make it to her desk without being forced to stare into the soul-dead eyes of a man tortured, beaten, and starved almost to death by his trusted roommate? Or should I simply appreciate the fact that his abuser – with a generosity similar to my own – ‘let him live’?


Because life is more fun without pants…

May 13, 2010
Calgary Comic Expo Cosplay

'Vamping' outside Calgary's Comic Expo with Carmen Sandiego and The Black Canary

Black Canary Action Figure

Sometimes, you really just have to GO FOR IT! Gutsy gal that I am, I recently spent an entire Saturday as The Black Canary – dropping off my income taxes at Westbrook Mall, dispensing marriage advice on the C-Train, strolling through the Casino on my downtime (couldn’t find any slots for my nickel – even on the 5cent slot machines??). Calgary was surprisingly receptive to my Super Hero self, the context (thankfully!) being obvious. Although, I did notice a cooling of public opinion when I ditched the yellow bits for the rainy bus ride home; turns out there’s a fine line between Super Hero and Hooker – who knew?

Becoming The Black Canary:
1- Baste yellow zipper onto fitted T-shirt
2- Cut 12 (3″/1.5″) cardboard rectangles
3- Cover cardboard with fabric (white glue or glue gun)
4- Sew black elastic loops for securing yellow to boots and gloves
5- Glue yellow rectangles to black elastic strips for boots (see pic) and glove loops
6- Add fishnets, black bodysuit, short black jacket, and knee-high black boots
7- Save the world…(opt.)

(Top photo by Andy Nichols)