Once you start fucking with your presentation, the craziest part is how much who you believe yourself to be changes. It turns out we’re all at the mercy of these feedback loops and our self-conceptions can’t withstand the pressure of who other people perceive us to be. If you fuck with your presentation enough you might lose a lot of faith in the idea there is a you in there at all. There’s just a body other people are plugging into their stories.
I’m a pretty woman right now. If that sounds egotistical of me, I don’t know, I feel pretty disconnected from it. I put in the work to make the prettiness happen, and it’s something like making a pot or a painting, except I wear it. I didn’t grow up with a worldview that pretty women had a particularly high value. Pretty translated into stupid/lazy- how dare these women use looking good to get out of working hard?
Now, that’s not how looks and work interact. You create prettiness through labor, first of all. Labor and materials, and the more OCD you get about the process the more those materials cost and the more of your day goes to the process. Prettiness doesn’t get you out of work, it sets you up for certain kinds of work- people love a pretty servant. You either want to be a pretty servant or a skilled servant, but to get a skill you generally need another person’s cooperation in getting you skilled. They need to give you the time to do it badly for long enough, and to not set up barriers like making you fuck them or other acts of humiliation.
I’m swearing a lot in this post. This shit gets me angry. When I was working at the rich dude club and no one would look me in the eye because I wasn’t a pretty woman, but also I had to come to terms with all the ways I’d been steered away from accruing employable skills- hello Mom, thanks for telling me I was bad at math in second grade, hello boys from computer camp, thanks for all the making fun of me, hello doctors who won’t diagnose ADHD in girls- and I was clearing the dishes of all these tech dudes- goddamn, fuck this patriarchy. The dudes get these skills, and they bully you out of getting the skills, and then since you aren’t skilled you have to get pretty. Then the story on you is you’re pretty instead of smart.
A friend recently said to me, about dudes, “Sure they may have brains that are better for math,” and I cut her off and said, “No, if that were real, they wouldn’t have to work so hard at keeping us away from math. They wouldn’t need to give us the story that we’re bad at math so young. In other countries the math gender gap is not a thing like it is here.”
But the story spirals. They tell you you’re bad at math, then you take a test knowing you’re bad at math, then the test results show you’re bad at math, then they get confidence and you fall behind, and this happens over and over, and eventually you pursue what you are “good at,” which just so happens to be some kind of service. Wouldn’t you know, that’s what you are naturally good at, taking care of others. And it’s a nasty trip because taking care of others gives life a lot of meaning, it’s rewarding, but evidently so rewarding people don’t feel like you deserve financial stability in addition to that emotional reward. Meanwhile the dudes get to have ideas, get to design the technology that designs our lives, and we serve others, within the patterns of living they construct.
The game was always rigged. There was never a way out. You thought you had more power than you did.
I get mad, and I think about what could end this way of living, but actually collapse is around the corner. I don’t have to make collapse happen. It’s just who will live through the collapse. Societal collapse doesn’t seem to touch the rich the way you hope it would. Feels like my particular bloodline could get really screwed by societal collapse. Although honestly, you look at my family, we’re not even good at flourishing in times of plenty, so maybe it’s been time for this branch to fall off.
I got off track. I’m a pretty woman right now. And so people like me a lot. Straight people like me, gay people like me, men like me, women like me. When I was an ugly woman no one liked me. Now I don’t have to do much to make them like me, I just smile and ask them some questions and keep it moving. The less I say the more likable I am. The more likable I am the better my money situation gets. The better my money gets and the more people like me the more I relax. But I still end up needing to be alone a lot. There’s a big part of me that is not fed by being a pretty, quiet woman. There’s a big part of me that regards my daily life as a dream, albeit a much more pleasant dream than it has been for awhile. I don’t want to sound ungrateful for getting to have a pleasant dream for awhile. But any person I meet where I catch a glimpse that they understand these systems of living among strangers are a lot like dreaming, it feels like this precious chance to be awake for a few minutes.
There’s something terrible about understanding systems because it doesn’t mean you know how to affect change in the system. There comes a plateau where you’re just describing the same system over and over, contemplating it.
I’ve been thinking about the path my body is on a lot since that date. Now that I’m aware my self-conception is crazy mutable, and then the societal meanings attached to my body are pretty mutable, that all these stories attached to my identity can change if you change the context or the accessories, it feels like my life is just a body moving through space. It’s going to go where it goes. The path it’s whirling through was set for it before the day I woke up and knew I was the same person as the day before. It feels like I’m just here to take care of the body and watch where it goes.
I would really like someone to wake up with. But I need to put that want away for awhile. It’s just keeping me agitated. If I’m headed through the same spots regardless there’s no reason to be agitated while whatever is happening happens. This is a tough bit of deprogramming for me, letting go of that desire to wake up next to someone. Luckily it has been established that my mind has the capacity for a fair amount of change.