the "look"

chives!, originally uploaded by pilgrimgirl.

Because I look like a really nice, submissive, middle-class suburban wife/Mom (not to mention the visual baggage that comes with my disability), I think I'm stereotyped a lot. People seem to put me into a class of rather gentle submissive wives. Most of the time this doesn't bother me much--and I do think if I had a tat or obvious body piercings it might result in a slight loss of credibility when I found myself at a PTA Meeting or when I drove the morning carpool (not that that's really important, but...). There's definitely something to be said for looking innocuous.

However, what gets me frustrated occasionally, is when people suggest that I became disenchanted with Mormonism only because of John--that before that I was a totally satisfied Patti Perfect type of LDS member (because I just "looked" like I was). That line of thinking annoys me for two reasons: 1) That folks would think I would simply "follow" John out of the church without full awareness of the consequences; and 2) That my choosing to distance myself from the church wasn't a decision that I made for my own reasons. I guess the third reason that it annoys me is that John was actually attending church fairly regularly until I told him that I wanted to stop. If anything, my departure is what precipitated his, and not vice versa (I know, I know, I'm just far too nice to be a true apostate, unlike John, who knows just when to use the f-word)...

Those people who know me well have a good sense of how liberal my politics and my spiritual practices have been for the past decade (or more). Sure I know what to say and when to say it (meaning that I don't go talking radical feminism and magical realism in LDS Meetings), but I continue to resent the way my "look" is somehow more indicative of "the real me" than my beliefs or my intent.

I've tried to look more edgy and radical, but that's just not my style. It's far simpler to dress casually, to wear comfy shoes, to have a no-fuss hairstyle. I know I look every bit the conservative-leaning soccer Mom, and I'm just not sure that that's going to change anytime soon.

Photo is a close-up of some chive flowers from my garden (with morning dew clinging to each blossom). Their loveliness belies their inner spiciness. :)


Bored in Vernal said...

ooooh, inner spiciness!

Brooke said...

I think your innocuous look makes you infinitely more interesting.

Remember your post about your blog persona? Haha.

Alisa said...

Very beautiful, appropriate photo. My husband and I still look like the typical met-at-BYU couple. I guess I just feel like rebelling in thought is so much more fun (and tormenting) than rebelling through appearance.

journeygal said...

Perhaps you are right, but then again, some of those sleeveless shirts you now wear are quite scandalous!!!

Ryan and I have a much different definition for a soccer mom - we use that phrase to describe the enhanced-breast, tummy-tucked, blond-highlighted, acrylic-nail sporting women that drive large SUVs with little people stickers on the back window, or maybe Saddleback Church "You Matter To God" bumper stickers.

I do like your hippie look though. Especially with all your cool funky jewelry!

jana said...

Oh, I totally know _those_ Moms. You're right that I'm not one of those. :)

I don't think I'll ever go blonde or drive an SUV (as a matter of fact, right now I'm quickly going gray, which is so not Newport Beach). My ride reveals my hippie-ness: the pro-gay marriage bumper sticker is a dead giveaway!

As for my shirts...I get really overheated in the summer (it's all that time I spend in the garden) and it's been such a joy to not have to wear 3 shirt layers due to Mormon modesty rules. Yay for tank tops!

bonzai said...

I unintentionally have the same sort of look. My college-age attempts at edginess fell so flat that I decided it was best to just work with what I had. I am pretty 'vanilla' in appearance.
At various times, because of 'the look', I have been accused of being: a sorority sister, a Republican, a 'nice woman who believes in family values', and pro-life. And, like you, at times, I have found it intensely annoying.

But, at times, the 'packaging' can get people to listen - a little.

I will admit to enjoying the shock for some people when the outer does not reflect the inner: I've marched in the Pride parade in Minneapolis, marched for women's rights in Washington and belong to a very socially active UU congregation.
Some people never grasp that 'you can't judge a book by its cover'.

Anonymous said...

I'm like that as well. I kind of look like a catholic nun, slim build with thin lips, at least how I imagine a nun would look. Which may account for why I have three tattoos. My insides and outside don't match, at least I don't think they do. Mind you, anyone who talks to me for more than a few minutes is quickly disabused of the notion that I'm nun like.

[kɹeɪ̯ɡ̊] said...

I hate how much we judge people's character by their appearances.

I know that if (when) I get a piercing or a tattoo (or dye my hair, or wera unusual clothes, or have "extremes in style or appearance), my parents (and others) think, "well, that makes sense that he would do that, now that he's gay and not Mormon. He doesn't respect his body anymore, and he only cares about what the world wants him to do." Rather than thinking "That's interesting and different", or just not caring about what someone chooses to wear, styles their hair, or whether they've a tattoo or piercing. None of that says near as much about who we are inside as people as most seem to think/assume.

The perception that you have to have one pair of earrings in your ears (or none if you're male) in order to be spiritual, that facial hair is somehow detrimental to reaching Godliness, and naked knees or shoulders are somehow evil in the eyes of the LORD TM, is so disgusting. And then the assumption that if you choose to dress "modestly" that you're somehow (magically) more spiritual, faithful, etc., is just as ridiculous.

You've hit a nerve on this one for me. It is something that just makes me crazy.

WendyP said...

I look like Sarah Palin! Updo and everything. I need a makeover STAT.

belleshpgrl said...

This applies the other way as well. For example, pron star Jenna Jameson is apparently very religious. She walks around half naked but prays every day. People just assume that because you enjoy sex-and/or make money off of it- that you can't also believe in God. It's still sort of hard to wrap my brain around it simply because I was raised Catholic despite the fact I don't practice any more.

But when I did practice people were always surprised at how religious I was not because of how I looked but because I was friends with gay people and other "undesireables." They all assumed I didn't believe in God because I was so laid back.

The whole idea of perception is so interesting.

Tim Conrad said...

oddly enough, a similar reason is why I have issues with the church today. So much depends on your looks. Not who you are.

I remember when I was a kid, at my grandmother's church a well-known member of the church who was also a construction member was killed while at work. His co-workers were only let off enough time to go to the funeral, so they were all wearing what they wore to the job site. My grandmother went to the funeral and commented on how others were making snide remarks as to the way the men were dressed.

But, more to me. When I was in Highschool, i started wearing a black leather motorcycle jacket. The most amazing thing in the world was going to church on sunday morning and seeing people that'd known me my whole life *avoid* me like the plague. Suddenly, I was apparently evil or something.

There's a quote by some non-christian figure that goes something like "I like the christian Jesus very much. I just don't like that his followers don't follow his teachings very well." Somehow, this fits into all of this as well.

alisonwonderland said...

i love how you put my own thoughts into words so nicely. my "look" belies my "inner spiciness" as well. but I'm not sure it bothers me too much of the time, since i've always gotten a great deal of pleasure from doing things others didn't expect or said i couldn't. :)

G said...

jana, I just love how your conservative look belies surprisingly irreverent and unorthodox inner workings.

it is nice to have one's stereotypes shaken up once in a while.