It’s that time of year again. The school uniforms are ditched for suits and frocks. Forget no nail polish and jewellery it’s a chance to flaunt every rule schools have on hair, make up and shoes. So I still feel a bit like the school ball is a bit of an archaic ritual. I wrote about my feelings last year therefore I want to change tact, because last night I did the 10-12 shift at the ball and recognised the importance of these events as a kind of social rupture.
The opportunity to express an alternative identity for a night is like time travel or a dimension shift. Young people can decide how to present themselves and might even choose to express cultural or gender challenges that signal to others a sense of unique identity in contrast to the sameness school uniforms imply. I enjoyed the game of ‘who was that who just said Hi Miss Grant’? As I tried to do my own cumbersome version of facial recognition software. Sometimes it came down to voice before a name would drop in. The fact that the oldest song I heard was from the late 90’s helped me to acknowledge that I am finally awkwardly aware of my age.
Who knows what happened after the ball, and actually – it is none of my business. That is the door that needs to be shut once and for all. School staff and to some degree parents of 18 year olds might do well to remember we were once that age, and we need to play our part in the ritual ‘ignorance’ of the other ‘right of passage’ (post ball shenanigans) that might be a little less formal and perhaps a lot more messy.
Of course no-one wants anyone to get seriously hurt, but some will take more risks that others and expect it as part of the package deal. Cinderella lost her glass slipper and I saw a few young women learned from that – exiting the building one arm linked with her date, the other on her shoes, and on her feet a pair of jandals.
I love a good laugh but few women are taken seriously when it comes to comedy and I’m ‘bovvered’ by it. If anything shows up how stuck we are with gendered assumptions, then the near extinction of female representation on the comedy front should be noted. There are a few older birds left but looking through the line-up for the NZ Comedy festival, they were as rare as hens teeth, it was a sea of…male chickens.
They are an endangered species female comedians, and short of a captive breeding programme I think we should be asking what is happening to the native habitat and how to protect it. What kinds of pest eradication need to take place.
Funnily enough NZ media is in a bit of a conundrum about taking women seriously. OK sure, but maybe the place to start is actually at the other end of the spectrum by challenging the prevailing idea that guys are ‘jokers’ and women are well – just not that funny. Getting more women visibly performing comedy could be a way to lighten the way.
Humour is transformative especially the kind that provokes thinking. For me it is the reflective irony that captures my imagination and pushes back the veil of norms and dislodges or jolts me from the mundane revealing a new perspective and helping to open space for questioning things.
All this happens in a few seconds underneath raucous laughter, usually accompanied by snorts and possibly slight loss of bladder control. Laughter is the best medicine unless you are incontinent.
I never cease to be moved intensely by nature in all its forms. Watching a caterpillar munching a leaf hanging upside down while beside another begins to form a chrysalis I wondered if our default understandings of nature needed an overhaul, certainly the ways we incorporate ‘growth’ metaphors into the language of life. We love to talk about roots, trees, branches and leaves all leading to a linear hierarchical system of reference. Even the over worn caterpillar to butterfly invites a sense of transformation in a preferred direction, the end point being the goal or aim. The caterpillar is lacking until it becomes the butterfly – it is incomplete. Inside the chrysalis something incredible takes place and for years I imagined the caterpillar turning ‘into’ a butterfly – that somehow it ‘sprouted wings, legs etc. Well – here is the kicker, that doesn’t quite describe what happens. There is a reconstitution a breaking down, dissolving, redrawing the map of life. For a time it is no-thing – a veritable Body Without Organs on its way to becoming something we recognise and can signify with the word ‘butterfly’. It is this juicy mess inside the chrysalis that fascinates me for thinking about change, transformation and purpose. Contained inside the private world of the small green pod, colours change indicating the assembled parts are now close to the taxonomy of the familiar, the categorised. Breaking free and extending the delicate new appendages our sense of completion falls on the first flight. We look for the cycle to begin – repetitive and always coming back on itself, forever stepping over or past that no-thing unrecognisable plane of reference. But this is where I want to be, not ‘trapped’ inside a chrysalis waiting, hoping and striving to become a butterfly. Here behind the veil of the known, seen and unseen, forming and unforming. Not lacking or desiring to be anything, but allowing my form to shape with desire, for it to allow for the coalescing and connecting of matter so that I might take shape for a moment of recognition and join with other Bodies Without Organs.
Actually I wouldn’t mind a proboscis for a while, make poking tongues just a bit more interesting. Shades of Kafka? Might have to read The Metamorphosis again.
Bare foot on the beach. Sand and shells in various stages of decay, broken and beautiful. Beautifully broken. Hidden amongst the spiral cores and splintered fans a glint of green. Most likely this was once a bottle, now shattered and exposed to the elements. A hazard for the soft flesh, the original shape making way for razor sharp edges, ready to pierce any unsuspecting skin and inflict shock, pain and confusion. But not this piece, it is barely recognisable as a vitreous substance its edges pose no threat to delicate tissues.
Turning it over in my hand I wondered about the vessels of ourselves, those pieces of identity that we hold and contain beliefs, values our sense of truth, justice, right and wrong. When dropped or shaken we might crack or even break, exposing harsh edges, newly formed opinions, and ideas become weapons of self-defence and others might tread more carefully around. But if moved by the sea, through tides and storms it will be tumbled in amongst other abrasive surfaces the gritty friction of tumbling chips away. Smoothing and remoulding until it is unique perhaps broken again a single edge becomes clear and transparent. The uniformity of it’s original form forgotten, liberated from the need to maintain perfection and clarity.
May I continue to fracture and roll in the coarse moments that I may smooth and reshape in an endless dance with entropy.