I was sifting through graduate nursing programs thinking about taking my career a little further about a year ago. I was busy reflecting ” What will bring me joy?” “What will make me feel like I am contributing to society?” ” Do I want to teach? ” “Write prescriptions?” “Deliver babies ?” ” Do I dare to eat a peach?” Wear white flannel trousers and walk upon the beach in the words of T.S. Eliot. “What am I going to be ?”
I thought I had the path all mapped out. Work hard, loan myself out and become a midlevel practitioner. Then a single picture ruined it all for me.
I read about the above picture a year ago in the elephant journal. The caption simply stated “Dutch woman refuses to leave her German officer husband and goes to POW camp with him.” Looking at the picture above astounded me. Look at the proud tilt of the woman’s chin as if to say, ” nothing is coming between us”. The man has clearly suffered, his frame is emaciated, yet there is a look of quiet confidence and a steely resolve in his eyes. I wanted these two to make it. I wondered was there a happily ever after or did their dreams fade as reality set in?
Wanting to write their story brought me back to when I was ten, when I was busy doing cartwheels and announcing to anyone that would listen that I wanted to write stories. People watching and wondering about the lives behind them was a favorite hobby. Another pastime was thinking about the events of history and how I would react to them. “Would I have been brave in the Civil War?” ” Would I have done the right thing?” Human nature and their responses have always been intriguing. “Why do people do what they do?” I remember feeling dizzy one day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art while looking at King Henry VIII’s armor thinking that there could be traces of him left, a 500 year old piece of his DNA on that armor. “Hey Henry, couldn’t you have not lopped off everyone’s head’s”? “Thomas More was a decent guy!”
I realize I want to write about the past to try to understand it more. What makes people do what they do? is essentially the question that feeds my incessant curiosity. When I was 10, we were only 5 generations from the Civil War, now it’s 7 or so. If we don’t revisit it, we could lose it.
Now the question I have for you, dear reader is : “What drove your dreams when you were 10”?
There’s no escaping popular culture. Look one way and you’re being presented with present day ideals of beauty. Like the Chinese Years ,it seems that they have themes. Year of the Monkey; Year of the large derriere. Look another way and there is the counter cultural movement of “let’s embrace our flaws, belly rolls, turkey necks and all” It usually involves nude women on stools photographed in soft lighting
To me, it is all a grand masquerade. We’re still acknowledging that they are flaws.
Back in the 80’s ,there was a trend that sold mix and match fabrics that melded into coordinated looks. I forget the name- it was something cutesy like mixables,unpackables,etc. Because I am and always will be a creature of comfort, they were a dream come true. Breathable fabrics! Built in accessories! A single swatch could become a dress, scrunch it up and it became a tube top or a skirt. Put it around your neck and it became an accessory. The only problem was executing the look without looking like you forgot to take your meds. While browsing one day in Bloomingdales (?) , my friend Connie and I stopped by the demonstrations of these miracle clothes. The sales ladies had us try on pieces that would ‘work” for us. I came out in some black jumpsuit and the sales lady added a piece of red fabric that doubled as skirt/scarf around my neck . ” Here, this will minimize your shoulders” she cried gleefully.
And suddenly, my world stood still.
“My shoulders?” I thought. My strong proud shoulders that had blocked home plate, broken 30 seconds in the 50 fly after a grueling summer training and thrown numerous base runners out trying to steal. My shoulders who had cradled crying friends, hoisted groceries as we ran to meet my Mom walking up the hill from C-Town. My shoulders announced my way into a room and that I thought kept me free from subway muggers who sized me up and decided I wasn’t an easy mark.
I took the high road. I removed the scarf/skirt, looked the petite saleslady in the eye and said, “I like the shoulders”.
There’s a saying in architecture, ‘form follows function”. The shape of an object follows it’s intended function. What if we stopped looking at things as flaws but merely things that followed function. Laugh lines follow smiles. Crows feet are testaments that we cared about things outside ourselves. What if we taught our sons and daughters to worry more about function versus form?
And now it’s back to popular culture in the form of TV in my basement. Thanks for reading, my friends.