Unicorns & Sunshine VS. Devils & Darkness
My mommy raised me to always be a lady. Above all else, be a lady. I would leave the house to go out for the night and the last words spoken were always, "Be a lady!" Not "Be careful", not "Watch out for shady people", not "Are you wearing clean underwear?", ok, that was NEVER said, I think it was just always understood, as it should be. But, I digress.
Be a lady. Something that I aspire to be someday. A true lady. With grace and the honest ability to hold my tongue, not speak my mind. Smile meekly, do what people say, and play the game. Be a lady.
I've always had this inner struggle between the serious and the magical. The beautiful vs. the macabre Science vs. art. Perhaps that is why I ended up in a city like New Orleans. A perfect example of a living breathing battle between beauty and decay. She is a person after all, NOLA.
I have been a magical ballerina in my heart since I was 5 years old. Magical, beautiful, tutus and getting to put on make up and be on a stage, that is what ballet was for me when I was little. Wearing lipstick and blue eyeshadow (terrible, I know but it was the 80s, y'all) and kind of looking like a clown, but I felt glamorous in my sequined costume and makeup. Like a lady.
I started a club with my best friend Allison called the Unicorn Club when we were 7 and we kicked ass and had a "take no prisoners" attitude, all under the guise of rainbows and sunshine. There was a little Strawberry Shortcake thrown in there, too, for good measure. In the Unicorn Club, I didn't have to be as much a lady. No red lipstick, pink tights and tutus, only bossing the boys around the neighborhood.
Later, after continuing to dance and have the magic world of dance and music be my main focus for the majority of K-12 education, and threats of my parents not paying for another Fine Arts degree, I decided to pursue Psychology. Bring a little of that "take-no-prisoners" attitude to college, learn more about the macabre and darker side of society. I always knew it was there, it was just now my time to really explore this side of human nature.
So, a dancing psychologist. That's kind of what I pretended to be in college. I studied the sickest of the sick. I wanted to be in forensics, I wanted to talk to serial killers, I wanted to know why people who eat others thought it was so delicious. But, how do you transform from a tutu wearing ballerina lady to Agent Scully of the F.B.I.?
At one point during my college experience, I had the opportunity to interview a psychologist who worked out at the prison close to my University. I was so excited! I was going to an actual prison. They warned me I was to wear jeans, no form fitting clothing, minimal to no makeup, and no perfume. Ummmm...I was kind of freaking out on the inside by these requests (I completely understood, in my rational 'dancing psychologist' mind) because I had never really taken a good, long hard look in the mirror and realized what it would mean to become Agent Scully.
I followed the prison's requests, conducted my interview, learned many fascinating things about this individual's position within the prison system, and couldn't have gotten out of that prison faster .I promptly went home, called up my girlfriends, put on a dress and lipstick and went out and behaved like a lady with cocktails and dancing. (If that can be construed as lady-like.)
It isn't as black and white as that, the decision of being an artist or a psychologist. But there is definitely more on that subject for a later discussion.
I am faced with a constant frustration of my self-perception that I am not being taken seriously because of an attractive face. I was so paralyzed by the idea of not being able to wear lipstick to work that I don't think I tried hard enough to become Agent Scully. In the same sense, I am resentful when someone calls me pretty. Pretty in my mind means dumb.
So, I sit at a cross roads. I had a discussion with my dad the other day about how I just want to have a job based on my qualifications. I don't want anyone to hire me or not hire me based on how I look. He informed me that I would have to wear a hijab for that to not be an issue. I personally believe hijabs can be quite beautiful and don't think that would help my current dilemma.
In all seriousness, I think this all stems from me not feeling the best about myself lately. I'm struggling to find a balance again between that ass-kicker that people were a little afraid of and the lady my mother raised me to be. I will find that balance again, and I know I will find it in my beautiful city.
After all, New Orleans seems to have had that balance down for years and she's continuing to teach me daily.
So, here's to tutu wearing ass kickers and friends named Allison who helped me learn that you don't have to be nice to everyone all the time and how to say the word "wash" properly. And finally, to my mom, for teaching me how to be a lady, regardless of whether I always behave that way.