Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Letting the Spectacle Astound You

Masquerade! Paper faces on display-
Hide your face so the world will never find you
I always say to keep your eyes open, because you never know when inspiration will strike you. On a blizzardy day last week, I was watching the Jim Carrey movie Yes-Man on TV with my boyfriend. While it was a cute, cheeky, enjoyable movie, there was one scene that actually really struck me, despite the obvious facetiousness of it. The premise of the movie is that the main character, Carl, attends a seminar and makes a commitment to turn his life around by accepting any opportunity that comes his way. The scene in question is one where, during a night of heavy drinking with his friends, he accidentally puts the moves on a beautiful girl with a huge, testosterone-rich boyfriend. Obviously, the boyfriend challenges Carl to a fight, who has to accept because of his "secret covenant," on one condition: that if he wins, he gets to take the man's pretty girlfriend to a ball - " 'cause she deserves that. Every pretty girl deserves to go to a ball," he slurs. After losing horribly and taking a few bystanders with him, his reaction is a tearful pout towards the camera and the realization that the pretty girl in question would never go to a ball.
This, oddly, got me thinking. At first, it was, "I'm so happy I've been to a ball!" thinking, among other things, of Dances of Vice. Then I realized, there really ARE a lot of girls in the world who'll never go to a ball. Is that a bad thing? Well, no, not necessarily. However, what is it that a ball really is? Is it just a place to drink punch and wear a fancy dress and sit around staring at the dance floor, waiting for someone to ask you to dance? If so, no - there is nothing wrong with not attending those balls. I'm thinking of course of the high school proms and homecoming dances and cotillions of my native twentieth-century Americana in this case - in fact, one might think it's better to avoid these cesspools of upper-middle-class adolescent debauchery. However, maybe this is skewed. We're lolitas, after all - nine times out of ten, don't we yearn for an era (bygone or non-existant) in which princesses are forever donning breathtaking gowns, staying out til midnight (but no later!), and being swept off their feet by the handsome, exquisitely-dressed gentleman in grand ballrooms with marble pillars and candelabra? The ideal ball is an ideal of escapism and beauty - a place of beauty and fantasy that any girl can escape to in her mind when the real world becomes too harsh. Like a lilting piece of music. Like a beautiful book of poetry. Like looking in the mirror and seeing a living doll stare back at you.
And what about these girls who never go to the ball? All of those girls, the ones who are content to live their lives the way they're "supposed" to, who go to class, go to work, party with their friends, and never think twice about what else life could hold for them - do they know what they're missing? Are they really missing it at all, or has it simply taken on a different manifestation in their lives? I don't dismiss the possibility. However, while my hippie idealization of the world is one where everyone appreciates &seeks out beauty, I know that this is vastly untrue in the world I have found myself. Therefore, I find it safe to assume and be disheartened by the idea that there are people in this world who will never truly find themselves captivated by the beauty the world can hold. Even worse are the people who, when surrounded by utter ugliness, cannot create a source of beauty to lose themselves in.
There are little girls who stare at me, eyes wide, as I walk through the supermarket or board a subway. This is to be expected of children, but even more interesting are those my own age, who see me in the cafeteria or walking to and from class, who get that same glassy, wide-mouthed look to them. Bewildered, they turn to their friends, who are already scoffing at the sheer immaturity of my dress, and fake a smile to save face, when in reality they are mystified - they have fallen under the same spell the dresses first cast upon my fellow lolitas and I. Will they ever be able to shake this enchantment? Can they ignore what just happened, can they decide it doesn't matter and forget the shattering of their universe, or reason it away? Probably. The human mind is capable of much, and as a lolita I constantly overestimate how groundbreaking &earth-shattering this fashion is to the rest of the world anyway. My school seems to have a good amount of artsy, "alternative" kids anyway, so it's possible that I've just been written off as one of them, which is fitting and doesn't bother me. But for the people who can't do that,who experience beauty and can't get it out of their heads, what recompense can they hope for? Only the one dancing in their minds.

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