Thursday, October 28, 2010

Literary Lolita: The Solitary Princess

Wow, does anyone even remember Literary Lolita? I haven't done one of these pieces since probably last fall semester. I just haven't been mentally stimulated by my literature classes as of late- last year it was Shakespeare and Drama As Literature, and I find that it's usually transcendentalism, modernism, and Romanticism that inspire me. These writers put such an emphasis on looking inside yourself and creating from that self-awareness a "you" that is truly the best possible, which seems to me a very poignant idea for a lolita. However, inspiration is such a fickle mistress- she'll catch you anywhere, even in the middle of research. I'm doing an oral report on the French poet Baudelaire for my World Literature course, and while sifting through online biographies, a snippet caught my eye and really struck me:
In his own time Baudelaire was largely ignored. With Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Verlaine he formed the so-called Decadents. Baudelaire argued in LE PEINTRE DE LA VIE MODERNE (1863, The Painter of Modern Life) in favor of artificiality, stating that vice is natural in that it is selfish, while virtue is artificial because we must restrain our natural impulses in order to be good. The snobbish aesthete, the dandy, was for Baudelaire the ultimate hero and the best proof of an absolutely purposeless existence: he is a gentleman who never becomes vulgar and always preserves the cool smile of the stoic.
"There can be no progress (real, that is, moral) except in the individual and by the individual himself." (from Mon Coeur Mis À Nu, 1897)
Artificiality. The dandy: a figure of leasure and expense, cold and selfish but destined to be the life of the party (especially if he's paying). Someone who hides his boorishness and human imperfection behind the immaculateness of his appearance. Sound familiar? I've heard gyaru say that they only feel comfortable with themselves when they're completely artificial, when they're completely hidden behind a paper-mâché mask they've created as a substitute for themselves and slabbed on like cement. I don't think lolitas are far from this mentality, either; sometimes I feel like, when I wear lolita, I'm leaving the cracked, broken version of myself behind for a few hours to become a purer, prettier, more whole me. I can ignore all of my problems - sometimes selfishly - just as long as I can pretend to be this princess, this Victorian lady, this woodland maiden. We take comfort in this illusion we create, this facade of perfection and innocence and purity. I lost my purity a long time ago, as did everyone; is this why we seek comfort in our frills and bows?

"He is a gentleman who never becomes vulgar and always preserves the cool smile of the stoic."
At the same time, how many of us have been to a meet-up and seen, you know, that girl. The one who smiles sweetly to everyone, never has a negative word to say, won't swear, blushes at the mention of indiscretions- the "perfect lolita." Everyone present rolls their eyes. It's frowned upon for a girl to act like the doll she looks like. We put on our petticoats and knee socks and scream at the top of our lungs that it's not sexual, and yet, if the sex joke comes up and anyone doesn't laugh, she's immediately ostracized. She's such a prude. She doesn't know how to have fun. She's being enslaved by this outfit she has put on, and everyone else knows it and hates her for it. See if she's invited back next time.

Some would say, it's because she's letting the clothes control her. It's because she's only acting that way because she feels like she has to, not because it's really her. Who wants to hang out with someone who's playing a part the whole time? And yet, this is coming from the other guests of the masquerade- her mask just isn't the right one. Everyone else is in pink, and she's in blue. Everyone else is wearing rhinestones, and she's wearing pearls. But, intrinsically, is she different? No, of course not. Perhaps these "other girls" are just not the same as her; they're drawn to the fashion because it's pretty, or cute, or different, or just because it feels right, but for the most part they're normal girls. They assume that the mindset of a lifestyle lolita must come to one after she has discovered the fashion, that she must be painting not only her face but her mind with the glitter and pastels of lolita purity, simply because they can't imagine anyone would be that way by nature. And maybe they're right, and there are plenty of girls who do that. However, it is also possible that nature came before nurture, and that a girl who has always felt out-of-place in modern society with its mini-skirts and stripper heels and boob jobs may have finally found a clothing style that suits the maiden inside her. Of course, she would feel no need to change who she is when she dons her dresses; her purity of language and discomfort at certain subjects would not disappear. However, because she is such a rare breed, she is ridiculed, told that she is allowing clothing to control her life. She knows the opposite is true, but how can she convince others without sounding vapid and false? There are no words to say that her mind affects the clothes, the clothes don't affect her mind, without sounding like she's making excuses or justifying herself. So what does she do? She either withdraws from this community or changes herself completely, forces herself to laugh at jokes that make her uncomfortable, or sits silently at meet-ups and tries to be as unassuming as possible, maybe blending in with the carpet or the wallpaper. Clearly one can see the better option.

I'm not this girl. I'm just as raucous as the next person when I want to be, and I love philosophical discussions about sexual positions just as much as I love discussing Romanticism and Baudelaire. However, my interest in exploring the human psyche and "getting into" the minds of people lends itself well to the role of Devil's Advocate. I never approve of pressuring people into being something different than they truly are, just as I will never tell anyone that they should assimilate in ways they're uncomfortable with just to belong to a group. Some animals need a herd to belong to, and humans are, oftentimes, pack animals in this way. Lolita fashion itself has, in its followers, a hugely dependent hive mind in which people need to feel that they're accepted in the scene; this is also practical, of course, because riding the subway with a group is a lot safer than riding it alone when you're already attracting unwanted attention. But, beside the obvious reasons, is belonging to a group necessary?

The answer is a resounding no. To the princess: You are different because you are special. Stand firm. Be true to yourself. Listen to your heart. If you feel incomplete without a community, if you need the mental stimulation of discussing our philosophy and exchanging fashion tips, it may be worth it to indulge in the occasional meet-up. But remember that no matter who you're with, you're still yourself. Be proud to be different... or be the same as everyone else.

The Lone Lolita ~ F*** Yeah Lolita


  1. This was a really interesting read and I think you made a lot of good points, many of which I whole-heartedly agree with.

    I don't think all Lolitas are or should be the same, that would be so dull. Sitting around sipping tea discussing only such-and-such brand's latest release. It bothers me that some girl's do think that should be the case. I think they forget that Lolita is a fashion, fashion is built around the individual, and what we wear should express a part of who we are.

  2. I think I'm about 70% that girl. :X

    I don't know if you saw my answer at tumblr, but I don't have a facebook. Would you perchance have a Gmail account so we can occasionally chat on Gtalk?

    Stay awesome! :*

  3. I feel like you just described me, although I never thought of myself as "the perfect lolita". Many people assume I'm very religious, because I'm such a "good girl", but I'm not religious at all. It's really my own character. I get embarrassed about sex jokes, I don't like exposing clothes, etc. I am also not a part of my local community, mainly because they seem to be the loud & unmannered type you also described. I would feel like a fish out of the water among them.
    I love lolita for its innocent yet romantic look. Something doesn't have to be sexy to be alluring.



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