Saturday, June 16, 2012

You don't have to be pretty;

I've been thinking about buying compression leggings/tights to offset the mild lymphedema I develop in my legs when I'm on my feet for very long. It's genetic, I also have it in my arms, which is really attractive. It's not especially noticeable in my legs and feet but it's uncomfortable. On the other hand, compression tights are hot and uncomfortable too, so what's a girl to do?

I've never been one of the ruffles and lace crowd. Not that I haven't tried that route a time or two, but I feel ridiculous wearing ruffles. I am much more comfortable in a garden row than a drawing room. I keep thinking I really need a sort of uniform; a T-shirt and some comfy pull-on pants and some comfortable shoes (crocs come to mind, though my more sensitive reader may faint at the thought). Same "uniform" every day, which would mark me as something of an eccentric but relieve of the burden of trying to decide which color goes with what and if X is "dressy" enough to wear to "Y".

How much do we have to dress to please others? Frankly I don't see that a great number of young women have this problem, but it is still more "acceptable" to reveal quantities of naked rippled buttock or vast tracts of quivering breast than it is to allow a back brace to show. Anyway, I found the following post very interesting, there's a whole discussion on the values lying behind what we find "pretty".

Reposted from: Erin's Blog Post: You Don’t Have to Be Pretty

So the other day, folks in the comments were talking about leggings. I'm pretty agnostic about leggings, but the whole discussion (which centered on the fact that it can be *really* hard to look good in leggings) got me thinking about the pervasive idea that women owe it to onlookers to maintain a certain standard of decorativeness.

Now, this may seem strange from someone who writes about pretty dresses (mostly) every day, but: You Don't Have to Be Pretty. You don't owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked "female".

I'm not saying that you SHOULDN'T be pretty if you want to. (You don't owe UN-prettiness to feminism, in other words.) Pretty is pleasant, and fun, and satisfying, and makes people smile, often even at you. But in the hierarchy of importance, pretty stands several rungs down from happy, is way below healthy, and if done as a penance, or an obligation, can be so far away from independent that you may have to squint really hard to see it in the haze.

But what does you-don't-have-to-be-pretty mean in practical, everyday terms? It means that you don't have to apologize for wearing things that are held to be "unflattering" or "unfashionable" — especially if, in fact, they make you happy on some level deeper than just being pretty does. So what if your favorite color isn't a "good" color on you? So what if you are "too fat" (by some arbitrary measure) for a sleeveless top? If you are clean, are covered enough to avoid a citation for public indecency, and have bandaged any open wounds, you can wear any color or style you please, if it makes you happy.

I was going to make a handy prettiness decision tree, but pretty much the end of every branch was a bubble that said "tell complainers to go to hell" so it wasn't much of a tool.

Pretty, it's sad to say, can have a shelf life. It's so tied up with youth that, at some point (if you're lucky), you're going to have to graduate from pretty. Sometimes (as in the case with Diana Vreeland, above, you can go so far past pretty that you end up in stylish, or even striking (or the fashion-y term jolie laide) before you know it. But you won't get there if you think you have to follow all the signs that say "this way to Pretty." You get there by traveling the route you find most interesting. (And to hell with the naysayers who say "But that's not PRETTY"!)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Four dozen donuts and a dozen red roses ...

The perennials I planted earlier are all doing very well, with the exception of the foamflower, which was the recipient of the last hard freeze we suffered. It will doubtless recover and do fine next year, but for now it looks a bit crestfallen. Everything else is fairly leaping from the ground in a blaze of colour and/or texture.

I lucked onto a sale of mini roses, which are very winter hardy here, and bought 16 of them! I put half in the garden downstairs and will pot up the remaining half in containers on my own balcony. When mine quit blooming in the fall I'll move them to the garden downstairs.

At the Annual General Meeting there were many happy comments about the beautiful flowers and general "smartening up" of the front garden, to the point where it was suggested we put in a similar garden on the southern entrance, which has only a grass-lined walkway. And while I was initially enthusiastic about this idea, I have now put it on the back burner, for this year anyway. I still have much work to do in the front, and I'd rather do the one well, than two badly. Over winter I can think about the south entrance and plan a low maintenance garden which won't look like a dog's breakfast if I can't keep the shrubs pruned.

The Annual General Meeting (AGM) has always been somewhat confrontational and an ordeal. It has always been difficult to get enough owners to come out to reach a quorum and they were cranky and quarrelsome. I suggested to the rest of the condo board that this year we provide chairs and food afterward. At earlier meetings people were expected to stand for a two hour meeting. No wonder they were cranky.

We sent colourful invitations requesting the pleasure of each owner's company. The invitation said would provide chairs and a light lunch afterward. And instead of 20 short of a quorum, and an hour of knocking on doors and begging people to come to the meeting, we had a dozen over quorum within five minutes of start time!

Along with the chairs, our president brought in two large folding tables. I organized tablecloths, colourful napkins and plates. A few hours before the meeting I did some needed pruning on a few trees, gathering enough blossoms to make an enormous four foot high bouquet for the table. I'd made a series of colorful (and funny) posters telling residents who to call when they needed help in different situations, when "quiet" times are in force, emphasizing that home should mean pride of ownership, peace and safety and respect for your neighbours.

Add a veggie and dip tray, a cracker and cookie tray, a fruit tray, four dozen fresh donuts, hot coffee, and four kinds of cold pop, and you have the makings of a party. What a change! Instead of the room emptying with the rapidity of a fire drill as soon as the meeting concluded, people gathered at the table, and stood in little groups, introducing themselves to neighbours they had not officially "met" despite years of passing each other in the hall or sharing elevators. People laughed and talked for a good hour before the room cleared. We divided the left-overs among our elderly residents, who seemed to really enjoy the chance to socialize. In all a *huge* success.

So what has all of this accomplished? Residents have been seen taking photos, not only of the flowers, but of their children standing beside the flowers. A real pride is growing in the garden and the building's appearance.

The front walkway used to be constantly littered with fast food containers, drink cups, bags, wrappers, pop cans and cigarette butts by the dozen. Residents simply tended to drop their garbage without a thought. There were days before when you could fill a garbage bag with the litter outside. That has stopped. Dead in its tracks. Today, although I hadn't been outside to pick up litter in four days all there was to pick up was a crumbling styrofoam plate which had blown in from somewhere else and a single cigarette butt at the far (parking lot) end of the walkway.

Many residents used to make a lot of noise as they came and went. Now they are much quieter. People are sitting on the benches in the garden just enjoying the sun or talking to each other, which you never saw before.

And to think, I was not happy when we moved here, but that's all changed. Now I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.