Monday, 26 November 2007

Keeping up appearances.

There's an interesting thread on the live-aboard forum over at YBW about the 'scruffy' live-aboards that the original poster is seeing around his home port. This has attracted a varied set or responses which, as ever, cover a wide spectrum of thought and attitude.

On the face of it, it's a simple enough question: why do some of us look such a mess? But I have been pondering the answer and I don't think that it's a straightforward one - that won't come as a surprise I am guessing!

We only have to get our passports out whenever we come through immigration to be greeted with an arched eyebrow and quizzical look as the officer on duty struggles to relate the elegant photographs with the sleek haircuts to the raggedy pair of reprobates that he has in front of him! I really am looking forward to renewing the documents shortly when the pictures will be a much more accurate representation of our outward appearances... should make checking in a little quicker too.

You see the problem is that I really don't feel any different now to how I felt at 17, or 27 or even a year ago! And TBH has always had a large dose of 'the child within' firmly stuck on the outside of his character.Sadly the physical manifestation is somewhat at odds with the mental pictures that I carry!

Boats usually don't have many mirrors on board, and the ones that are there are frequently so small and smeary that an accurate reflection is not so common as when ashore. I often have an enormous shock as this wrinkled (lived-in), weather-beaten (tanned), grey-haired (sun-bleached), old (mature) face peers back at me! F***, when did I turn in to my mother???

To be honest I know exactly when it happened. It was the night of my Grandmothers funeral. After the formalities had finished we all sat down and my mother fell asleep in the chair, her head laid back and she had become my Gran! I subtly moved to the mirror, and there I was inhabiting my mothers' body, spooked by now I looked at my eldest daughter also asleep on a sofa- she had become me... the wheel had turned.

Actually I don't mind aging, well not most of the time. I can get pretty pissed off when one is labeled a ' woman past her prime', 'getting on a bit' and the more derogatory remarks that certain ignorant men seem to resort to when they can't handle the intellectual argument! But with my 'mature' attitude I just imagine what small wrinkled specimens of manhood they carry between their legs and giggle!

Should we worry about what we look like? How important is the external appearance? I watched the new film 'Hairspray' last night, starring John Travolta . On the surface, a light, musical entertainment but bitingly sharp in its observations and characterizations of prejudice.

Does it matter if we are black or white, fat or thin, male or female? What judgments do we form by the outward adherence to a 'style' or a 'fashion'. Mostly we cannot stop ourselves reacting forcefully to the stereotypes that we grew up with, but what I find as I move further away in miles, and time, from my 'home' is that all those preconceived ideas are thrown in to the air.

Once I wore smart clothes, spent days at the hairdressers, the beauty salon. My job demanded it, but what did it say about me as a human being? TBH wore custom-made suits, silk ties, leather shoes. Did it give us pleasure? Sometimes. But what can be more rewarding than not having to worry about 'sartorial elegance' as you BBQ the fish you have just caught, laid back on the white coral sands of the island beach? Not worrying about stains, labels, fashion or what you look like.

It is no contest! I can put my energies into living in the moment, laughing in the face of adversity and ordering undies over the internet for the next visitor to carry out to our far-flung current abode...

So my reply to the poster on YBW is: each to their own. Freedom for one person is prison for another. If an individual is content to be judged by the stereotype that they are portraying, it's their choice. Hopefully we can see beneath the camouflage of appearance to respect, or not, the character beneath.

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