January 20, 2016 - February 18, 2016: Strangeness

It seems to me that a natural progression into Aquarius Season, after having reflected upon what stops me/us/ppl from embracing life's newness and volatility, is to actually embrace life's newness and volatility. The Aquarius sign is heavily focused on aggressive expression of individuality and upending convention. To be strange would, for many of these water bearers, be considered a triumph.  

For Aquarius ascendants such as myself (and David Bowie 💕⚡️), appearance plays an important role in this concept, tending to consciously reject what is expected or bland and gravitate towards the personally fulfilling or eye-catching. I don’t necessarily think I always fall into this category. But I have a little mantra I use to ease morning stress (a stress whose primary concern is about which textures and shapes of cloth I will decide to drape over my flesh prison. Weird). “I dress for no one but the weather.” I always try to ignore thoughts of how other people will receive my clothing, which is pretty Aquarian. I DO necessarily think David Bowie falls into this category. 

But this is not unique to Aquarians and Aquarius ascendants, of course. Each person is moving through life while creating a persona, constantly poised in a self-conscious performance. Bowie comes to mind again, especially when I remember that his real name is David Robert Jones—exceptionally bland—and that the character we know did not always exist. Plus, of course, even after his rockstar transformation he was never just Bowie (if such a thing as “just Bowie” even exists). He was Ziggy Stardust, he was Spaceboy, and, most recently, he was Lazarus. 

This is a highly purposeful creation of the Self. We recreate ourselves every day, I think, but few people have done it with such carefully thought-out intent. Every album, every outfit, every face full of makeup, every word out of his mouth: all painstakingly selected to take part in David Bowie’s catalogue of existence. 

But as Guillermo Arenas writes in the January 2016 issue of Tentaciones: “en el universo Bowie no hay respuestas, solo interpretaciones” ("in the Bowie universe there are no answers, only interpretations"). So despite whatever David Robert Jones’ intentions may have been, at any given moment, they hardly matter. What matters is how people receive, experience, and interpret him—the fact of which is only highlighted by his tragic death. If he ever had control over these receptions, experiences, and interpretations, it is now lost.

My point is this: Bowie chose to be strange, that is for certain. And in doing so, he helped others embrace various versions of strangeness. But he is strange in different ways to different people—and in his quest to stand out, to be comfortable with his creative urges, to follow his own personal style compass, he may have proven that there is no such thing as reality. Only perception.

I mean, think about it: what even constitutes “strangeness” ?? It is an entirely subjective concept. I think it’s strange that it’s considered rude to go barefoot in Spanish homes. My host family thinks it’s strange that I prefer to sleep past 9:30 a.m. 

We all have our own ideas of right and wrong, normal and abnormal, me and you, self and other. We can try to control how these ideas affect our judgements of people, but we cannot rely on others doing the same. 

Even if we are not as intentional as Ziggy or Spaceboy, all of us choose to present ourselves in a certain way. Often with extreme subtlety and sometimes without even realizing. But the disconnect that lies between how we see ourselves and how others see us, despite these constant choices? Like the Bowie Universe, it has no answers. Only interpretations. 

In pursuit of further exploring this concept, here are a few thoughts on the matter:

  • Dan and I were talking about how both of our mothers hate the idea of their tattooed children. (And yeah, even out loud I speak in endless run-on sentences.)

ME: I mean, I just feel like, even if I get a tattoo of something that doesn’t mean as much to me in ten years, it still meant something to me in the moment I got it. So it always will mean something and be important, because the person who got the tattoo will always be part of who I am, and, ten years from now, will have had a role in who I became. 
DAN: You really believe that? 
ME: I do.
DAN: Well, here it gets pretty philosophical. Because there’s this notion of the “self," right, and we all have it. We all have our own. And so every version of who you are and who you become just ends up being a replication of a replication of a replication. 
ME: Like the game Telephone.
DAN: …actually, yeah. 

  • I have a very distinct aversion to tattoos that are common or “tacky.” Sure, people use other people’s tattoos as references or inspiration all the time. But everyone wants to believe that their tattoo is only theirs. 
  • There is a cultural rejection of anything “cliché.” I don’t like telling people my favourite song of all time is "Wonderwall" because they often roll their eyes.
  • When I was going through my first significant stage of adolescence (middle school: during which we all became painfully self-aware), “indie” was becoming a thing. It became synonymous with “cool.” Everyone wanted to be The Thing first or be The Thing that nobody else was. And then the concept became one of irony. How very silly to try to be different. 
  • I took a lot of pride in finally being able to self-identify as self-aware. I got to a point where I could say, yes, I know what’s up inside this case of Skin and Electricity and Chemical Sloshing Around. I thought about how once you’ve grown to know yourself very intimately, it’s almost a joke when someone tries to tell you about you. 
  • I have often reveled in the realm of Being Misunderstood, treating it like a sash of independence: there is so much to me that no one has seen. If only they knew the dreams I’ve dreamed. But at the same time, it makes me very uncomfortable to think that my self-perception can never be reflected perfectly in someone else’s perception of who I am. It’s as if tiny little lenses are affixed inside the ducts that connect our eyes to our brains, and no two pairs of lenses are identical. 
  • You know how it becomes increasingly more difficult to be completely yourself when you’re around someone you like, someone you want to impress? When you try to squash the strangeness and hope they don’t see? 
  • I have always really loved Tracey Emin’s use of neon, because she creates these beautiful little phrases in this bright, gaudy fashion. “With You I Breathe.” “When I hold you I hold your heart.” “She Lay down Deep Beneath The Sea.” Neon is flickering above shady gas stations, hanging in the windows of forgotten diners. But here, it’s an expression of passion and emotion. It almost makes me feel weird because she’s subverting a cultural commonality, a meaning assigned to a symbol, that I have grown used to. She is writing her love letters in an uncomfortable ink, and I think she’s doing it on purpose.
  • In one of my new classes we talked about defining art. My professor asked us, “can art be ugly?” The answer, of course, being yes. As long as it stirs up emotion. 
  • Man Repeller began their most recent installment of “What to Wear This Week” with this sentiment: 

"What do you ask yourself when getting dressed in the morning? Whether or not you’re inclined to admit the impetus of why you say what you do with the clothes that you wear, they make a statement — one that is ostensibly endorsed by their wearer — for the public to consume. You make a choice about how you will present yourself, to wear a thing that will pick up slack where words might fail you, or conversely surprise your audience in the event that your words are doing exactly what they should be doing. It’s an intellectual choice whether you want to believe that or not, and anyone with a distinct sense of style — anyone — participates in the creation of it.”

"And he was superhuman in his talent, in his prolific output of creativity and in his ability to not only express himself through clothes but in his ability to express the many facets of his personality and mind and being — because for as much as we may have a uniform or an aesthetic or an aspiration, we are not one outfit or idea. We are many."

  • I told Dan that I thought my spirit animal was an otter (a matter I have considered at length) and he immediately disagreed. Then he said he thought it was a rhino. I objected. Then he said platypus. I objected again.

DAN: you know they each have a little spur that they use to inject poison.
ME: so now I’m poisonous?!
DAN: just one spur! 

  • May Sarton: “We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”