Vanity has got a really bad rap. It also has a wonderful song associated with it so there's that. I associate it with selfishness. Selfish--bad; selfless--good... right? I believe this thought is shifting, or at least making room for contradictions. But this basic idea remains: this shit is engrained friends. At least still in my brain.
I've started to notice the nuance in selfishness lately. There are some unspoken rules to achieve the desirable strain of selfishness. I'm gonna sum it up to say selfish is good if it includes respect. This distinction is by no means groundbreaking, it's rudimentary at best. I have such a distaste for selfish people but I also many selfish bones in my body, so I have to find the silver lining somewhere. I think when respect is first in general, good things happen. Specifically when you respect yourself. Be selfish when you need to be, put your *needs first. Take care of yourself. Feed yourself. Bathe yourself. Tell people when you are uncomfortable. Disagree honestly and value your own opinions. This kind of selfishness is crucial. I know the kind of selflessness that makes us think we aren't worth basic self care. Wash your damm hair, Carol. That stink is not doing anyone any favors.
I feel its when we put our wants first consistently that gives selfishness a bad rap. Completely and consistently disregarding everyone around you is not going to make you many friends, Joe. And thinking you walk on water is not coming from a place of respect. It's just falsely boosting your ego so you can justify acting like a Jack ass. Or maybe you've been so privileged in your life you haven't had to factor anyone in before so you don't even realize you're obtuse. OR MAYBE you spent so much time taking care of others that you've finally found your voice and goddammit you will be heard. I don't know your life. But I do know that I don't care what happened to you to make you like this, no one gets a pass for being an asshole. So let's continue to make this distinction between respectful selfishness and egotistical selfishness. At least for this thought. Troubleshoot this for yourself, there are too many conditions and special circumstances for me to go into, and I need to make a few generalizations to make a point. Okay, Joe?
Now that I've tangented into an unnecessary distinction between selfishness-es, let's move on to why we're really here.
I recently picked up this book from the wonderful Quimby's Books in Williamsburg. It is exactly 200 pages, it's a satisfying plain pearly white matte cover (like touching Suede, mm!), no title, and no author. I was so intrigued I had to buy it. I started reading it and quickly realized it was a stream of consciousness kind of journal. It was so personal yet so vague. So much anonymous wisdom muddled with unimportant but beautiful details. I started to think about legacy, and fame, and why claiming our successes are so important. I love my name, and I love getting credit when credit is due. But I was so interested in why this author decided to anonymously publish their story. Art still exists if you only share it with yourself. I guess it still works when you share it with the world but nobody knows it was you. Annonymity is kind of an attractive idea to consider... Whatever. Most importantly though, reading this author's story made this thought come to my head: "Write about yourself more so you can talk about yourself less." Like maybe putting their story into the world made room for them to listen more... Well it made me want to write about myself some more so. Vanity, am I right?
I am learning to accept and embrace my vanity more and more. I have to unlearn a lot of things I was taught and ideas I've come to create and embody in response to what I was taught. For example: The expectation to look perfect leads to becoming obsessed with looks, but being obsessed with looks make you vain, and being vain is not ladylike, and being ladylike is looking like a lady, and ladies are pretty, and like... hmph. It's this vicious cycle that goes on in many variations all the time. Sometimes we do this to ourselves more than others do it to us but again, this shit is engrained. We've got a lot to thumb through here.
I'm understanding my vanity to look like this: I love talking about myself. I love having exciting ideas that make people legitimately say "hmm" or "wow." I like to be smart. I hate when people don't take me seriously because I need to come off like I have my shit together. When I don't have it together, I need people to know that it was supposed to be like that. I love being told my outfits are unique. I like when people say good things about me and I hear about it through the grapevine. I love when someone tells me they have a crush on me. I am totally into so many of the "vain" things I spend so much time trying to pretend don't matter to me. I am getting to be okay with that. And I also dont think there is anything wrong with enjoying these "vain" things. I think young Allison decided there was for some reason she would hate all beauty related "basic" vain things, and now grownish Allison is trying to forget she learned that.
But I am realizing that bottling up all this vanity is making me more vain. Denial is turning me from respectful selfish to egotistical selfish, and it's my own damm fault! I go to my mom to talk endlessly about myself because I can be my most vain self around her and she will still love me. She is also good about telling me when I'm being stupid so that's just important. But because I'm only letting this Allison out every so often, it makes me a bad listener sometimes. Especially with my loved ones. I dont ask enough of the important questions. I rattle off my ideas and I get mad and sometimes I turn my ears off. Sometimes I can be a terrible terrible listener. I hold a brave face but retention is low.
This means I can only remember 2 stories my grandfather has told me about his life before me. He is almost 93. And I am so selfish in thinking that he needs to be the one to come to me with his stories! When really I need to be the one asking. It means I finally started reading the journal my mother gave me years ago that she wrote for my sister and I before we were born. I'm getting to the caring party pretty late friends. It's okay, but I'm happy to be admitting it to a computer that some folks might eventually read and as such learn about me.
So. I've determined that my vanity needs to exist and I need to give it an outlet. I need to talk about myself. I need people to hear and know that it came from me (anonymity was a flighty affair but at least I entertained it). But I also know I want to listen more. I want to know stories that color my family members in more. I want to hear what other people think about things. I want to try and see what other people see. I want to start really listening. But first, I need to talk.
I'm gonna write so I can listen. Besides, writing it out makes me forget I didn't talk it out already. It makes it so when I call my mom I can ask her questions for a change. As opposed to her half listening to me excitedly harp on about half baked ideas, and then saying goodbye because "sorry mom gotta run! love you!" before she even gets a word in. Yea, I need to get that under control.