Friday, January 14, 2011


I have a confession to make. I have - for a good part of the last five years - been an aerobics-class taker. I have done step classes and arm movements that make me feel like I am stuck in the eighties when aerobics first became popular, like I should be wearing a g-string unitard thing with tights and leg-warmers and way too much make-up. That feeling (along with the rush of endorphins) was a lot of fun: it's why I enjoyed aerobics. I spent those classes with a huge grin on my face and frequently giggled. Most people associate exercise with pain or discomfort, or perhaps even with becoming as toned as Gwen Stefani or Rihanna (or if not them, at least that girl who you see at the gym every day with the body you wished you had). I would argue that being a spectacle can be even more fun (encourage you to hit the gym more often) and make you feel more attractive than being "beautiful".

Some of my favourite moments over the years have been when I have thrown dignity out of the window and been just plain ridiculous. I am never so at home as when I let myself go beyond my skin. The EastCape Opera Company's show "Misbehavin'" was probably the start. I had to strut around the stage in a long flowery dress with a lumpy pregnancy belly jutting out in front. The belly was tan in colour, egg-shaped and had my name written on it in black marker. I had to lug it around to the different theatres we performed in and I can definitely say it was one of the oddest props I have ever had to remember. It was also - initially - embarrassing. I liked to look pretty on stage or at least unusual-bordering-on-odd (but still pretty), not ridiculous.

Eventually I found it liberating. I realised I could move freely and come up with creative (and fun) ideas when I wasn't worried about how I looked.

I moved these theatrics into real life when I used to dress up for Rhodes's many parties. I hammed it up as a transvestite (a woman playing a man who's playing a woman, Victor/Victoria style) in white hot pants, a red velvet cloak-like top and a crown with a feather at the OutRhodes party. It was one of my favourite parties because I felt absolutely no awkward self-consciousness. I also dressed up as "two-dollah" (if you've seen "Full Metal Jacket" you'll know what I mean) for a friend's Girls of the Playboy Mansion twenty-first. I was dressed really provocatively, but I was also wearing the most hideous, platinum blonde wig. Once I put that wig on, there was no chance anyone could think I was trying to be a sexy, pert bunny. It was so hideous that there is video footage of it coming to life and "attacking" my friend Kendra.

My final Rhodes prank was the pink wig I wore when I graduated last year. I thought that perhaps Rhodes staff wouldn't let me get away with it (it was so pink it practically glowed), but actually most people were thrilled to see something different at the usually long ceremony. The photograph of me being capped is pretty much the same as the previous year's apart from the pink wig: I'm even wearing the same dress. Except for the anonymous academic sitting behind me. He has a huge smile on his face.

That's why it is not just about dressing ridiculously (though as I've said many times before, anything that stops girls and women, including myself, from feeling self-consciously unworthy about their bodies is wonderful): it's about having a healthy sense of humour about all sorts of different parts of life because it can bring a real sense of joy to everyone.

It's about bravery and freedom. If I were to take myself too seriously, I would never achieve anything. I don't mean that I don't take life seriously. Life is a serious business because I am always interacting with other human beings as fragile -or more so - than myself. My actions will always impact others in ways I can never even dream of. It is more about not being serious about expecting myself or others to be perfect. If I am brave enough to be ridiculous, I am brave enough to admit I am not perfect: not always beautiful or intelligent or witty or kind. It is only then I am free to write what I want, love people without fear that I will lose them because I am not perfect enough and have a great time without worrying that I look funny. I probably do, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, I would say there is a lot right about it.

The same goes for my writing. Writing my first blog was like stepping off a precipice. It is terrifying to nurture some words and throw them out there, realising people are actually going to read them. There are times when I feel unsatisfied with what I have written (OK, most times) and if I didn't publish it, those mistakes and blind reasoning wouldn't be here. It also means none of my writing would be here, and I would have lost out on the beauty and exhilaration (and strong sense of fun) I feel when I write and when (sometimes) these blogs make a difference or people enjoy them.

In The Prisoner of Azkaban (non-Harry Potter fans bear with me), there is a certain creature - a boggart - that assumes the form of whatever we fear the most. The only way to defeat it is to imagine it looking silly and nonthreatening (like the school bully in your grandmother's gown and cap) and shout "Riddikulus". It is a clever concept because most things we're afraid of are of our own making. That's not to say (continuing the metaphor) that there aren't other really scary creatures out there that we do need to be afraid of, but many of the ones we spend our time worrying about (or at least, the ones I do) are just spectres of our minds that can be defeated with a little healthy riddikulus.

1 comment:

  1. I'm proud of you, Clea. You are a wonderful example of all a woman should and can be, not the horrid, watered-down bland things we are expected to be.

    Keep writing, sister. Its a damned hard journey, this blogging things. I'm glad we have each other for company.