Tuesday, 29 May 2012

People Watching: The Ultimate Hobby For The Nosy

Hello, my name is Charlotte and I am a People Watcher.
[chorus of supportive voices:] "Hello Charlotte"
I think calling myself a People Watcher is a polite way of saying that I make judgements about people I barely know, or don't know at all, based on how they look.  I don't intend this in a nasty way, in fact, sometimes my observations are very positive.  I have been known to approach total strangers and compliment them on some aspect of their appearance.  Admittedly as a female, this is much easier for me than any of my male People Watcher counterparts as if they walked up to some random lady and said, "I love your trousers", they'd be likely to get a suspicious reaction.  I think the assumption might be that either a) they were being hit on with a lame pick up line; or b) they were trying to be sold something.  Or if they were lucky it might be option c) the person would assume they were gay and feel very pleased about being complimented on some element of their appearance by a gay man, who must intrinsically have an amazing sense of style (I have to say that this is a stereotype and I have met some of the exceptions but let's leave stereotypes for another blog).
Now I don't want any of you to worry about this confession.  If you are someone I know, chances are I have "watched" you (ew creepy) but it doesn't follow that I judge your appearance.  I am not totally shallow - I form opinions of people based on how cool and rich they are as well as what they wear.  In truth, most of my observations come from a place of curiousity rather than judgement.  Let me explain.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people present themselves with so little regard for what they actually look like.  Which is not to say that the majority of society makes themselves look bad, more that it appears they didn't think about how they appear at all.  Part of me applauds this.  BLOW what you look like, people should just accept you for who you are on the inside.  And other cliches that never ring true.  Because the truth is, people are judging others all the time on their appearance.  Not all are as analytical about it as I am, most of the time they probably don't even know they're doing it, but right or wrong, it happens more often than not.

As this blog is mostly read by my Mum and some other friends of mine who are worried I'll know if they don't read it, I know they are now thinking, "Well you're no fashion plate yourself!".  And this is definitely true.  But I'm not talking about looking like the pages of a fashion magazine every day of your life.  Or even any day of your life.  Most of us couldn't achieve this even if we spent thousands of dollars on the latest fashion trends.  As much as my husband loves me, not even he could claim I look like Gisele Bundchen.  Close, but no cigar.  No, I'm talking about knowing you're not Gisele.  Or any other person who appears on TV or in magazines or in the local fashion store.  I'm talking about knowing who you are - not in an existential "who am I and why am I here?" kind of way, but in a "my body is this basic shape, I need to be presentable for ______ lifestyle".

Here are some of the most persistent crimes I notice:
(Disclaimer: I have been guilty of most if not all of these crimes at some stage(s) in my life, and probably will be again next week.  This is not about me being choice.  This is also not about what size you are.  I don't care what size you are as long as you feel happy and healthy.  Also, I can't actually see you at the end of this interweb-thingy so you could be Jabba, flip me the bird, and yet still subscribe to read more, and I will never know)

I see so many women with artificially blonde hair.  Nothing wrong with that.  I fully support the fact that they are making some effort with their appearance.  Where so many people seem to go wrong is where they are determined to be blonde when it makes them look like look they washed half of their face away, or like the ate a bad sandwich and are feeling the repercussions.  And then they wear nude lipstick which enhances the whole "I spend my life feeling slightly nauseous" look.

The guy who wears the jeans he bought in 1993 that were so cool back then but now make his arse look like a dropped pie.  He continues to wear them because the denim is holding up well and this really hot chick once told him he looked good in them.

You've all seen it.  The tunic/skirt/shorts are too short and the leggings or worse still the tights become the pants.  You end up seeing things you don't want to.  Say no more.

I could go on.  But the biggest problem I see can encompass all of the crimes listed above and more.  I think most of us have walked through this at some stage in our lives - mostly when we were under 20 and trying to work out who we are (this time I do mean in the existential sense of the word as well as the aesthetic sense).  You know, you're trying to be "normal" and "cool" which at that age means "being really individual by being the most normal of anyone you know without looking like you care about being normal or individual".  This attitude often leads to the Big Problem I'm referring to:

You saw it in a magazine or your friend bought it or you saw it in the store and you had to have it.  Unfortunately, "it" is a lime green crop top and you failed to notice that you are a voluptuous red head.  Ok so a lime green crop top is unlikely to call to many people, but you get the idea.  Why oh why can people not see that just because it's in all the stores or on the cover of a magazine, it does not mean it will do any favours for you?!  For a start, sometimes fashion makes mistakes - clogs.  Need I say more?  Secondly, chain stores copy what's going to be "in" for the season.  They do not think "well this is a bit silly as only 10% of the population can pull this off", they just copy.  Why?  Because they know people will buy without considering this.  Sometimes we strike it lucky and what is "in" can be worn by 80% of the population.  Hooray!  But not that often.  It's not just clothes either.  The same follows for hair and make up - any other aspects of outward appearance that are "adjustable" (which is pretty much anything these days).

This Big Problem leads to further problems.  People come out of their teens and realise that they wore some truly hideous crap and lose confidence in their ability to present themselves.  They buy the plainest, blackest, non-adventurous things they can find.  They clothe themselves and no more.
Or another option is perhaps that they looked awesome in the "cool" stuff when they were young and so they stop looking at themselves.  They fail to see that they don't look the same as they did back then, let alone consider whether they want to look like that anymore.
Or another option: they can clearly see they look nothing like they did at 18 and are so unsure about what to do with the new way that they look.  They feel unhappy about how they look now and tell themselves that they will return to a shape they are happy with at some stage.  It's not that they won't, it's that they don't deal with how they look now.

I could go on and I've already ranted for long enough.  What I am trying to say is TAKE A GOOD LOOK AT YOURSELF PEOPLE.  Stand in front of the mirror.  We can all find our flaws, most of us are pretty shit-hot at that, but find something you like about the way you look too.  When you dress yourself today LOOK at what you are wearing, how you do your hair, what make up you are putting on, the shoes that go on your feet.  Does it actually look good on your body?  Does the colour make you look like you're about to puke, or match your eyes?  Are you comfortable?  Did you show off the bit you like (keeping it PG of course...)?  If the answer is yes to those questions (except the puking one), well done you!  Go forth into the world today feeling good about your awesome self!  If the answer is no, is there anything you can do right now to change it?  Different pants, brighter lipstick, a paper bag (joking)...

I think basically I just want people to make some choices for themselves about their appearance instead of being sucked along and just doing enough so that they're not naked, or just wearing what was on the rack in the store you like.  You have brains, use them.  It's not superficial, it's intrinsic to how you feel about yourself, it makes a massive difference to how you approach your day.

So people - EMPOWERMENT - dress like you meant to, not like you fell into your wardrobe and came out with an outfit on.  You will probably make some mistakes, but at least you meant to.  That's my excuse anyway.

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