Last week, many of us watched as impending superhero arch-villain Ultron made his appearance at the Los Angeles premiere of the movie in which he would be so grandly introduced. Of course, the actor himself, the inimitable James Spader, was wearing yellow-tinted hornrims, an oversized charcoal grey suit jacket, and a white knotted tie with some red icons sprinkled across it. But, he described in characteristic detail his Ultron costume for the film: bands of velcroed techno-attachments, and a large, overhead pole bearing two antennae, at the ends of which were tiny cameras. The rest? For the viewers, computer-generated cloakery.
This is a particularly personal observation. I don’t expect anybody else to relate. Perhaps you’ll call it a purge. Just let me say it, and be done.
Not sure where human society got its penchant for entrenchment patterns. Don’t know why people with similar traits self-segregate. I just know it’s true because, from early childhood, I was watching. The Plymouth Brethren taught me how.
Borne in Dublin, Ireland, and then branching out to include the following led by John Nelson Darby, this self-generating Christian Fundamentalist sect was all about exclusive separatism. The objective being to establish the purety of “the Lord’s table” (meaning: the communion fellowship), the distorted belief held that, by raising the standard for selectivity, only those living lives of alleged sinless perfection would qualify.
Therefore, of its nature, and following the parallel of social patterns, those deemed most readily acceptable were first the ones whose carriage matched that of the determining few. Anglo-Saxon bearing, its physicality and mentality, were pre-eminent. Anthropologically speaking, ya hadda look the part and then ya hadda act it. And, best if you could imitate the Royals, albeit subconsciously.
Henry Sweet definitely fit. Short, broad shouldered, strong of profile and mind, he was invited by the panel of experts to join the local fellowship after migrating from the eastern end of the Commonwealth and appearing, in full form, as a street preacher. So also his wife, Mae, of saintly bearing and trusting countenance.
Mum was one of four sisters and, at least in all the photographs, the one with the purest face. Ironically, while she fit the picture, she dreamed of a life that burst the bubble and expanded the frame. Therefore, when Dad appeared, all handsome and dark and feisty and bold, she tore up the pattern into little bits and threw herself in his direction.
When their firstborn son came into the world, he was as princely as he could be. Miraculously, his gene expression had chosen to defer its more swarthy dominance; he had all the right colors – hazel eyes, sandy hair, small regular features, and intellectual precocity. And, he would grow to achieve a prominent place in the sectarian’s hierarchy.
Here’s where I come in.
From birth, I bore every insistent trait of my father: dark brown eyes and hair, olive skin, and the kind of active, expressive intelligence that knows no restraint. There simply wasn’t any other child in any of the rooms who looked anything like me. I was the gypsy, the starling, the odd one out.
You think me a tad preoccupied? You may. I will give you that.
But, on with the show.
Self-acceptance, they’ve been saying for a few decades now, is key to a successful social life and, probably, life in the workplace. One must celebrate one’s strengths, acknowledge and then improve on any weakness, and strive to accomplish, seeking solid relationships and worthy endeavor.
But, we are taught from birth to do exactly the opposite.
We have for our models those who teach us to select what is acceptable. We learn whether or not we fit from the time our ears are developed enough to hear “What a beautiful baby!” As soon as our eyes can see, we observe the directions people take, either toward or away from us. Our tactile sense picks up the accelerated heartbeat of fear and uncertainty, our chemistry the signals of alignment or incompatibility. And, we begin to mirror all these. We behave towards others as those closest to us behave toward us.
I’ve been wearing costumes as far back as I can remember. The one that attempted to match the family of Anglo Saxons, and their precise, daily ways. Later on, the one that more closely resembled what I saw in the mirror. Neither one was really the girl who wore the clothes.
Nakedness becomes some. There are bodies that bear such a natural aesthetic you’d almost weep at the sight of them. Mine is not one of those. Perhaps yours is. One thing is certain: I know how to recognize truth and beauty.
Somewhere, somehow, I got that part right. In fact, my comfort is found within, whenever I look out at the world around me. What I see in you brings both awe and inspiration, pleasure and wonder, to my eyes. So, if you feel me watching, just go about your business. Wear whatever costume you need. But, know that I am truly glad you’re in the room, because I see who you really are.
© Ruth Ann Scanzillo
4/21/15 All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line.