Anything worth making, it seems to me, is going to be messy before it’s shiny and bright. Think of preparing a meal, renovating an old home, a first rehearsal, giving birth, falling in love. Being human, for that matter.
When we make, we make messes. This is something I’m learning to embrace.
It is unreasonable to expect something be pretty from the very beginning. It can’t be. And what if it was never meant to be? What then? Does it automatically lose its value? In short, I think not.
During the brief period in which I attended college, my favorite class was Humanities. My teacher was a tall, gangly Economics graduate-turned-artist. She had hair down to her waist, didn’t shave her arm pits or wear a bra. I (being a sheltered, middle-class, white Mormon girl) at first found her strange. But by the end of the semester, I not only admired her – I wanted to be her. Although I do still shave my arm pits, and wear something that at least resembles a bra. Most of the time.
In one particular class, I made a comment on how it bothered me that people always expect art to be bright, pretty and positive. What if the artist didn’t mean for it to be that way? That doesn’t mean it isn’t a valid expression of perspective. And she agreed, asking the question, What if it isn’t meant to be beautiful, liked or understood?
Sometime last year, I was with a group of friends. Someone put on a music video featuring a well-known singer, known for her striking beauty just as much as her talent. In this particular video, she wasn’t dressed up in her usual manner. Her hair was messy, her make-up dark. She looked gritty. Real. I felt that it was appropriate, given the context of the song. And yet, all anyone in the room could do was talk in shameful tones about how she just doesn’t look as pretty as she usually does. As if this offended them, personally. As if she owed it to them, to look pretty.
Too often, I hear from people different versions of this. Variations on a theme of, “Well, that isn’t very pretty.”
To which I would respond with, “So (the hell) what?“