Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Taming the beast

I'll never forget the triumphant smile of a poet who gazed into space as she rubbed her belly, inviting us to pause with her as she recalled sweet memories of how her pregnancies had emblazoned beautiful stretch marks across her stomach.
That moment captured the pride she felt as the woman whom she affectionately described as her warrior-self. This woman, brandishing stretch marks - red streaks on her caramel skin - chose to call them warrior marks.
During her performance, she stripped bare notions of public decency and took us below skin-deep as she delved into spaces and places many would care not to go with the lights on.

Warrior marks
Taking her time, she propelled us along her lyrical journey as she lovingly told us how the warrior marks on her stomach were a daily, joyous reminder of childbirth.
To her mind, her rite of passage from young woman to motherhood elevated her to undeniable status affirmed, literally, by her warrior marks.

Clearly, what we see as beautiful is a question of interpretation. In framing our codes of beauty, consider for a moment how our culture shapes our beauty filter.
In some West African countries, lines of gentle skin folds which ripple every time you turn your neck are seen as the epitome of beauty. From Kinshasa, to Lagos, to Kingston, a smile which reveals a gap between the two front teeth is delightfully powerful and captivating, often reducing the most composed suitor to blabbering distraction. A potent symbol of beauty, I've heard many stories of how dentists have been coerced into creating a gap by filing away a 'perfectly good' tooth. Urban legend, perhaps?

Ample or fluffy

Now let's get to the ample body shape. Fluffy, I hear them say in Jamaica? African cultural nuance associates size 14-plus women (and men) with affluence, good health and desirable social status. When we talk of desire, a shapely, 'good-hold' woman is regarded as an enviable catch.
More than urban legend, it's a cultural heritage that many young people today recognise but challenge and disconnect as they become increasingly confused by beauty barometers set by the media that conflict with their upbringing and value systems.

So, as we saw last week, yet again, the beast of self-deprecation silently rears its dreadful head. It lures us into forgetting that the power source for holistic self-acceptance and nurturing of self-love actually lies within us.

The catch 22: as matriarch poet, Maya Angelou asserts in her classic poem, 'Phenomenal Woman', and South African trailblazer new, generation poet, Lebo Mashile, dreams in 'Tomorrow's Daughters', women will stand tall, strong and proud in resistance. Also, that we accept the invitation to holistically develop modern-day beauty codes which celebrate our kinky, voluptuous spots as we reframe our heritage lens and firmly place it in tomorrow. All this, of course, as we lovingly stroke the beast into submission.

Lebo Mashile Tomorrow’s Daughters
http://lebomashile.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=33&Itemid=57 –

Maya Angelou:
www.mayaangelou.com / http://www.feminist.com/resources/artspeech/insp/maya.htm

Monday, September 15, 2008

Beauty and the beast

As I flip through the pages of glossy women’s mags, I’m overwhelmed by the relentless fire of ads that tell me my skin is not smooth enough, how to reverse the aging process for fear of wrinkles, how my hair is not shiny sleek enough and how at 30something, only surgery will flatten my stomach to its prepubescent splendour.

What is interesting is that the very industry, (yes see $$s!) that consistently manufactures and churns out the latest version of universally acceptable ‘cause-they-say-so’, airbrushed images of beauty is turning in on itself.

It seems there’s a new beauty code that is being subtly infused into our psyche through the very same ads. Now, they tell us – all that that they said was beautiful is no longer en vogue. Infact, quite the opposite!

What does this mean? During a recent chat with a casting agent friend, she, a buxom beauty herself, gleefully told me that the ad creatives are now looking for regular looking people. There’s a trend in the ad industry to place people that look like, guess what? You and I!

At last, I hear you cry, as your heart leaps – at least now there’s a chance that you may just be socially acceptable? Now surely, more of us can play the glamour stakes? Are they saying that cellulite orange peel skin and stretch marks are no longer such a vanity offence after all?

In South Africa, many women naturally possess what are probably the most sexy genetically enhanced hourglass figures on the planet. Natural hi-riding bumpers that would send J Lo running to the surgeon, trimmed with neat shapely waists are the inherited beauty of many this side of the world.

However, as the diet and beauty industry tightens its grip, women from girlchild to the 40somethings try to shear off nature’s inches as they squeeze voluptuous thighs into skinny drainpipe jeans- all the range in the fashion world yes– until they tell us its something else!

Meanwhile, the sisters are burning up on the inside as they edge further along a self-effacing path to never being good enough. How much longer are we going to allow the beauty industries to dictate our standards of beauty and raise the insecurity bar while making so much money out of us?

Yesterday it was waif-slim, today, its regular Joe and Jenny and tomorrow- who knows?! Just where is this beauty and the beast syndrome coming from. Is it all imposed on us or are we making poor judgement calls when it comes to packaging and asserting our God-given assets as beautiful.

Seems to me that every time we invest in a new anti-cellulite cream or decide to follow the latest fad diet we co-sign on the agreement to keep feeding a beast called unworthiness within us. Do we really need the beauty industry to package ‘real women’ for us to consume all over again? A resounding NO! We’re already the real deal and we love us!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Simple Pleasures

The other day as I sat at the salon quietly observing life go by, a hot 80s, Kool & the Gang tune playing on the radio took us back to the 80s, had us all grooving and reminiscing about when, according to my salon friends – times were sweet.

I heard (and remembered) how those were the days when we used to go out dressed to the nines, knowing we looked hot and whoever had the privilege of crossing our perfume laden paths –well, they knew tonight was the night!

We laughed as we recalled the dance moves and lamented about the days when life seemed to be more fun, more enriching and ironically, more simple.

Ok, so some things haven’t changed, maybe the S-curl and the hi-gloss lipstick has been swapped for bling and more bling. So, we still love looking good but valuing and appreciating beauty in simple things is a rare quality these days.

Maybe we’re just getting old, chirped a sister in the corner. Not so, according to my locktician twisting my locks through his fingers. He pointed out that in ‘the good old days’, life’s simple pleasures were as basic as being able to go out and have fun without fearing for our safety. He added that young people these days have so much to deal with. Alcohol, drugs and the constant battle of competing to be the world’s most cool, switched on, connected but worse still, being alive to see their 35th birthday.

Seems the bottom line is, life is cheap these days. For all the gadgets, access to technology and information designed to enhance our lives, clearly we are dangerously close to becoming completely devoid of life’s so-called, ‘simple pleasures’.

So what are simple pleasures to us these days? Consider time - a fast evaporating commodity? – some say there is never enough! When last did you take time to feel the juice of a luscious mango run down your chin? Whilst on our never ending treadmill of must-do, have to and where to next, it seems we have to plan time to just be.

We are feeling the heat and the call to unclutter our lives abounds from Oprah house makeovers, to the health gurus who warn that clutter, the unending quest to acquire and consume is the biggest threat to our lives. Read: stress! Stress that comes from worrying about keeping up with the Jones’ and the fear of never having enough. Truth is, what ever we have will never be enough.

In our love-hate relationship with cosmopolitan modernity, we love the experiencing and consuming shiny new things, however, deep down we yearn for the worn, comfortable ‘old’ things.

When we look back, generations before us never had facebook but they were deeply connected to each other. They took time for and with each other. They experienced life’s luxuries from a different perspective.

It’s a calling and some are heeding the call. Imagine the collective power of a global reality which prioritises time spent being instead of time spent doing in the quest to raise the stakes of consumerism. Simple pleasures – Taking time to feel, to love, to listen, to be, will pave a road to everyday ecstasy.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Soul banks – the wealth option?

Money makes the world go round, or so we’re told. In today’s world where the cost of living is spiralling out of our stratosphere, money, the lack of it or the desire for more of it is a permanent discussion topic.

Even before the price of a bag of rice tripled, dreams about chasing sweet money pots at the end of rainbows were key talking points from the liming spot to the beauty salon. Is money the real deal? How many of us talk of wealth as opposed to money and, how many of us have dared to imagine what true wealth looks and feels like?

It seems we automatically associate money with happiness whilst knowing the so called ‘rich and famous’ are often amongst the most insecure, unhappy people. I wonder whether the focus on money as opposed to wealth actually steers us along a long road with pot holes called broke, going anywhere but to a comfortably space of knowing and believing we are wealthy no matter the bank balance.

A few days ago, I had the dubious delight of attending a Soul Session hosted by Old Mutual – a South African financial institution. The Soul Sessions, hosted by two of South Africa’s it celebs – Fezile Mpela and Sophie Ndaba featured motivational talks, speed networking (yes, like speed dating only with above the waist business in mind), fashion, topical discussions and saving and investment tips. It was an engaging afternoon.

A chat with organiser, Lebogang Mkhize revealed that Old Mutual is reverse engineering money management for us, their clients. Being in the wealth creation business, they believe that events like the Soul Sessions address our lifestyle needs while propelling us further along the road to unlocking wealth. They are convinced the link to wealth is deeply embedded within us – in our souls. Food for thought? They are definitely on the money!

Ever considered your soul as your private wealth bank? Is the concept of being wealthy something that resonates, excites or is it scary, indulgent even? Possibly, it boils down to the way we’ve been brought up? Were you raised to expect an abundantly wealthy life as a birthright no matter your social-economic standing?

Or, maybe yours was to seek an education in the quest to work and modestly provide for your loved ones? Maybe neither, maybe both and where was your soul placed in the picture?

What shapes your wealth space? Is it soul anchor or a consumption orientation? Many of us grew up seeing grandma hiding money under the mattress, in books, also heard about keeping vex money or saving for that rainy day. We’ve probably also internalised notions of money being the root of all evil and so, consciously shunned the idea of being wealthy.

By shifting our focus away from money and living our soul-inspired journey, we may see that the eyes are the window to our soul and the soul is our window to life-enriching wealth for all.