Self-Fashioning: The Rules

I like to think of the versions of femininity and female eroticism presented on this blog as comprising an image. A vision of woman. Of my overarching ideal. It is necessary, I think, as I engage in the practice of envisioning her and giving her form on the page, that I critically examine my own motivations and expectations. So that both she and I can evolve during the course of this process. So that I can effectively translate thought and image into action. I think of this line of self-questioning as the to-what-ends of this analysis.

To what end am I creating, or re-creating, the feminine—for myself and others?

To what end am I looking for strength and fullness—for meaning—in some of the most overlooked aspects of my character?

To what end am I dedicating the majority of my non-working hours to the evolution of this project—the reading, writing, research, and design?

To what end am I committing my intellectual and creative energies to the greater project of fashioning a new kind of woman?

All questions I have asked myself repeatedly over the last few months. With this post, I’d like to get to heart of them. Indeed, it occurs to me that, at the very core of these creative exercises, in simply constructing a feminine ideal, is the striving for one goal, or a common series of goals. To rewrite the rules by which I live my life.

To what end? To be freer. More creative. More self-possessed. More serene.

My ideal is an embodiment of the rules by which I want to live my life. The woman I want to be is both an ethic and an aesthetic. She is an extension of the present. She is part me and part who I want to be. I am already on the road to becoming her. When I see her attributes, or those I have ascribed to her, I begin to identify the corresponding attributes within myself that need improving. I begin perceiving limits in my thinking (What is currently preventing me from being the person I envision?), and reinterpreting nuances in my feelings, which hadn’t seemed as significant before. I can’t, it seems, simply write about feeling pretty or wanting to be submissive and think, “One day, I hope to experience this feeling in all of its vibrancy and fullness.” I ask myself instead which actions I can and should take to achieve that state.

image of dark shoe

And those actions nearly always necessitate a violation of the existing rules. Or, their reformulation. I’m talking about the shoulds, the can’ts, the don’ts, the won’ts, the nevers, and the not-good-enoughs. Sometimes, I recognize those forces at work within myself easily (though I’m much more adept at spotting their effects in other people’s lives. A lot of good that does me.) Other times, I don’t. It is through creative exercises like those here on The Used Life that I am able to glimpse some of their more discreet manifestations.

Of course, I’ve asked myself why, of the myriad aspects of my thinking and behavior that could benefit from improvement, I concentrate the bulk of my readings, writings, and reflections on the erotic. The neglected and the froufrou. Because I don’t like the rules. That’s why. I am acutely aware that much of what I publish here—as both a creative interpretation and an exercise in individuation (as Otto Rank might say)—is very much a reaction to current political and cultural attitudes. Although, I refuse to think of The Used Life as a statement. In fact, I’ve cultivated a very staunch desire for this blog to be the antithesis of all that. It’s a matter of personal integrity.

And, while I like to envision myself as a lone creative, I know I am not all that different from most women. I think many of us feel caught between extremes. Between sets of rules that don’t reflect who we know ourselves, individually, to be. (And, isn’t that the knowledge that matters?) Commercialization. Celebrity culture. Politics. It occurs to me that a major step in not feeling as though I need to abide by those rules is to re-write them. For myself. That is how I change my thinking about the rules and my relationship to them. I may not be able to rid myself of them immediately, but I can navigate them better. I can change my relationship to them and my functioning within them. In that way, I also change my relationship to myself. Maybe, that is the best I can do. And, maybe, just maybe, I can do more.

Indeed, I also believe I can and should do more on this blog. It’s time to move on. I think the next logical step in the evolution of my ideas to apply them. To everyday scenarios. That is, to rewrite the rules of thought and action in real life. In a very practical way. You may expect more posts of a useful nature (similar to When You Have Too Much Life…), in addition to those that examine the process of self-creation, or self-fashioning. Because I expect that will require periodic adjustments. If I were to delineate this experiment into phases, I would say, Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Phase Three.

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