It all started sometime last year. I saw this necklace* which made me laugh. I showed it to my niece. She’s a vegetarian bleeding heart animal rights crusader, too. (Yes, I accept partial responsibility for that.) We hated the representation of trophy hunting but we loved the idea of the irony of us veggies brandishing a silver trophy stag head. On we went with our lives sans mounted deer head necklace.
Fast forward to April. I opened my mailbox one evening to find a small box from my niece. “Oh boy! Oh boy! What could it be?! What could it be?!” I exclaimed as I feverishly tore open the box as I rode up the elevator.
In the box I found this:
And a note saying: You deserve a strapping buck. And No representations of animals being killed and displayed as prizes were used to make this necklace. Sorry it doesn't represent the whole deer but I couldn't find a whole deer necklace that I could afford. Maybe I can buy you the rest of the deer for Christmas.
I know. I ♥ my niece.
I’ve worn it a lot and have received compliments. And comments. And funny looks about it. (“Pffft. Trillian. What a freak. No wonder she can’t get and keep a man...” kind of funny looks.)
A few days ago was the first Friday I was meeting- and client-free and could go casual to work. I donned the first necklace I grabbed from the casual side of the jewelry drawer on my way out the door. It was the strapping buck.
What a difference a few weeks makes.
Thank you, Sarah Palin for bursting onto the scene toting a gun, fresh kill and a smile.
Somehow the necklace went from cute/funny/weird to “Trillian jumped on the Sarah Palin bandwagon!!!” Thanks to that innocent deer necklace I received so many comments about supporting Sarah Palin that I took it off by noon.
If I were truly supporting the Gun Hunter Magazine
cover girl I would sport the original mounted deer head necklace.
But that’s a moot point. Apparently by wearing the image of a majestic animal associated with the backwoods North I thereby pledge my support and vote to Sarah Palin.
Never mind that everyone who made comments about me jumping on the Sarah Palin bandwagon knows that I’m pro-animal rights, anti-gun, and certainly anti-hunting.
After one of my co-workers said, “Wow, Trillian, I suppose us girls should be all ‘solidarity sister!’ with Sarah but really? Aren’t you taking this a bit far? I mean, I don’t care if you support her, but I can’t believe you’re getting caught up in the whole rugged outdoorsy girl style. What next? Rimless glasses?”
This blindsided me. First, I was unaware that in a few short weeks Sarah has inspired a fashion trend (beyond the glasses). Second, I was completely unaware that a rugged outdoorsy girl look is now “in” thanks to Sarah.
Seriously? She’s a style-maker? Rugged? Outdoorsy is “in?” Wow. I mean, no disrespect to Ms. Palin in regards to her clothing. You know, whatever. My concerns with Sarah Palin have absolutely nothing to do with her attire or any trend she may inspire. It was just all so fast. But then, now that I think about it, that’s a trend for you. Fast, flash in the pan, don’t blink or you’ll miss it.
There are bigger aspects about this that bother me, but let's take on image and accessorizing and snap judgement as a talking point. It bothers me that with one formerly funny accessory I am suddenly branded a supporter of any candidate. People just barged in with the assumption that I’m making a statement. Well, I mean, I am making a statement, but the statement is, “Ha! Isn’t this funny?” or “Aren’t deer beautiful? Please don’t shoot them.” or “I ♥ animals.” or “Hi, my name is Trillian and I don’t take fashion seriously.” Or “Hi, I like a funny, funky accessory to bring a little punch to an outfit.” Or even “Hi, my name is Trililan and I’m from Michigan . Like the deer? Check out my Petosky stone earrings!”
How it leapt from those statements to this one, “I’m voting for Sarah Palin.” is beyond any realm of comprehension I can fathom.
I like this necklace. It makes me think of my niece. It makes me smile. Maybe I can buy you the rest of the deer for Christmas. I didn't care what anyone thought about it, or what it said about me prior to the advent of Sarah Palin. And I shouldn't care now. And I don't.
Except. Well. Something about people thinking I'm making any kind of political endorsement statement bugs me. I proudly make a political statement in every election by researching all of the candidates prior to voting. I consider it an honor to make a political statement every election by voting for the candidate most appropriate for the job. Regardless of their party affiliation. I consider it vital to make a political statement by knowing who's representing me at local, state and federal levels. I take great pains to make a political statement by keeping track of issues and sending letters to my elected officials urging them to vote on those issues when they're before the house or senate. I enthusiastically keep track of their voting records.
Sure. There's more I could do. But assembling a wardrobe and accessories in themes making political statements - obvious or less so - is not something I would, or want to do. And boy does it surprise me to learn that a) other people do this and b) people think I'm doing it. Wow. What an eye opener my funny funky majestic deer necklace turned out to be.
Then my co-worker’s ‘solidarity sister’ comment rang in my ears. I donned the marketing perspective hat.
I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me before now.
I’m a white. I’m a woman. I’m from a really, really small town. In "The North." I’m over the age of 25. I’m college educated. I have a career. (hey, on paper I have a career) I not only watch hockey, I used to play hockey. I’ve been known to wear lipstick. I’m a brunette.
Strap a gun and a baby on me, give me a lobotomy and send me to church and I fall smack into the Sarah Demograph. If there was a focus group conducted for almost any consumable product where income, religion and politics are non-issues Sarah and I are merely a husband and five children apart from the same focus group in terms of marketing products.
That was a rude awakening.
I just hadn’t thought of it like that.
Now I have.
I can’t do anything about it. In terms of those factors, I am who I am.
Here we go again. People making judgements and assumptions based on appearance. Ugly = unworthy of a romantic partner. And apparently now: Deer necklace = Sarah Palin supporter.
When put like that it sounds silly. It is
silly. But it's what people do. I've learned the appearance lesson. I go months months
between dates and it's been years, years
since I've had a boyfriend. No one looks at me with desire or even tender affection. Other than my family no one tells me they love me. I go home to an empty apartment and I sleep alone. Not by choice. By looks. I'm an intelligent, creative, warm, kind, caring, supportive, compassionate, educated, well traveled, friendly, open-minded, at times funny professional woman. But I'm not pretty enough to attract men. They don't see me romantically. They don't want
me. The ones who bother to get to know me do so only in terms of friendship - not even friends with benefits. Friends. Period. Buddies.
This isn't "oh poor me" it's statement of facts. Men date women to whom they're physically attracted. Men are not physically attracted to me. I've heard it enough, suffered through rejection after rejection, I've learned this fundamental fact about myself. (Speaking of women in politics, I recently went to speed dating thing. (Oh be quiet, it was for charity.) One of the guys told me I reminded him of younger Janet Reno. He wasn't joking. He then made it clear that he did not mean that as a compliment. "Why do I remind you of Janet Reno?" I asked, laughing. He looked at me incredulous and said, "Duh. You're like what? 6 feet 11 or something." "Oh. My height. Ya know, Keri Walsh is four inches taller than me and Gisele Bundchen and I are the same height," I chided. He looked at me and snidely said, "You are no Gisele Bundchen. You are a Janet Reno. Tall is only sexy if you're sexy. If you're not sexy you're just abnormal and a freak. If you're sexy the tall thing is intimidating in a sexy way, if you're not sexy tall is just plain intimidating. And abnormal." Ahhh. Right. Got it. And a point scored in favor of
speed dating: In a mere three minutes I found out this guy is insecure, superficial, ignorant, rude and a jerk. I've seen it take months
of dating or even years of marriage to discover those things about a man.) And I accept the reality that people make snap judgments on appearances. I know you're sitting there yelling at your screen: "Not me! Nuh-uh! No! Not me! You've got it all wrong! People are not that shallow! I'm not that shallow and I'm not mean like that. You live in h8erville or something."
I know. I used to believe that, too. And maybe you're lucky enough to live somewhere where people don't judge on appearance. Lucky you.
Have you seen anyone with a mullet lately? Yeah? You noticed and remembered, eh? Why? Did you chuckle to yourself or think about Trans Ams and Foreigner? That's judging on appearance, my friend.
One last field case study. I recently went to a party where all of the other guests were married couples and their children. As always at these things I ended up "babysitting" the kids. Which is fine. I have nothing in common with the stay-at-home moms and the men like to hang with the other guys at these things. When I end up with the kids I have a better time than when I spend the evening trying to be interested in the new first grade teacher's abilities to teach the kids addition and subtraction or trying to not make the guys feel awkward because I'm the chick hanging out with the married guys. So, I spent over an hour playing with the kids. We had a blast. I went into the kitchen to see if the adults were co-mingling. Nope, still divided by gender. Now the womenfolk were exchanging recipes and coupons in the kitchen, the guys were in the tv room watching football and drinking beer. (Yes. This was in the year 2008. Might as well have been 1958. Take out the TV and coupons and it might as well have been 1808.)
I went back in to see what the kids were up to but was stopped in my tracks. Three of the little girls were playing with Barbies and talking. One of them said, "I love playing with Trillian." My heart leapt. One of the other little girls agreed and added that "Trillian isn't like the other grown ups." Awwwww. Great! That's cool! How sweet that they noticed! And then the third little girl, the voice of authority because her mother and I are friends - we worked together before this little girl was born- "She's not like our moms. She doesn't have kids or even a husband." Ouch. Okay. I accept it. I know it's my reality. But. Hearing other people say it still hurts. Then the first little girl, who only moments ago professed to love playing with me, said, "She doesn't look like our moms. She's way taller and not pretty like them." The second little girl said, "She's like Ugly Betty! She's fun and nice and funny but ugly." Fits of six-year-old girl giggles. I know. Double ouch. Out of the mouths of babes. Kids can be so cruel. It was first grade all over again. But. No. I'm not going to let three six-year-old girls get to me. However. In their innocence they show just how appearance based society is - and how entertainment media makes impressions and forms opinions. I happen to like Ugly Betty
. (For the record the Betty character and I are as many worlds apart as Sarah Palin and I, so no, it's not a matter of me relating to Betty.) But to have three little girls summing me up as "way taller and not as pretty" as their moms and then cracking up over comparing me to Ugly Betty was another painful reminder that looks matter, people make judgements based on appearance. Go to a party in the suburbs where you're the only single, childless woman, expect to stick out like a sore thumb. Wear a deer necklace, expect to be lumped in the Sarah for VP! clan.
It’s a good reminder in packaging, image and perception. It's not just mean and immature, it's short-sighted and ignorant to judge anyone by the way they look, where they’re from or what they wear around their neck. Even if it is
a deer head necklace. This election is going all over the place. Keep marketing, packaging, image and perception in mind. Don't be a victim of marketing. Or image. Don't make assumptions because of what a candidate looks like, where they're from or their product focus group demographic. Take the time to do your own research on the candidates. Check their voting records. Find out what (if any) local, state and/or federal legislation they support - not by what their speech writers tell them to say, not by what it "feels like" or "seems like" they'd do based on their image and marketing and what they look like, but by their actual deeds and votes. Find out what campaign money they accepted from whom and what lobbyists have histories with them. Those promises don't seem that important now, but a few months into the term those lobbyists and contributors are going to come a-calling and it won't be a social visit. And speaking of funny animal representations, also remember there are
candidates who are not represented by elephants or donkeys.
PLEASE NOTE!!! Ericaweiner.com does not hate animals. If you buy this ring
they’ll donate 30% to the ASPCA.