I suppose that if were somebody critically analyzing a story of my life, they would note the strikingly literary symbolism of the piano in the UC. I have written about it before and firmly believe that it inspires this deep kind of thought that transcends the petty issues of school, much the way the music from its ivory keys wafts above the meaningless conversation of sorority girls and fraternity brothers below it. It incited a train of thoughts that left me with a pen in my hand, shakily scratching out thoughts as they came to me in the little journal that I keep in my backpack, full of half-completed thoughts and rambling sentences and things I am sure I always meant to come back to. What follows is the SparkNotes edition of the thought process I was having. For words cannot do thoughts justice.
I began to trace a trend that turned knots in my stomach, for the drastic implications of it. I was reading, reading, reading, occasionally stopping to listen to the once-in-a-while student enticed enough by the empty instrument to meander up and touch the keys. They would piddle for a moment before launching somewhat absently and self-consciously into whatever melody was occupying their minds. Some players were more skilled than others, but all, despite the level of their piano proficiency, made music, no matter how simple, and nobody who was listening really even stopped to notice. For the moments that somebody was playing it, it filled those gaps in conversation between best friends, lovers, and classmates, alike. It is a simple, somewhat philosophical tool meekly presented to all who care notice.
However, the thing that got me thinking was that none of these players were female. Not one girl played her song on an instrument that, at least until recently, had been regarded by many as a girl's instrument. It made me wonder why, and the scary train of snowballing thought began.
'Perhaps it is some sort of liberal feminism kicking in on a massive scale and making girls not want to play it for that very reason,' I thought. 'The conformity to something stereotypically "female" to satisfy some oppressive and subversive "masculine" influence somehow influencing the expectation of their decisions... In a strange reversal of roles emasculating the male and having "unsexed" (to quote Lady Macbeth) woman scoff at their feeble unconscious attempts to fill the gender gap.'
But I doubted it. I tossed several theories around and discarded them quickly, no matter how sublime a grandiose uprising of "woman" against "man" would seem to an English major constantly in the throes of analysis. What I decided upon was far sadder than what the theories of liberal feminism cast on my heart - because it is far more difficult to counteract.
I have had conversations about parts of this before with Reagan and others, particularly about, for lack of a better term, the "clothing crisis" sweeping the country. About how if women want to stop being treated like objects they need to quit blaming it on the misogynistic male and start dressing like something whose brains are not in their chest. **(Note: My lawyer would like for me to note that I am in no way shoving blame for the treatment of women as objects on the women being treated like objects.)** I looked around me and saw the terrible reality unveiled, like the curtain of Oz pulled back, as to what "woman" had been reduced to (by an equal amount of effort from both parties): a grotesque mix of makeup and show.
This is what boys expect. This is what girls see that boys expect. So that's what we get. No girls went up to play the piano because the ones that were in the UC this morning were less concerned with playing music and more concerned with making eyes at any boy who walked by staring at their chests.
But even more unfortunately, this isn't even about rampant sensuality or sex icons or cleavage, it isn't even limited to girls. This is about the deplorable state of our very identities. Who we are has been lost to a culture consumed with the idea that in order to be validated, you must be "attractive" and you must have sex and you must spend every waking moment in somebody's arms or in somebody's thoughts or else you are a waste of breath. I've never seen an ad that tells you to spend your Friday night reading a book.
And so arrived my train at the station. I was suddenly sullenly aware that this is what people have been reduced to. We are nothing but Peacocks flashing our colors. We are nothing but crickets chiming a mating song as we rub our legs together and wait for somebody to notice. We, boys and girls alike, cake the makeup on to cover up what we are because we're more comfortable being who we think people want than somebody who still secretly thinks that Pokemon is cool. We are the revelers at the masquerade while the Red Death flits unknowingly from room to room, all of us stopping to notice how great a job he did on his costume.
I cannot imagine the toll that such vanity takes on our souls. I cannot see how, as a person, it is possible to develop while you are painting over who you are. It is clear as day to me why we have such a dependency problem - because you can't be alone until you are comfortable with yourself.
There is no makeup strong enough to shield yourself from your own eyes.