Saturday, September 14, 2013

Sex and death

There’s a story doing the rounds in cyberspace about a father who wants to teach his adolescent daughter a lesson. In the family’s blog he is dressed in very short shorts and stands provocatively at a bar for the benefit of what I imagine to be someone’s iphone camera. 

Apparently, both the father and his wife do not enjoy the spectacle of their daughter dressed in her short shorts.  They consider it unseemly, obscene, inappropriate, disturbing, provocative – you name it.
Despite their protests, the daughter had insisted on wearing her short shorts to a family dinner and so her father took a pair of his shorts from his room, cut off a few inches from the legs, and wore them out to dinner, too.
Did the daughter learn her lesson?  I’m not sure. I’ve been trying to figure out what the lesson is.

Had the girl’s mother cut her own shorts down to size, the comparison might have been more telling.  

I ask myself why these things matter?  Why do we care so much about young women wearing their short shorts?  
Then there’s the Robin Thicke clip that’s also doing the rounds to the song Blurred Lines.  The lyrics are provocative, implying there are blurred lines to sexual consent. The men are in suits, the women naked.

 To counter this a group of Auckland University students created a spoof where the men, dressed only in white underpants, dance to the whims of the women who are fully clothed.  The lyrics are different, too.  An attack on misogyny.  

Not long after mini skirts came into vogue, women started to burn their bras in protests against patriarchal constraints.  At the same time not wearing a bra could be sexually provocative.
I cannot be sure what led me not to wear a bra on my wedding day.  Was it simply because my wedding dress could not sit well with the imprint of a bra beneath.  

My wedding dress was of a fabric that I believed could conceal the fact that I did not wear a bra. At least in my mind it was sufficiently modest, though I later heard rumours that people like my mother were horrified.  

I have the horrors myself when I look back on another time, a New Years Eve in the 1970s when I decided to go bra-less to a party at a friend's house in Ivanhoe.  

I had bought myself a blouse, a long floppy sleeved and cropped blouse, the type you see on a flamenco dancer.  It came together tied in a knot across my midriff.  The white cotton was as thin as a summer nightie, and almost as transparent. 

I wore it with pride.  But now I find myself cringing at my exhibitionism if indeed that is what it was.
That night people got drunk.  Someone pushed someone else into a swimming pool.  Fellows slipped off their clothes.  The men, I might add, not the women.  

The women wore bathing suits, but several of our young male companions took to skinny dipping. 
It was a night of arousal though nothing untoward happened as far as I can remember, though to look on it from the outside it might have looked like an orgy.

I wonder then about what is or is not appropriate in this life?  What determines our behaviour?  What do we decide is obscene and what not? 

Yesterday as family members stood around the grave side of an elderly aunt about to be buried I checked out the depth of the hole.   
‘It’s so deep,’ I said.
‘But look at that clay,’ one brother said.  ‘Oh to get my hands init.  To sculpt from it.’
‘It needs to be deep,’ someone else said, ‘so they can fit another body on top.’
I looked into the hole in the ground and wondered what it must be like for my uncle to see his eventual resting place.   

My husband and I have yet to choose a burial plot.  I think about it.  Preparations for death.     

My sister has made a family pall of white silk, embroidered in gold thread.  It has sections to represent all the members of our immediate family and in each section my sister has included both zirconium crystals to represent the boys in each family on the extended line and tiny pearl button to represent the girls.  

The pall symbolises the lives of our parents and their nine children, twenty three grandchildren and twelve great grandchildren with another two on the way.  My sister hopes that every member of our family will use this pall for their own funerals.  

I shrink a little inside whenever I see the pall.  It seems to me it will soak up so much grief and I cannot help but think of the pall draped over my own coffin when I die, or when my husband dies, my siblings, my mother and in time my children and then their children.   

There’s something ominous about a pall, so unlike a christening gown, which signals new life.  

‘When you’re dead you’re dead,’ my brother said.  ‘You won’t know.’  
'But there’s the build up to death.'  One my cousins nodded her head in recognition of my qualms but another sister insisted she does not think of these things. 

We chattered on about death until my oldest brother leaned over, ‘I’m not sure now is the time to be analyzing such matters.’

People stood at the side of the grave and waited for the funeral organisers to do their thing.  We fell silent, though a few chatterers further up the hill continued to talk.
When human silence prevailed I heard the birds twitter in the trees above and fell back to thinking not so much of my aunt whose body was about to be lowered into the ground but of the rest of us still alive who are left trying to make sense of how we might go on living in a world filled with rules and regulations about how we should behave.  

I still cringe at the sight of me in my see through blouse.  
My older self wonders how could she do it?  
My younger self says, who cares?  

The celebrant read out a poem.  Her words stay with me.  'Your bones are made of stars/ your blood is filled with oceans.'  

There's more to us all than our appearance or desires.  
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