Self-Loathing for Beginners

Back in the spring of 2008, I created the DILFIT Awards for Self-Loathing in Fashion. My list of winners ran in The New York Times’ T Magazine. (“DILFIT,” as you have no doubt guessed, is the acronym for “Do I Look Fat In This?”)

I had hoped to bestow the DILFITS annually, but, lazy worm that I am, I haven’t. I am happy to announce, however, that there is a winner for the 2012 Spring and Summer season.

Rei Kawakubo's cotton ball gown SS2012

Comme des Garcons gown 2012

It is Rei Kawakubo, whose inspired creation—pictured here—so perfectly reflects the “complexity and feminist ambivalence” that Vogue’s Sarah Mower admired in the Japanese designer’s Comme des Garcons collection for Spring.

On days when a woman applies too much eye makeup, and it smears all over her face when she tries to remove it, and rubbing only makes her skin look raw, and she’s knee-deep in used cotton balls and late for work, or a date, and it’s that time of the month, this is surely what she will want to wear to flagrantly and stylishly express her dismay at being herself.

The white boots, which reminded’s Tim Blanks of technician-wear appropriate for a post-tsunami nuclear reactor melt-down, or “equally….sixties couture a-go-go,” will show off every bit of mud a determinedly self-loathing woman drags herself through.

And, yes, you will look fat in it.
If you have a nominee you would like me to consider, I’d love to issue further awards. Please use the contact form and include a link to the image as well as your reasons why the outfit reflects, soothes, illuminates or compliments self-loathing.

Focus v. Awareness

December 10th, 2011
optical illusion

stare at red dot fixedly and blue circle fades

Fixed focus and general awareness don’t play well together. Concentrating on any one thing can cause “attentional blindness,” the inability to notice something obvious.

Stare at the red dot above fixedly and the blue circle will gradually fade from view. Remember: if you focus on your self-loathing your actual loathsomeness will evaporate from your peripheral vision, but if you focus only on the positive you will eventually go blind.

(Image originally obtained here).

Go On: Look Like a Cow!

Go On: Look Like a Cow!

In A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace peered down on his fellow passengers as they debarked from the luxury cruise ship M.V. Zenith, and recoiled at the sight of them “waddling in expensive sandals into poverty-stricken ports,” a morally and aesthetically repulsive herd.

“For me,” he confessed, boviscopophobia is an even stronger motive than semi-agoraphobia for staying on the ship when we’re in port. “Boviscopophobia,” he explains in a footnote, is “the morbid fear of being seen as bovine.” He feared looking like a cow.

He imagines that not all the tourists are unaware that, to locals, they might resemble fat cattle. Perhaps, he muses, that despite it, they…

…refuse to let their boviscopophobia rule them:they’ve paid good money to have fun and be pampered and record some foreign experiences, and they’ll be goddamned if they’re going to let some self-indulgent twinge of neurotic projection about how their Americanness appears to malnourished locals detract from the 7NC Luxury Cruise they’ve worked and saved for and decided they deserve.

But Wallace is too truth-loving to compartmentalize. He can’t shake “a self-conscious and somewhat condescending concern about how I appear to others that is (this concern) 100% upscale American,” which is to say:

…large, fleshy, red, loud, coarse, condescending, self-absorbed, spoiled, appearance-conscious, ashamed, despairing, and greedy; the world’s only known species of bovine carnivore.*

His may be the purest example of self-loathing conflated with America-bashing we have. You don’t have to be a self-adoring patriot to see why non-self-loathers and the self-loathing-impaired might not want to ratify this sort of vision, might resent it, even.

Liberals get accused of being self-loathing a lot because, well, we often are. And we get accused of hating America because, hey, many smart, articulate liberals—like many radical Christian evangelicals—genuinely do. That is, they can only love America when they imagine it filled with people who agree with them. And it isn’t.

You can try to explain to activists why the odor of this attitude is like weaponized ammonia when it comes to organizing for change in the US, why most of their country-folk would rather eat glass—or at least corndogs—rather than identify with a vortex of self-awareness, self-rejection and moral superiority that seems destined for suicide, but listening, alas, is not the visionary’s strong suit.

What’s great about the OWS upsurge, however, is that it rightly re-assigns ordinary Americans to the ranks of the oppressed and despised—hence (for anti-authoritarian power-haters) the loveable underdog sector of the world. There’s an opportunity here to offset liberal self-and-other revulsion with some genuine fellow feeling. I hope we grab it. Fan as I am of self-loathing as insightful as David Foster Wallace’s, I don’t want his sensibility leading our country into another impotence-infatuated Naderite ditch.

Fellow citizens: Do not be afraid! Look like a cow! Love yourself as you would any other grass-fed, pasture-raised icon of bucolic simplicity. Stuff your face and your shopping bags. Waddle to freedom. Drop your cow pies and make your milk. Watch your Housewives of Atlanta. Remember: We, too, deserve liberty, good governmnt, democracy, and a reasonable amount of equality—no matter how bovine we appear to great writers…or to ourselves.

*for quotes, see .pp 310-311 hardcover ed.

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