It’s Not You, It’s Society: “It’s Just a Phase”

“It’s not you, it’s society” is a series of rants about socially acceptable and polite comments that bother me. Read more here.

“It’s just a phase.”

I’m sure you’ve heard it before. It’s a common way to dismiss some aspect of a person’s identity or life that you don’t want to acknowledge, while claiming to know that person better than they know themself. It can refer to sexuality, gender identity, interests, career aspirations, political/religious beliefs, and basically anything else. Younger people tend get it a lot.

Usually, people defend themselves by trying to prove that the aforementioned quality is not a temporary phase and is instead a permanent part of who they are. This is completely valid and I have done it in more than one context, BUT I also believe that no one should ever even have to make that argument because the entire idea behind “it’s just a phase” is really an awful and illogical reason to trivialize someone’s identity, experiences, or desires.

Like this guy.

The assumption is that whatever someone is right now is more of an transient experience on the way to becoming the fully-fledged, real, predestined, unchanging “true” self. They’re more of a pre-person than an actual current human being.

But when exactly do people turn into their “real” self instead of some less-real self-in-transition. When they’re 30? 40? When they completely stop changing? For how long? 5 years? 20 years? Forever?

If we’re going to take those standards to their logical extension, pretty much nothing is real. Imagine these conversations:

  • Yeah, he retired from his hospital job. He always told me he was a doctor, but I guess he was just going through a 40-year “practicing medicine” phase.
  • At 90, he doesn’t seem to be into women in the same way he used to be. I guess he was just going through a 80-year heterosexual phase.
It's okay, we all go through hetero phases.

It’s okay, we all go through hetero phases.

  • Turns out she’s dead now. I knew she was just going through a little “alive” phase.
This guy knows.

This guy knows it.

Sorry, was that last one too morbid? But lets be real, the only permanent state in human existence is death (maybe–even that one is arguable). If we’re going to use permanence as the golden standard of legitimacy and “realness,” we’re left with a very narrow and pretty depressing view of reality.

Of course, no one claiming “it’s just a phase” actually comes to this conclusion because they don’t actually apply that permanence standard universally. It’s not exactly a coincidence that people only declare qualities that they dislike or don’t understand to be “phases” while automatically assuming qualities they like or identify with to be legitimate. Since we’ve established that permanence isn’t an actual thing, can we agree that “it’s a phase” is just a method of dismissing a present reality that you don’t like/understand by assigning more legitimacy to an imagined future which you like better?

So, yes it may be very likely that “it” (what ever it may be) is actually not a phase (relative to a person’s life span, anyway). But so what if it was? Even then, it still wouldn’t be “just” a phase. People have every right to go through phases, because humans are living, breathing, dynamic beings who are don’t have to be the same people today as we will be tomorrow to prove that we exist.

If phases aren’t real and important . . . what is?

So go along with your little “living” phase and make it as real and fabulous as you want to, without challenging the existence of anyone else’s. Have fun!

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Narcissist

Some people assume that dancers or performers in general are narcissists. Speaking for myself, I sometimes fear that this is true, but for the exact opposite reasons than you might expect.

When people think of narcissistic performers, they picture someone who needs an audience. They need the constant attention and validation of others to feel important. Yup, they live for the applause.

No, not quite . . .

That’s not me. I fell in love with being on stage at a young age, but since then, it has been far surpassed by a love for simply dancing. Performing is great–I love being able to share what I do with others, I love the rush of the moment, and a little applause/external validation is a nice bonus–but the truth is, I would be doing the exact same thing for an audience of none. Even if I knew that no one would ever see me dance again, that wouldn’t stop me from dancing and working to learn and grow and discover myself and loose myself in the process.

Which can be thought of as simply another form of “ME ME ME ME ME!”

One of my fears is that the work I’m doing as a dancer or choreographer is a whole lot more meaningful for me than for anyone who is watching. Sometimes this is inevitably true because the work just means so much to me. (Plus, lets face it: we’ve all seen a few performances that seem like they were a lot more interesting to make or dance than they are to watch.) And then, how do I justify this sort of self-indulgence to myself and to others who think it’s a waste of time? When you want to do something that makes a lot of money, you can get away without having a moral justification, but when you want to do something with little financial promise, you end up having to explain yourself a lot. How do I deal with the fact that I want to dedicate a huge chunk of my life to making things that might benefit me more than anyone else?

I can try psuedo-mathmatical rationalization: maybe if I added up the value that each person got from watching, it would equal something big enough. I can talk about how art can profoundly impact lives, giving people hope and inspiration when they most need it, but I know that as great as this is, it is beside the point for why I do it.

Because I know that I would still be doing it if every audience member left, leaving me without any pretext of altruism. And then what would I be doing? Certainly not stimulating the economy or even the minds or hearts of others. What would I be making? Personal discovery and spiritual fulfillment? How privileged and selfish it is to want those things. And what a beautiful privilege it is to want those things. 

Heres the thing. I can and will argue that art matters, but even if it didn’t, that that wouldn’t stop me from doing it. I’ll be thrilled to share my art with you, but even if you’re not interested, I’ll still be dancing.

Does Disney Set an Unrealistic Standard of Natural Thermoregulation?

Background: my family is interesting (in a good way . . . sometimes). We saw Frozen, and while we all thought it was awesome, my mom had some concerns. Not about portrayals of romance, beauty, or power, but about the characters’ clothes not being heavy enough: “they’re gonna get hypothermia in those dresses!” Here’s what the world might be like if everyone was my mom:

Disney’s latest animated movie, Frozen, has raised controversy related to its portrayal of characters insufficiently dressed for the surrounding climate. Parents and advocacy groups warn that these types of media images can fuel already occurring, unhealthy trends of flip-flop-clad teenagers in below-freezing weather.

Image

Cold doesn’t bother you? Well it should.

Advocates have expressed concern that children of all genders are exposed to images of inadequate wardrobes, but Lisa Burns, head of the advocacy group Parents for the Representation of Sweaters, worries particularly about the lack of female role models demonstrating seasonally-appropriate clothing choices. She notes that while Kristoph, the movie’s primary male character, first appears in boots and a fur coat, suggesting that men can be both well-insulated and successful, the movie’s princesses are shown enduring blizzards in dresses with dangerously thin fabric. “I just want my daughters to see that real women wear earmuffs,” she says.

Childhood development specialist Andrea Frost claims that the unrealistic standard of natural thermoregulation imposed by Disney on young girls is simply dangerous. She points to the chorus of “Let it Go” a musical solo performed by Queen Elsa in which she proudly declares “the cold never bothered me anyway.” “Young women should know that not only is it normal to be bothered by extremely cold temperatures,” Frost explains, “but also that these temperatures can cause frostbite, hypothermia, and even organ failure, especially in the absence of heavy clothing. Unprotected cold is not something we should be glorifying as a society.”

Despite the criticisms, Frozen has become Disney’s second highest grossing animated film and has received praise for its animation and musical numbers. Disney representatives have yet to comment.