Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Day #5: A Sense of Self
<<Constructing Identity Through Photographs>>

11/7/12, Paris

It’s my last day in Paris, & I’m sitting—literally sitting in front of Paul Gauguin’s original painting of “Arearea,” also reffered to as “Joyeusetés.” Legs crossed, sitting like a child, an entire class of French boys & girls—all around the ages of 9&10 (I know because I asked them in French)—just sat down with me, a tour guide boring them to tears about the history of Paul Gauguin. I know they’re bored because none of them are paying attention to their tour guide—they’re paying attention to me—the “big” kid, or “grande jeune americaine” I just referred to myself as. I feel like Tom Hanks in that 90s film “Big,” or better yet, I feel like Billy Madison in his first grade classroom if I were to base this situation off of their eruption of laughter after my 1st grader-sounding self introduction. I would probably agree with what I’m pretty sure they were snickering about…that I appear to not belong here…that I’m, well, “out of place.” But the truth is, I’m perfectly at peace with myself, all alone, on the cold floor of the Galerie Néo et Post Impressionniste section of the Musée d’Orsay. And to be frank, I absolutely cannot stop thinking of my grandmother as I’m writing this. Truth be told, I genuinely wish my grandma Val was sitting here with me right now so I could critique these ineffable originals of Van Gogh & Renoir’s works.

10 minutes later . . .

The craziest thing just happened as soon as I stepped out of that room. As I’m silently minding my own business on the furthest corner of the public bench outside the Galerie Françoise Cachen (where I just was), I’m writing in my journal with my feet neatly propped up on top of my purse—not even touching the bench, nor were they taking up any space whatsoever—& this Frenchman museum attendant comes over & literally repremands me as if I’m some 13-year-old preteen, telling me what I’m “doing” (addressing my “despicable” sitting position, clearly) is not "proper" or "appropriate" museum behavior, & that if I wanted to continue, then I could “easily leave if I wanted to.” I was of course appalled, as I am 19 years old, I’m not bothering anybody & am clearly not here with anybody, as I’m sitting by myself trying to process all of the thoughts reeling through my head, so I decide to question him with a bit of a friendly chuckle & a smile. He did not like that at all, & told me “if you do not like it, then you can leave.” I retorted a sarcastic “of course I like it—c’est très jolie!” (jokingly knowing it was the museum I was referring to & not my “vulgar” behavior. Needless to say, he quickly became inferiorated, & I decided then that it was probably best to swallow my innocent American pride, shut up & put my feet down, because I could easily see the situation quickly turning in my disfavor. It ‘wows’ my spirit just how rude some people can be though. While I obviously cannot generalize & attribute this man’s attitude to all French people, I have noticed an incredible sense of entitlement & sternness among the people here—like it doesn’t make much sense to me why the heck he cared if I got off not his bench but my very own purse dirty (even though I just bought these fly kicks yesterday & they’re seriously cleaner than a whistle), & why he felt the need to come up to me at all & talk to me like a child when I truly wasn’t disrupting or bothering anyone but him. I’m just trying to tie this experience into a coherent response for today’s photo assignment entitled “A Sense of Self” which is, thankfully, just like the other assignments in terms of it being completely open to interpretation. As I’m writing this though, I think this experience over all of the spectacular works of art I’ve witnessed over the course of not even the last hour sums up my sense of self pretty damn well. Clearly, I do not care about conforming to restrictive, unwritten rules regarding one’s behavior, because frankly, it’s no skin off my back what others think of me in terms of how they see me & interpret my appearance & body language. While he most likely thought I was an uninterested, lazy, disrespectful American who appeared to be getting nothing out of his precious museum, I, in fact, was, & still am, getting everything out of it. If he were to question my sense of self, I’d reply with this truth straight up: I’m most likely 100 times more self aware than he is, & I also believe myself to be the complete shit for standing up for myself by not backing down immediately after his unnecessary scolding. Of course I’m going to question him & look at him like he is a complete idiot. In my book, he is one. Go scold the actual 13-year-olds & mothers who aren’t considerate enough to go take their screaming children outside for a break instead of the quiet sophomore in college sitting in the corner minding her p’s & q’s. 

To view this complete set of photos, click on the following link to my Flickr:
Click HERE!

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