Music, Milo, and Pin-Ups of the Heart

 

Conservatives are not exhibitionists. But real Americans value real-life experience. Which means, if you write, putting your real life on display. I was thinking this as I read @therightnurse’s recent, very frank post on fibromyalgia, written with a kind of directness I’m quite honestly not brave enough to attempt in front of a full audience.

Like many children with a musical ear, I used to improvise at the piano a lot. The impromptus weren’t technically brilliant – I was (and still am) clumsy at the keyboard –  but you could always tell a piano what you really thought, and it wouldn’t judge you. Instead, it would make music for you, music which could be judged, if there was anyone around to judge it (and often there was not), for itself alone. Some found the music beautiful, some found it annoying, but in either case, the music could be valued for itself rather than for the experience of the one who made it. For a shy child, that was mostly an asset.

Shy people may remain shy even when they’ve disguised themselves with music, and for years I had horrible stage fright. I still do, I suppose, it’s just now I’m marginally better at managing ways around it. Some audiences are less scary than others, though. Friends’ families, babysitting charges… “Why are all the songs so sad?” one littler kid my older-kid self was babysitting once asked me. “Those aren’t sad, just minor. Minor is beautiful.” It wasn’t a lie. Minor is beautiful. Even for those who tend to live life in a minor key.

Pin-up art nostalgia is pretty common here at Ricochet. It’s not hard to get conservatives to hold forth on why pin-up art, which reveals a lot, but not everything, is superior to today’s exhibitionism. Where is the thrill of transgressing boundaries when there’s no longer a sense of boundaries to transgress, and so forth? Even Milo Yiannopoulos, who is an exhibitionist, displays this aesthetic. He quips gay is boring when it’s no longer transgressive. He’s Catholic and happy to be a bad Catholic, one who jokes about his latest shag and how he once seduced a parish priest as an underage teen. (NSFW) Exhibit. Exhibit. Exhibit. As long as there are boundaries. After all, there must be at least some fig leaf to distinguish us salt-of-the-earth folk from the exhibitionists we decry.

Gross exhibitionism, exhibitionism without reserve or regard for what others want to see, is not even seductive, we say. Either display less than is seductive, or seduce, but for heaven’s sake, don’t display more than that! Not that everyone wants to be seduced, either – a serial seductress is manipulative, and good Americans also hate being manipulated.

So, what do we choose to exhibit, and what do we choose to keep covered up?

I know when I write an essay, the more personal the topic, the more careful I am about what’s showing, for fear of immodesty. Many conservative women are happy to admit they have two reasons to fear bodily immodesty: virtue and vanity. Writing is the same. Expose what is flattering, cover what is not – not just for your own sake, but for the sake of the poor reader whose eye you have caught and who has to look at it. And if you feel silly displaying yourself as too much the protagonist when you know you’re not (a predicament I often find myself in), tell the same story, but about other people, or abstracted altogether.

Sure, not everyone claims to like the abstract, but that doesn’t mean the abstractions we assemble aren’t rooted in real experience. A musician talks to his instrument, using the abstraction of music to say the real things he couldn’t say otherwise. Nor is music the only abstraction we speak through, it’s merely one of the most abstract: music is an end in itself, can be judged for itself, and in that sense is intensely impersonal, although everyone knows how personal it can be.

Other times, maybe, the abstraction is just a personal mythology, not “high abstraction”. But we can’t get away from abstraction, nor should we if we wish to reveal our hearts without disgusting exhibitionism.

So sometimes we’re “artless” and “tell it like it is”. Other times, we artfully leave something (maybe a lot) up to the imagination. It’s a pin-up artistry of the heart, hopefully seductive enough to catch some reader’s fancy, but not the kind of shameless seduction that just makes people feel used.

In the past two years, there’s been a lot I found I just couldn’t talk about politely in public, and no, most of it hasn’t been about US politics. It would simply be too absurd if all told, and gross. Maybe cheaply manipulative, too. If acceptable revelation proceeds in true pin-up fashion, the license to bare one thing is purchased by deciding to cover something else. Which means, if you’re not sure what to keep covered, not baring in the first place. And even those of us bravely “baring it all” on one matter might be quite reticent on others.

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  1. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    This is also why writers, comics, poets, and other types of artists make a point of crafting their public voice and persona – it’s not all about the reveal, it’s also about the story (the narrative, to us the current popular parlance) we want to tell.

    • #1
  2. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    I actually had to fast-forward through your post to spare my 5 year old next to me the sight of the nekkid lady.

    I am frequently surprised by the extent that people here will share personal information. Indeed, I know it happens so I often will avoid posts like Right Nurse’s because I am mature enough to know there are things I really do not want to know.

    When @ishottheserif posted last year, my own parents read the post and were taken aback by how very personal it was. Which, of course, was one of the reasons it was such an effective post.

    • #2
  3. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    One person’s “frank” is another person’s “TMI.”  For the Group Writing on “Fear,” I wrote of one of the worst experiences of my life. I had never even told more than two people in my real life, yet it was easy to write it down in front of a bunch of strangers from the internet. It was cathartic. But I ended up deleting it after one person barged in to my thread and pretty much said I had asked for it. I’ll never do it again.

    • #3
  4. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: Even Milo Yiannopoulos, who is an exhibitionist, displays this aesthetic. He quips gay is boring when it’s no longer transgressive.

    Milo is partly right. Gay is boring.

    That is, gay can be boring. So can veganism, atheism, crossfit, being a two-time Obama voter — if you share any of those right off the bat, I’ll need to check the punch bowl. I have friends that fit in all of those categories. Some of them are twofers. But in no case is membership in those groups the core of their existence. They can all join into a conversation on art, or culture, or sports, or what kind of a bug Lindsey Graham is without circling back to their -ism.

    As far as writing about oneself — this is my third self-reference, so it’s time to wrap up this comment.

    • #4
  5. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    One person’s “frank” is another person’s “TMI.” For the Group Writing on “Fear,” I wrote of one of the worst experiences of my life. I had never even told more than two people in my real life, yet it was easy to write it down in front of a bunch of strangers from the internet. It was cathartic. But I ended up deleting it after one person barged in to my thread and pretty much said I had asked for it. I’ll never do it again.

    I fully understand why you pulled it, but at the same time I believe it was not only cathartic for you but for many others who have had similar experiences.  That you did share it (however briefly), I believe, allowed others to either share their own trauma or at least be able to internally acknowledge that trauma for what it really was – a crime done to them.  It helped others to feel less isolated in their own grief and guilt.

    I shared something deeply personal last year that received its own pushback in a way that struck me as both deliberately obtuse and uncouth.

    • #5
  6. OldDan Rhody Member
    OldDan Rhody
    @OldDanRhody

    Percival (View Comment):
    As far as writing about oneself — this is my third self-reference, so it’s time to wrap up this comment.

    Yeah, you were starting to go on…

    Other than that, you’ve pretty much described my take on self-revelations to strangers.

    • #6
  7. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    skipsul (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    One person’s “frank” is another person’s “TMI.” For the Group Writing on “Fear,” I wrote of one of the worst experiences of my life. I had never even told more than two people in my real life, yet it was easy to write it down in front of a bunch of strangers from the internet. It was cathartic. But I ended up deleting it after one person barged in to my thread and pretty much said I had asked for it. I’ll never do it again.

    I fully understand why you pulled it, but at the same time I believe it was not only cathartic for you but for many others who have had similar experiences. That you did share it (however briefly), I believe, allowed others to either share their own trauma or at least be able to internally acknowledge that trauma for what it really was – a crime done to them. It helped others to feel less isolated in their own grief and guilt.

    I shared something deeply personal last year that received its own pushback in a way that struck me as both deliberately obtuse and uncouth.

    Wow, I somehow missed that post. Very compelling. And thank you for the kind words.

    • #7
  8. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    skipsul (View Comment):
    This is also why writers, comics, poets, and other types of artists make a point of crafting their public voice and persona – it’s not all about the reveal, it’s also about the story (the narrative, to us the current popular parlance) we want to tell.

    The story is the abstraction, like the music. Or so it would seem to me.

    • #8
  9. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    iWe (View Comment):
    I actually had to fast-forward through your post to spare my 5 year old next to me the sight of the nekkid lady.

    Apologies. Both are covered on their swimsuit areas, but I realize one is easily mistaken for not — the one on the    1947 calendar. Which I suppose was acceptable at the time precisely because it looked naked without being naked,  another illusion used in storytelling.

    • #9
  10. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    So, Midge, boxers or briefs?

    • #10
  11. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Thank you for sharing. I do not really have a sense of what it is like to be shy. My experience is the opposite: People think I share too much.

    I am passionate about, well, anything I am interested in. I love to share that passion with others. I want to deepen any relationship I find valuable with increased information. In short, the bandwidth I want from a relationship is higher than others really want.

    Midge, I only know you through what I see here. You come across as genuine and heartfelt. You come across as someone who wants everyone to get along and be able to give each other grace. You are one of the class acts on Ricochet.

    • #11
  12. GLDIII Reagan
    GLDIII
    @GLDIII

    Arahant (View Comment):
    So, Midge, boxers or briefs?

    Depends,

    To quote an oldie but goody

    • #12
  13. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    GLDIII (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):
    So, Midge, boxers or briefs?

    Depends,

    To quote an oldie but goody

    • #13
  14. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    My dear wife and you would have plenty to talk about if either of you had the courage to say hi at a party.  Once she knows somebody she’s funny and open but before that she’s dreadfully afraid and will hide behind my general lack of worry about most anything socially odd.

    • #14
  15. Patrick McClure Coolidge
    Patrick McClure
    @Patrickb63

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    One person’s “frank” is another person’s “TMI.” For the Group Writing on “Fear,” I wrote of one of the worst experiences of my life. I had never even told more than two people in my real life, yet it was easy to write it down in front of a bunch of strangers from the internet. It was cathartic. But I ended up deleting it after one person barged in to my thread and pretty much said I had asked for it. I’ll never do it again.

    I read that post, and thought you were a strong, brave and resolute individual who triumphed over evil.  I am sorry someone else made you feel you shouldn’t have shared it.

    • #15
  16. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    I think you get Milo exactly wrong & I rather marvel at you! The point he’s making is that only being aggressive is worthwhile. Conservatives are for all sorts of rules of manners. Milo is for humiliating every human being’s sense of propriety. That conservatives now love him in America is not a surprise. America has never went to war in defense of propriety. Myth-busting is an all-American sport, after all.

    I will not comment on conservatives’ & libertarians’ embrace of a homosexual Briton who loudly says he’s proud.  I will simply state that his insanity is reprehensible. I will concede that his plan for a homosexual rebellion against the bourgeoisie, which is tolerable in America, would also be an improvement for the disgusting mindlessness of the American sophisticated classes–architecture is a misery–fashion is a misery–there is nothing worth saying in favor of American sophisticates now. The heroism of beauty should be given a chance, I’d grant.

    • #16
  17. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    The heroism of beauty should be given a chance, I’d grant.

    I can agree on that, at least.

    • #17
  18. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    skipsul (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    One person’s “frank” is another person’s “TMI.” For the Group Writing on “Fear,” I wrote of one of the worst experiences of my life. I had never even told more than two people in my real life, yet it was easy to write it down in front of a bunch of strangers from the internet. It was cathartic. But I ended up deleting it after one person barged in to my thread and pretty much said I had asked for it. I’ll never do it again.

    I fully understand why you pulled it, but at the same time I believe it was not only cathartic for you but for many others who have had similar experiences. That you did share it (however briefly), I believe, allowed others to either share their own trauma or at least be able to internally acknowledge that trauma for what it really was – a crime done to them. It helped others to feel less isolated in their own grief and guilt.

    I shared something deeply personal last year that received its own pushback in a way that struck me as both deliberately obtuse and uncouth.

    That post was my personal choice for Best Post of 2016.

    • #18
  19. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    I think you get Milo exactly wrong & I rather marvel at you!

    Bear in mind, Titus, that I have a taste for the absurd, and might be poking gentle fun at the dude and the modern American right’s affection for him.

    He is an exhibitionist, something we should be surprised we like given our general use of “exhibitionist” as a pejorative. It must take some sort of art to convince salt-of-the-earth folk his exhibitionism and his stated love of the transgressive is really Western civilization’s last defense of propriety and normalcy, and yet he has.

    Do you think his willingness to put himself on display as a supremely bad example of the virtues he professes to hold dear has nothing to do with his glamor to those who find him glamorous?

    • #19
  20. Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance
    @Sabrdance

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    I think you get Milo exactly wrong & I rather marvel at you!

    Bear in mind, Titus, that I have a taste for the absurd, and might be poking gentle fun at the dude and the modern American right’s affection for him.

    He is an exhibitionist, something we should be surprised we like given our general use of “exhibitionist” as a pejorative. It must take some sort of art to convince salt-of-the-earth folk his exhibitionism and his stated love of the transgressive is really Western civilization’s last defense of propriety and normalcy, and yet he has.

    Do you think his willingness to put himself on display as a supremely bad example of the virtues he professes to hold dear has nothing to do with his glamor to those who find him glamorous?

    Without going on another tirade about masks, I will say that “exhibitionism” can be its own form of armor.  I doubt we know much about Milo at all.  I think people pick up on this -that we are seeing a character.  Really, I think he’s taken as the Jester.  He’s the one who can say what we can’t, because he’s the one who doesn’t care about the consequences.  But I would be unsurprised if under the hat and makeup he does actually care, and he uses the schtick to hide it.

    • #20
  21. Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance
    @Sabrdance

    If you hadn’t told me that the second girl was wearing a buff swimsuit, I wouldn’t have noticed.  (You can see the difference in color about half up her back where the suit ends)  Also, I’m like 80% certain that the second pin-up’s right leg must be much shorter than her left, the angle at which the knee and ankle are drawn…

    • #21
  22. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    I’m sorry to say, I’m not really capable of detecting gently poked fun. This is a congenital issue, unfortunately.

    It takes no difficulty to understand why ugly partisan passions lead people to prefer debasement to anything else.

    • #22
  23. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    Sabrdance (View Comment):

    Without going on another tirade about masks, I will say that “exhibitionism” can be its own form of armor. I doubt we know much about Milo at all. I think people pick up on this -that we are seeing a character. Really, I think he’s taken as the Jester. He’s the one who can say what we can’t, because he’s the one who doesn’t care about the consequences. But I would be unsurprised if under the hat and makeup he does actually care, and he uses the schtick to hide it.

    I tend to agree with this.  In between the outrageous statements and comments, he will suddenly be talking in clear concise language, expressing conservative principles as well as anyone does, and doing so in areas of subject matter that would get most conservatives skinned.

    • #23
  24. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Sabrdance (View Comment):
    Without going on another tirade about masks, I will say that “exhibitionism” can be its own form of armor. I doubt we know much about Milo at all. I think people pick up on this -that we are seeing a character.

    Oh, I agree. So… it’s a little like the buff costume the second gal is wearing — except when it’s Milo, not her, we are eager to look for evidence that it’s a costume!

    • #24
  25. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    In a sense, Milo is a creature of the age & he’s doing his part to move things further. Americans are already crazy in their American way about not understanding what’s private & what’s public, what pertains to who you are & what pertains to how you conduct yourself.

    Democratic acclamation & the erotic attack on laws go on apace.

    I don’t think there’s any reliable way back to mental sanity just now. Even so, I do hope Americans learn to deal with the insanity they have wreaked upon themselves; never mind that what they’re spreading around the world in this way is dangerous & they cannot be bothered to care, let alone understand.

    But I am unhappy to see how little American conservatives have to say about sanity & insanity in a democracy. There are some who say, abandon democracy, live apart; there are some who say, humiliate it endlessly, as publicly as you can, in & for small associations. There is no more talk about the public. America the beautiful has been abandoned.

    • #25
  26. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    But I am unhappy to see how little American conservatives have to say about sanity & insanity in a democracy. There are some who say, abandon democracy, live apart; there are some who say, humiliate it endlessly, as publicly as you can, in & for small associations. There is no more talk about the public. America the beautiful has been abandoned

    You are going to have to expand on that.  America has always been nuts.  And we’re not a democracy.

    • #26
  27. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    skipsul (View Comment):

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    But I am unhappy to see how little American conservatives have to say about sanity & insanity in a democracy. There are some who say, abandon democracy, live apart; there are some who say, humiliate it endlessly, as publicly as you can, in & for small associations. There is no more talk about the public. America the beautiful has been abandoned

    You are going to have to expand on that. America has always been nuts.

    American crazy is as old as America. That’s true. But not knowing the distinction between private & public is new. The destruction of mores now nearing its visible completion has only been happening in the last two generations.

    And we’re not a democracy.

    Sure–it’s just an accident that phenomena of popularity dominate whatever’s left of the public, the people have no patience for restraints on their will, & that so many young Americans feel desperately invisible in the mass & will do anything to stand out.

    • #27
  28. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    The destruction of mores now nearing its visible completion has only been happening in the last two generations.

    You’ve been looking at People of Walmart again, haven’t you?

    • #28
  29. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    D’you know I didn’t see one, not one, in three months? I’ve some comments on that, but I will refrain.

    But when Indians who think I’m American want to call me by my first name on the phone, I feel all of us have something to lose in that transaction–on the other hand, this may all redound to the benefit of Rudert, the secret king of Ricochet…

    • #29
  30. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Milo is a Brit of Greek birth. Why does it always come back to what “America” is doing to the world? It’s those Europeans, especially the Romanians, who don’t even know the difference.

    • #30
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