Scars, gray hair, “real” beauty

A photo: where I’ve been, by dayzoid on Flickr. A self-portrait I think.

I like this scar— I like looking at most scars, and I work on looking at the rest. But the photo itself seems like the kind of thing that gets referred to as “real” beauty in skincare advertising. An older woman, but with flattering makeup and lighting. Gray hair, but stylish and even. Not a bone rack, but posed to look smooth and curvy, never lumpy or saggy or folded. Making some kind of cute and peaceful facial expression. Definitely feminine, but not sexual (not coincidentally, usually looking freshly washed and clean). It’s a very contrived and limited type of “real.” Looking again, this photo is not as extreme as all that, but the demure smile and the smooth white hair reminded me.

I don’t get why more people don’t rant about how patronizing it is to use “real” as a euphemism for old or fat. I can’t decide if it is better or worse than the older concepts of “imperfect beauty” or “inner beauty.” There are probably more phrases in body image activism that drive me bonkers. The whole focus seems off to me— I don’t think it helps anyone to offer these alternate, consolation prize types of beauty, more ways to win at being beautiful. That doesn’t do anything to get away from ranking people or competing. I really think the focus should be on learning to see more kinds of beauty, to be a better beholder.

Fancypants neck brace, a knitting pattern

knitted neck brace, ready to be stamped on a coin

The first neck brace scarf was so quick that I was inspired to make another one. Usually I’m all about elaborate crafts that involve at least a year of delayed gratification, which I think makes me very vulnerable to the finished-object high. More more more!

I probably could have stopped before adding the fuzzy ruffle thing, but I wanted to make it weird. My vision was jellyfishy, but unless jellyfishes have a European royal court I’m not sure that really comes through. More of a bizarro-Elizabethan neck brace.

Here’s a snapshot through a dirty mirror that shows the front, and also, incidentally, a quite accurate representation of my personal idea of what I look like.

knitted neck brace, dirty mirror, self image

The creature itself looks like this.

neck brace laid out

Some patterns for knitting one.

  • Knit a long triangle. The decreases don’t have to be evenly placed.
  • I used random-width welts to make the fabric firm enough to stand up. (Alternating stockinette and reverse stockinette stitch.)
  • The main piece used about 50g of worsted weight yarn (one thrifted ball), on 4.5mm needles.
  • The ruffle took a few yards of mohair-esque stuff (again, thrifted and unlabelled) on 5.5mm… could have used much fatter needles for an airier ruffle.
  • I tried it on to place the buttons (actually a long cufflink-thing made out of two pearl beads and some embroidery floss), and to mark the start and end of the ruffle.

knitted neck brace / hall of mirrors

Scar pride

{Flickr photo}

At first I was just looking for a few photos of people’s scars, having been reminded by Erin’s copy of the Learning to Love You More book. But, in typical internetto fashion, now I am intrigued by the patterns that show up when you look at a mass of public scar photos. There are some popular subjects— self-harm exhibitionism and processing, scars from pregnancy and cesarians (not so much finding episiotomy scar pics), voyeurism with optional processing (especially around major burn scars, and ritualized scarification by some African cultures), manifestos and statements about beauty and beautiful scars, and more general scar pride and storytelling. I find this last one the least complicated, the easiest to post photos without major accompanying comments. (In this one I’m only spotting basics, about how it’s easier to be proud of pretty much anything when you are cute and posing, but I still like how that calculator watch makes her look tough.)

Purple neck brace, a knitting pattern

heroic knitting moment

I made this neck warmer in one afternoon, with no counting. Hooray! It even ended up with half a Darth Vader collar that I like, and made a couple dents in my crafting stash. Time for heroic poses in the bathroom mirror.

I was remembering this tapered neckwarmer and this scarflink (scroll to Oct 27, 2002) while I knitted.

It looks like this on its own, if you want to make something similar.

knitted neck brace laid out

This pattern is such a non-pattern that I insist on writing it formally, because it is funny.


  • 100g (60m) of thick and thin wool
  • 12mm needles
  • 2 buttons and thread


CO 22 sts.

Work in garter stitch, decreasing one at each end of random rows (approximately every 4-6 rows), down to 2 sts. K2tog.

Pull yarn through remaining stitch and leave the tail hanging out as a fastener.

Weave in the cast on end.

Sew or tie the two buttons together to make a cuff-link type thing. Button it into the outside layer of the scarf and wrap the tail around it to fasten. (Move or flip the button at will.)

The end.

reversible buttons for a scarf

All the ingredients have stories. Past projects, hand-me-downs, gifts, inheritances. That feels good.

Various marriage- and baby-related plans

  • I think I want to get divorced sometime. Sorry marriage, I just don’t care about you. It would be much funnier to be divorced to my loverman, and introduce him as my ex-husband. The former Mr. Mundy. I think this would offer a much more accurate shorthand expression of our relationship. Right now I think the government approval is confusing.
  • So I am trying to figure out how to not have that look like we tricked people into giving us wedding presents. Because it wasn’t like that. (Except for the usual capitalist / consolidation-of-wealth aspects of the whole institution of marriage, but we actually work pretty hard to get around a lot of that.)
  • This would solve my main wedding-related regret, which was forfeiting the opportunity to birth a third-generation bastard. Both Galen and I were conceived out of wedlock, and so were his mum and my dad. I think this is a proud heritage, even if it makes my dad roll his eyes.
  • I would be willing to conceive a baby in wedlock (but not in a headlock) and then birth it outside of wedlock.
  • Also I am considering not disclosing the sex of any children I might squeeze out for at least a few days after they are born, to give them some space to be treated as ambiguous slugs. I don’t think that’s weird, but Galen thinks it might freak people out. So heads up, people who would be meeting these hypothetical spawn.
  • I guess that means they might not get named for a few days, also.

“The life of art”

I’m reading a book on the history of horror movies (finally, prompted by a haunted house analysis that Dark Daughta linked). My horror book quotes a character from Upton Sinclair’s 1922 novel They Call Me Carpenter, talking about The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

This picture could not possibly have been produced in America. For one thing, nearly all the characters are thin. … One does not find American screen actors in that condition. Do your people care enough about the life of art to take a risk of starving for it?