Friday, January 5, 2018

La Flâneuse

My final Christmas break from grad school was chocked full of unexpected opportunities for networking. Inspired by one initial encounter during the mad rush of holiday shopping, I found myself at a Staples makin my very first business cards...
now, lots of actor business cards include a cheesin headshot or the occasionally-less-obnoxious commercial/editorial photo, but the thought of my face being in some stranger's wallet made me feel weird and gross. And I have enough trouble keeping my headshots up-to-date as it is; I didn't want to add yet another thing to alter every time I change my hair. Afterall, I have a website now, just brimming with photos of me...the truly curious can have a ball by tuning in there.
The idea of the photo on the business card isn't a bad one. I mean, we are selling ourselves as actors, and our physical appearance has a lot to do with it. It's one of those things where I'd probably be better off to follow suit, but something in me (oppositional defiance anyone?) urged me not to comply. It probably has a lot to do with the commodification and unrealistic standards of women in media which I wrote about last month, and the subsequent frustration with photographs of myself, but I also want my "brand" to transcend my exterior attributes. I want to be a part of and create work that challenges and inspires people not to comply, and frankly my appearance has very little to do with it.
Be the change you wanna see, right?
I added the title Flâneuse to the brand line on the cards and as it turns out, it's a great conversation starter.
The poor amount of French I can actually speak from my time abroad in Paris may entice one to view this self-given label as your run-of-the-mill basic white girl Francophilia/cultural appropriation, but there's truly no better word that encompasses who I am and what I have to offer as an artist. It was also part of the original web address I chose for my first foray in the blog world, which was a wildly popular effort (ha!) to keep friends and family Stateside abreast of my exploits studying abroad.
The flâneur existed in 20th century pop culture as the man of leisure promenading the wide boulevards of Paris. The observer or urban explorer. At it's root is the Norse word for wandering aimlessly...which incidentally is exactly how my grandmother described my blog posts. (At least somebody's reading this thing.) So there ya are.
Flâneuse is the feminine form of the word which was less popular and altogether unlikely when the flâneur became the "emblematic archetype of urban, modern experience." Mainly because the modern woman didn't exist yet. I referenced a great book review I mistook for social commentary in an earlier post, and now I look forward to reading the Lauren Elkin book that expounds upon the notion "that the flâneuse is any determined, resourceful individual keenly attuned to the creative potential of the city, and the liberating possibilities of a good walk."
To me, it's inherently feminist and deeply personal. Walking the streets of NYC helped me healthily mourn the death of my longest, closest friend. From there I went to Paris and Berlin to do more of the same. Hitting the pavement helped me process an incredibly difficult break-up and deliberate the most confusing life circumstances. The first play I ever wrote was about a woman walking the streets in this way. The catharsis and necessity of the physical expression of literally moving on.
The Elkin book review acknowledged the somewhat dichotomous conundrum (great band name btw) of this flâneuse character being at once immersed in culture and removed from it altogether. I find myself similarly drawn to be a part of it all and somehow simultaneously have no part of it. I am extremely moved by and attracted to the human race, but I also get easily exasperated by our mutual limitations and flaws. Hence the move from NYC to a tiny town of 700 people outside Asheville, NC. And the return to the profession of acting but the life commitment to a man who wouldn't dream of living in a big city. And the attempts at blogging but refusal to participate fully in the gamut of social media like Instagram and Twitter (guys I can barely keep up on Facebook and I already hate how much time I spend scrolling). It's the desire to connect but also the fear that maybe the connection won't be enough or isn't what I'm looking for after all.
Too bad this bomb cyclone might ruin my desire to walk the streets of New York City next week. I know it ages me to prefer strolling to scrolling, but so be it. I'll be 36 in 5 days, and weather permitting I'll spend a good portion of my birthday flâneusing Brooklyn or Manhattan.
In short, flâneuse is the most concise way to say blogger/feminist/pedestrian/yogi/luddite/creative.
Because that wouldn't fit on a business card.

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