Beauty, Assault, and (Self) Love

“Women are faced with a constant barrage of advertisements every day and the subliminal messages that come with this visual assault. These messages are influenced by years of sexism and oversexualization in the media, and shape the actions of female consumers*”

Cited from an interesting research I read today and I feel like I cannot agree more. Media and culture have been constantly manipulating our perspective about ideal beauty standards, like physical desirability.

Growing up watching commercials defined beauty standards by making physical indicators (like skin tone, body shape, height, etc) as a form of assault, while attacking a woman’s self esteem who genetically does not  fit the standard. It is deeply effecting MY self esteem, a woman who born with dark skin.

Personally, I think whitening product itself is understating the beauty of dark skinned women. The “before and after” images in skin whitening commercials are indirectly saying that woman with darker skin does not fit into the ideal beauty standards. “Dark skin needs to be repaired by using whitening products”. And having white skin is one of our culture’s definition of beauty (at least in my country).

So, that is why I have been struggling with these insecurities since I was little. But slowly I’m starting to realize that “embracing it” is actually much easier than “covering it up”. So now, I bow to no beauty standards. My thoughts may be controlled by culture and media, but I choose to respond based on my own choice and I choose self love.

-AA-

*https://digitalcommons.unomaha.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1028&context=university_honors_program

Fictitious Beauty

Adding a crown on her head
does not lessen her insecurity
or dissolve her hesitancy

Adding an alluring title as a princess
does not help to clarify the identity of her
or solve the confusion inside her

It is only generating greater amounts
of emotional fragility on her

The expectation of perfectness is implausible
The pressure of a “princess” ideal image
is indescribable burden

She is tangled in a fictitious beauty.

But the power of genuine supports,
enduring compassion, and unconditional acceptance
from the significant others
slowly help her to gather the broken pieces
that are scattered underneath her inner vulnerability.

She tries to clear the phantoms
from her head and grasps reality
she swims into the depth
of her self-confidence and courage
She aims not for perfection anymore

The crown is only an ornament
they put it on her because she deserves it
the insecurities and doubts inside her
are elements that will always be needed
to keep her grounded.

She needs no validation;
because every woman is a queen.
A ruler of her own life.

-AA-

Loss of Self

I don’t see acting with fear
but with longing.

I feel more comfortable on stage,
Living in someone else’s role
Standing on the spotlight as you
Hoarding away oneself
As deep as I can.

Because off stage is the hardest.
I feel uncomfortable with the unscripted plays
It is confusing enough to figure out my role in society,
my blocking in reality, and my characters in real life.

I am lost.
Isolated from oneself.

And this separateness perpetuates unnecessary suffering.

Therefore, I go back on stage.
Acting every scene with both passion and hatred
Detached and define another me

Reality is the hardest
Full of ironies and bereavements, too dramatic.
Aloof from real emotions, too fictional.
Restrained exploration of oneself, too restrained.

Reality is the hardest
Compulsion for normative sense
And tamed feelings for social recognition;
They make me feel useless

I feel uninterrupted anguish at my own uselessness

Therefore, I go back on stage.
Acting every scene freely
Legally expressing all kind of thoughts

I am longing for the art of acting
It is my personal way to escape the daily torture of my existence.

My sanctuary.

-AA-

Nature and I

Seribu Island, 2019

I am absorbing all the elements of nature.

Sand soothes all my discomforts. Falling leaves, brown and fragile, reflect my genuine compliance. The intense sensation of love from nature softens my ego. Warm wind raises extreme relaxation in my mind, soul, and heart.

I am blessed to be able to feel the sensation of nature. Its elements are guiding me to find self-love

-AA-

Gelas Ini Masih Kosong!

Gelas ini masih kosong…
Padahal sudah ku isi berkali-kali,
Tapi selalu kembali kosong.

Mungkin karena retakan kecil di dasar,
Hingga membuat air terus mengalir keluar.
Tapi aku yakin sudah mengelemnya,
Dengan kata maaf dan sampai jumpa.

Tapi gelas ini masih kosong…

Mungkin karena ruang yang terlalu dalam
Hingga membuat kata penuh tidak pernah cukup
Tapi aku yakin sudah mengisi sebagian
Dengan kasih dan perhatian

Tapi nyatanya, gelas ini masih kosong!

Mungkin ada lubang yang tidak terlihat
Tertutupi oleh penyesalan dan rasa takut.

-AA-

The Memories of The Unseen

Auschwitz-Birkenau, 2019

Holocaust
I stood under the gate of the largest killing center,
Where “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Makes One Free) is written on it;
Auschwitz-Birkenau, also known as Auschwitz II.
The concentration camp.

My thoughts were everywhere,
All I had were sorrowful memories;
Starvation, genocide, persistence desires
to torture, desensitized soldiers, etc.

My first step felt heavy

In barrack 10, I saw where they slept,
And someone whispered slowly;
“I was here”
“It was cold”
“we were starving”
but hey, I was all alone in barrack 10.

In barrack 12, I saw a little girl.
She looked at me with her mournful eyes.

Read More »

Runtuh

Desa Dangiang, Lombok Utara, Agustus 2018.

Bagian 1 – Malam itu.

Pada malam itu, aku terbaring di atas ranjang dengan pasrah dan rebah. Celah pada atap mengizinkanku untuk menatap langit yang sedang begitu tenang. Bulan perlahan merambat menjauhi awan, begitu indah. Pepohonan mengayun dengan lembutnya, mengikuti irama deburan ombak. Aku rasakan tenangnya malam. Aku jumpai mimpi yang begitu dalam.

Pukul 01.52, aku terhentak, terbangun. Anjing-anjing menggonggong begitu keras, moncong mengarah pada rembulan, satu, dua, tiga, dan kemudian bising.

Burung-burung berhamburan di langit, terbang tanpa arah. Jangkrik berteriak lebih kencang dari biasanya. Malam mendadak riuh. Ikan-ikan melompat jauh ke langit. Hewan ternak lari dengan liar, menjauhi kandang mereka, satu, dua, tiga, kemudian kacau.

Ada yang salah. Kataku dalam hati. Ada yang aneh. Intuisi mengatakan “Lari! Selamatkan diri!” namun kenyataan tidak melihat apa-apa. Nenek masih tidur, ibu dan adik juga. Aku kembali pejamkan mata.

Pukul 02.05, aku terhentak, dilempar ke atas dan dijatuhkan kembali ke bumi.
Kemudian kami terhentak, dilempar ke atas dan dijatuhkan kembali ke bumi.
Kemudian rumah kami terhentak, dilempar ke atas dan dijatuhkan kembali ke bumi.Read More »

Kepada Tuan Di Atas Panggung

Kepada Tuan di atas panggung.

Ada keanehan pada sebuah permainan seni peran, Tuan. Selalu seperti ada sesuatu yang terjadi pada detik sebelum saya melangkah masuk ke panggung itu.

Seperti ada sosok lain yang ikut masuk, bersama tubuh dan jiwa ini. Membuat saya lupa akan ratusan pasang mata yang mendadak berhenti mencari, ketika belasan lampu sorot mulai dimainkan.

Kali ini, ada Nyonya Tjiaw Koe yang ikut bermain bersama saya di panggung, Tuan. Kebaya hijau yang mencolok dan segelintir perhiasan sebagai tanda kemakmuran, ia kenakan untuk merayakan Malam Cap Go Meh di tahun 1930. Nyonya Tjiaw Koe dengan rambut yang selalu tersanggul rapih dan sebaris uban, menggambarkan umur yang tak lagi muda. Jalan yang mulai bungkuk dengan langkah kecil namun cepat, seperti layaknya peranakan Tiong Hoa kuno. Sungguh ia krempeng tak menarik, Tuan.

Setelah dialog terakhir, tirai pun tertutup perlahan dan lampu sorot mulai padam. Terdengar satu, dua, tiga, lima puluh, hingga ratusan tepuk tangan dari kursi penonton.

Read More »

The Land Above The Clouds

Dieng Mountain, 2018

February 23th, the day I started my journey to a place called Dieng; the abode of the gods. The long road I took was covered with mist. So, I walked with blinded eyes. Misted up with a clueless mind.

I arrived at night, swept away with nescience and a camouflaged excitement. The place was cold and windswept. I could feel the cold knocking my spinal column tremendously. The skies seemed perpetually dark with rain. I was all bewildered.

The next day, February 24th, everything was different. The day began warm and blustery, in contrast to a night of uninterrupted rain. The wind whispered mildly to my ear said, “it’s going to be a good day”.

When the sun brightened and the wind blew the mist away, I walked myself to the edge and I was then startled and dumbfounded with what was presented in front of me;

A village. The most peaceful and beautiful one.

The name “Dieng” was taken from a Sanskrit word means the abode of the gods. It evidently concealed a beautiful village where gods once abode. A colossal beauty hidden on top of the high place, more than 2000 meter above sea level. Covered with mists and clouds. Amongst mountains. Distanced by the voracious civilization. Shielded with modesty and sufficiency of nature. Just green and blue.

When I was savoring the peacefulness, suddenly, I heard footsteps. It were gentle and tiny. I turned my back and dazed with rigidity. I saw little angels, running toward me in their most free souls. I whispered astonishingly to myself, “Incarnations of the Gods”.

With all the glories that were hidden inside it, Dieng had delivered the most alluring children. Read More »

When I Talk About God & Religion

“To some, Islam is nothing but a code of rules and regulations. But, to those who understand, it is a perfect vision of life” – Yasmin Mogahed.

Note to self; I am not a saint. Not until whenever. I have no force to erase all the sins in me, and have no guts to keep any hallowed promises. But one modest thing I noted to myself; that I fervently believe in the existence of God and have no intention in doubting my religion “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt” – William Shakespeare in “Measure in Measure”.

I live in the world full of the innocent and the sinners. Demons and angels are formed as men or women. Where savageness and kindness are all gathered in particular places. I see black and white with a hint of grey. I see people acknowledged inhumanity as humanity. I see people with high altruism help each other while others just look away, in the same hallway. Vaguely, I understand that this world will never change. Badness and goodness are the chains and pedals of wheels to maintain this world in rotating. For me, badness and goodness will always walk together as parents. Teaching us – the innocent infants – good and bad things. As I grow older, I place religion as my filter. It helps me filter the badness and  extend the capacity of goodness in life.

I am judged as naïve, close-minded, or sometimes I hear people call me innocent in a connotative way, for strictly doing my prayers. Honestly, from my deepest heart, I care even less. Their judgments are their own insecurities, limitations, and needs.

Some events in life are just unpredictable and have no clear answers. And I love these vague things. I have certain desires for something that cannot be proven scientifically. It satisfies my mystical personality type – according to psychologist Steven Reiss in “The 16 Strivings for God”.

Somehow, believing in God’s existence is my personal consumption of uncertainty, my personal equalizer. It equalizes me from all these  scientific explanations, studies, researches, books, and journals that I have been exposed to. Educators have been feeding me with  logic and coherency, with rationalistic and facts. So, believing in something that contradicts all my scientific knowledge – something unseen and untouched- is all I need to keep my sanity.

-AA-