Friday, April 4, 2014

The art of being "frivolous"

I like clothes. A lot. And television, and movies, and music, and almost anything else that could possibly put under the giant umbrella of "pop culture." I could talk about the artistic choices in last week's episode of "Girls" for way longer than is normal, and what I'm most looking forward to about getting my own place after graduation is that having a permanent address means I can finally subscribe to all the magazines I love.

Generally, all that stuff I listed above is seen by a lot of people as frivolous. And sure, I'll grant you: reading Harper's Bazaar isn't the same as reading classic literature or the New York Times business section. But here's where I think people get stuck: intellect and a love of the things society has deemed "frivolous" don't have to be mutually exclusive.

ELLE magazine recently published an essay by novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie entitled "Why Can't A Smart Woman Love Fashion?" and I'm of the opinion that it should be required reading for anyone with a pulse. In it, Adichie talks about the years she spent dulling down her personal style in order to be taken more seriously. Sadly, I think that's something women, and people in general experience a lot, whether it's their sense of style or something else they hide to be perceived as more academic or intellectual.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
But why should Adichie have to pretend she doesn't love designer clothes in order for people to take her seriously? Where does the notion come from that this quality can't exist in someone who is also intelligent and professional? People are always going to have preconceived notions, but it's time we all stop feeding into the idea that being girly, or liking fashion magazines or Gossip Girl, in any way takes away from how your intelligence or skill should be perceived. Knowing what a statement nail is doesn't mean you can't also know the ins and outs of quantum physics.

As I have mentioned about a million times at this point, I think Mindy Kaling is a fantastic role model. She is killing it career-wise, and she also just seems like the kind of person who would be really fun to hang out with. And if you check out her Instagram, it also happens to be chock full of pictures of pretty dresses and celebrities. Does any of that take away from her professional success? No. If Kaling can be Ivy League educated and put those brains to work in the entertainment industry, more power to her. We need more smart, funny people contributing to what the public watches. Steve Carell put it best when he described Mindy:  

"Mindy is exceptionally smart, but is not afraid to talk about nail polish. And yet her love of nail polish does not take away from her smartness. In a perfect world, she would take my SATs for me, and then we would go to the mall together."

Mindy Kaling
I love writing about pretty much anything and everything, but I especially enjoy writing about pop culture. Whether it's a new movie that just came out or the Oscars best-dressed, that's where I have the most fun. Sometimes, I let other people's perceptions get me down. I'm constantly surrounded by English majors who aspire to write the next Great American Novel, or journalists who want to break the next big story. I'll think: if I were really a good writer, wouldn't I be talking about more serious issues? And sometimes I do talk about the serious stuff. But I also think we sometimes forget the importance of the so-called "frivolous" things. Sure, there may be more noble pursuits in life than comedy writing or beauty tips. But we can't all be doctors, or hard-hitting investigative journalists, and if I can write something that makes someone laugh, or makes their day a little better? It starts to seem a little less frivolous and a lot more meaningful to me.

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