Sat | Feb 17, 2018

The constant costumes of self-confidence

Published:Friday | April 8, 2016 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
The full array of Bacchanal Jamaica’s 2015 costumes.

So the 2016 carnival celebrations have come and gone in all the accustomed guises - Bacchanal, Jamaica, Downtown, UWI, a Jamaica teaser - with the ladies, especially on the road marches, in their disguises. And I mean disguises, not costumes, for although the faces are visible, they may as well have been at a masked ball, for all the true self that is revealed.

While the unending debate about women's carnival nakedness being given far different treatment than stripping down for dancehall rears its head about this time each year (and that conversation should never end, as long as our social prejudices against the lower socioeconomic class and darker skin complexion exists), there is another angle to the dressing down at Easter that we might consider. We should recognise that putting on costumes takes place incessantly in our society outside of what we deem as special occasions and don the appropriate, obvious costumes for.

And we should ask ourselves, why is there this deep discomfort that so many of us have with the bodies we inhabit and the selves we walk around with, to the extent that we always have to be wearing a mask of clothing? We should also ask ourselves why so many of us seem to think that the more we look unlike ourselves, the more our appearances improve.

Plus, if we really feel better about ourselves, depending on if we think we are looking better, then how is our self-confidence when we do not have on the costume? For that is the true level of our self-esteem.




It goes beyond the obvious wig and weave that women spend so much on, to things that are so ingrained in our society that we take them for granted. Take the business suit, which some men are required to wear as part of their executive look. It is totally impractical in a tropical country and preposterous, even. But wear it many men do, some, as a matter of course, and others for special occasions.

Then there is the Friday dress-down jeans-and-heels uniform day for ladies who work in some offices which allow that sort of thing. It should be a day that is very relaxed, heading into the weekend, but from my observation, so much effort goes into the dressing down that it could just be a hell of a lot easier to dress up.

So while those of us who are not into carnival (and I am one of them) have a go at the silliness of persons cavorting on the streets in a doggedly determined effort by a misfit social class to not only show they belong, but also mount a show of force of superiority by the flesh, let us not forget the everyday wearing of costumes in our society. It is a most unhealthy thing, this business of presenting what we think is the best of ourselves which is most unlike how we actually look.