I decided to put together a Halloween costume this year. Leave aside the fact that that fact makes me a big kid past 50, I want to be Frida Kahlo. As you probably well know, she has become an iconic part of popular culture in recent years. In part, due to the movie made about her life in 2002. But also her raw, moving, and complete art collection came north of the border for the first time several years after the movie was released. I flew to Atlanta specifically to see it, and was not disappointed. I have had books of her art and biography around the house for years.
Upon sharing my costume idea with a young adult daughter (she’s going to be a mermaid this year), I was informed that it would be in bad taste and represent disrespectful “cultural appropriation” for me to do that. My knee-jerk reaction was to be crestfallen. The last thing I wanted was to be hurtful or offensive. But being over 50 comes with its benefits, too. Quickly righting myself, I began to wonder why Frida could not belong to me too?
Yes, Frida was Mexican. She was also a woman of unique strength, heart, talent, and before her time giant balls. It is with complete respect I emulate her for a day – and if I am being presumptuous at all, I think she would be pleased at her name coming up at a party so long after her death. What a legacy!
There are many things we have all integrated into our daily lives. Good things that have their roots in other cultures. Far from being a put down, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. I speak Spanish. My first ever love was a Mexican man. We cook and eat Mexican food. I will never BE Mexican. Does this mean I must treat all things outside my own culture as one-dimensional property of others?
And it’s not just Latin cultures that we could, in theory, be admonished for enjoying.
I exclaim “Mazel Tov” occasionally. I am not Jewish
As a show of support and acceptance, rainbow flags are flown by those who are not gay.
You may take your shoes off when entering someone’s home – even if not Japanese.
I think it is hypocritical to wish for One Love, yet feel so fiercely proprietary about the beautiful things brought here from other people and places.
I guess it all boils down to intent. Cuisine, language, music, fashion, history. The more we share of ourselves, the more others learn about who we are. And to withhold who you are from the curiosity and interest of others assumes they do not value you. Please don’t assume that! Use it instead as a springboard for education and conversation.
Sometimes, donning something of another makes us feel beautiful - and we tend to try on the identities we admire.
Think about it. I welcome your viewpoint and comments.