Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Layered Look

The Dream: I have gone to a store with a male friend. I am wearing a shirt and underpants. I start to feel self-conscious, and I realize this is the second time I've done this recently. I turn to my companion saying, “You could have said something!”

The store is dimly lit; I'm hoping no one will notice, or that I can pull down my shirt to the point it will cover the undies. I become aware that I'm wearing two pairs. The longer pair, boxer shorts, is silky and patterned: dark blue, black and white. The second pair, worn over the boxers, is flesh colored with a typical women's panty cut.

What do these underwear represent? The boxers, with their bold masculine pattern, are closest to my body. Over these, but not completely covering them up, is a skin-colored layer of femininity.

The dream leads me to ask: what is my essence? Is femininity an overlaid cultural construct, obscuring what actually lies closer to my skin—or even under it? A discussion the evening before led me to think of the “masculine” as representing the vital life force that pushes outward: an energy field we all must have. Women might use theirs in a “feminine” way—to protect their young—or we might use it to write, to lead, to do scientific research. Whatever we do with energy and commitment and passion—whatever we're willing to “fight” for, might be attributed to our animus, the masculine force. Our more inward, reflective, spiritual, soulful, intuitive side belongs to our anima, the feminine force. When we passionately follow a spiritual or artistic path, both are engaged.

How is this playing out in my life, and what is my dream telling me about it? I feel remarkably strong, especially intellectually. (My animus boxers are close to me.) I'm afraid of offending when I let this out (when I'm exposed!) publicly. So I cover over my strength with an outward layer of femininity (the anima panties). By doing this I give short shrift to both sides, and, no surprise, I feel inappropriate and uncomfortable. But perhaps the dream, and my illustration, have helped to resolve the issue. When I look at the drawing I think, “Those two undies worn together look kind of attractive—and there's something about it that's fun!”

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