I spent Friday night with Jung and Saturday morning with Freud. That sounds kind of bad. It sounds like I get around, at lease theoretically speaking. Doesn’t it? And the truth is, I do. I am a bit of a psycho-dynamic polyamorist, meaning I love Freud and Jung and Lacan and Winnicott andFairbairn and Bion and… But I am not writing today about my theoretical polyamory. Today I am talking about sexy. Sexy isn’t something you think a lot about when you think about psychology but it was something I have been thinking a lot about.
Friday night I attended a documentary about Sabina Speirlein and the audience was heavily weighted with Jungians. And the look of the attendees was decidedly “not sexy”. Most of the attendees were over-50 woman who rejected hair color with the same vehemence they might reject a prescription for Prozac or a cognitive intervention. The room was so gray that I felt like I was attending an AARP convention in the midst of hippy-dippy-granola-town-goat’s-milk, USA. Then there was the matter of their clothing: again with the gray. And with the gray there were the ubiquitous shawls and the ethnic inspired jewelry, a’la Chico’s, and the VERY comfortable shoes. I have never seen so many comfortable shoes in one place—there was not a single pair of platforms in the entire pavilion. The lady in gray who sat next to me during the screening was so comfortable in her Mephistos that she took them off. She sat next to me in a public place in her bare feet. I was aghast at her barefooted boldness. I sat there in my red J Crew suede pointed-toe penny loafers and silently judged her for exposing her feet in a public place( yes, I have some naked feet issues and these issues are amplified if the naked foot in question has never been pedicured) and scanned my mind for the appropriate DSM-IV diagnosis that would fit such shocking lack of public decency.
Beyond the drab clothes, gray hair and comfortable shoes there was just a general vibe of croniness(The crone is the archetype of the the old wise woman), haginess and witchypoo-ness to the event. These Jungian women seemed to actively embrace these archetypes and I don’t think they would in any way bristle at me describing them as a crone or a hag. As I am a gal who loves her chemically assisted hair colour, Botox, fashionable attire and heels high enough to enter the realm of Icarus, I felt very out of place and, to tell you the truth, in such crone-filled environments I often feel more than a little unwelcome. I sometimes get the feeling that if you look like you make too much effort on your appearance that the Jungian crone women will decide that you are lacking in depth. That may not be the case but I can tell you that it certainly feels that way.
When I was working on my graduate thesis “The genesis of shame: The fig leaf of fashion and its place in psychotherapy” and I would tell women analysts in the Jungian community in which I trained that I was writing on the topic of clothing I received some pretty harsh judgements. Clothing was looked at as immaterial to the field of psychology and judged as a surface interest and not one that should be given serious academic consideration. It’s interesting to note that five years after completing my thesis that the very same institute offered the course, “Clothes in the Analytic Relationship: Not For Women Only”. It was bittersweet to see that the topic was finally being considered. I attended the nearly sold out event and was somewhat pleased to see that the women who did the presentation had not approached the topic with the depth of analysis that I had. I was also amused and somewhat irritated by the participants cooing question to the presenters, “This is such a rich therapeutic topic. Why hasn’t anyone written on it before?” Grrr!!!!
Okay, sorry for the tangent, back to sexy. So Friday night was extremely un-sexy. That’s not entirely true. The documentary on Sabina Spielrein was kind of sexy in that she was an amazing women who contributed much the the field of psychoanalysis and she slept with Jung and she had the balls to call him out on his bad behavior and then spilled the beans to Freud and went onto become a psychoanalyst. Sabina was sexy. Jung not so much and the attendees of the documentary were definitely not sexy.
Saturday morning I attended a lecture on the Greek Philosophical Roots of Psychoanalysis. I was expecting for the class to be fascinating and insightful and it was. What I had not expected was that the teacher was going to be so sexy. She really was. She had long hair that she tossed back away from her face to great effect. She wore an amazing and figure flattering dress that I would have loved to have. She gesticulated passionately with her long and manicured talons. Peep toe platform pumps revealed red pedicured toes. She was undeniably sexy and super smart. As I sat in the audience discovering how Freud had likely been influenced by Aristotle, I found my mind reviewing some of the female Freudian and Post-Freudian professors I’ve had and how most of them looked extremely embodied, sensual and as if they probably had a pretty amazing sex life( that could just be my projection however there has been a kind of wildness to their hair, some serious heels and a leather skirt or two that all seem to say that their knowledge of sex is more than just clinical).
As Dr. Sexy Freudian lectured I found myself comparing and contrasting the differing representations of femininity that I experienced at both events and I felt MUCH more at home at the second. As I contemplated the differences I imagined that the gray/drab/Mephisto wearing women were a kind of asensual-intellectual that rejected sexuality and embodiment in favor of the world of the mind. and that the wild-haired and skirt and heel wearing Freudian’s clearly had a life in which they managed to be embodied, sexy and smart(Dr. Sexy has a PhD and a PsyD and is a psychoanalyst and an artist and she speaks Latin and she has crazy-sexy style and she is funny).
When the lecture was over I went up and thanked Dr. Sexy for her lecture. What I didn’t thank her for was her willingness to be feminine and sexy and smart(not choosing one at the expense of the other) nor did I tell her how personally meaningful it was to discover such a well-dressed role model. I really wished I had thanked her for being who she is as witnessing her being herself was even more awesome than anything I learned about Aristotle ( and I did learn some good stuff about Mr. Golden Mean). I am sure she over the years she has received some guff for being so glamorous but she didn’t let the guff stop her. She could quote Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle with ease, all while looking like a Russian Jaquelyn Bissett and that is seriously impressive. And no woman, no matter how high her IQ, wouldn’t like to hear that she inspires and looks great while doing it—at least no woman I know of.