An Observer From Proxima CentauriWednesday, January 22, 2014
In the early 70s I discovered a way to make my high school students open up on personal opinions on life. I told them that they were from another planet in a far away star called Proxima Centauri and that they had been sent (they were rendered invisible) to observe people on earth.
Once that was made clear they would answer questions such as, “What is sex?” or “How did these people live from day to day?” an even such more personal questions, “What did the younger ones think of something they called school?”
I don’t think they ever caught on. But then I am not sure.
Of late I have observed that in the age of pornography people seem to be much more conservative (repressed?) on their views on sex and how we depict humans in photographs. There seems to be tendency to try to render the portraits, particularly of women, as asexual beings. If I am not expressing that quite correctly this might do, that the taker of the photograph should snap the pictures without any thought on sexuality.
It sort of reminds me of that 10th Commandment:
You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
— Exodus 20:17
My Roman Catholic upbringing made me feel guilty even when I happened to look at a girl “that way” as I was told that it was just as bad. The thought was the same as the action.
Not too long ago I was watching one of my favourite violinists from the VSO. I was close enough that I did not need my binoculars. I went up to the front of the orchestra to chat with one of the cellists who did confess to me that he too was distracted by our violinist but could not say anything as it might be seen as some form of sexual harassment.
In Spanish we have a lovely word piropo that comes from the Greek via the Latin ( Del lat. pyrōpus, y este del gr. πυρωπός). The word means to compliment but with the exact purpose of saying something brief and poetic to a woman about her looks. If you are good at it you would seldom get slapped.
In Mexico, particularly in small towns there was a custom (probably nonexistent now) where young people would congregate on every Sunday on the main square (zócalo). The young men might walk around the square clockwise while the young women would do so in the opposite direction. Smiles would be flashed or perhaps meek stares. The more adventurous young men might whisper piropos. On Easter Sunday, I remember in Veracruz the youth would have hollow eggs filled with confetti which they might break and throw at the girl of their dreams.
Now you might be served by a lawyer and sued.
As a 71 year-old man I know feel that my students could counter and play my game my way. I am now that spy from outer space watching mankind in the sly.
As an example I am placing here two contact sheets (there were more) of a beautiful woman called Andrea. She was a mess of scars. She had a single mastectomy, two caesareans on an appendix operation. Because I took the pictures some years ago I was not in a 21st century mode of brutal honesty so no scars show.
Andrea lay on my psychiatric couch which was covered by a white sheet. I hovered around and took my pictures.
I look at them and I can imagine my students asking, “Mr. Hayward, were you thinking about sex when you took them? Were you trying to make your pictures erotic?” As students in the 70s they would not have asked, “Mr. Hayward, are you shooting with respect? Are you depersonalizing her? Are you depicting her as a sexual object and not as a person?”
All I can tell you is that my answers would be confusing and I would stammer a lot and not say much. But I still think these pictures are lovely and when I took them I was plainly aware that I was a man with plumbing that worked and that she was an attractive woman with a lovely body. Can anything more be said?