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A Little Sparkle

I haven't been updating much lately, because even I am bored of hearing myself whine about how I don't have the energy to do anything.  Like I've mentioned in previous posts, I spend a lot of time on the sofa, either watching TV and sewing, or staring out the window at the bird feeder (I caught the vultures mating again today; they actually kiss afterwards.  It's so sweet).  The rest of the time, I sleep a lot.  I've also spent some time on creative work, which I swear, I'll be telling you all about soon.

Since I spend so much of my time on that sofa, I find that I'm really fascinated by shows that document people whose lives are much, much worse than mine.  At first, it was just all the hoarder shows (Hoarders, Hoarding: Buried Alive, and Animal Hoarders), since I can recognize that same tendency in myself - I love to collect things, I have a hard time letting go of things, and I also have anxiety disorder - and it's my way of making myself dust.  That, and it's like watching a car wreck.  But recently, I find myself fascinated with the Gypsy shows, mainly on TLC (they really need to drop the "Learning" part of their name and replace it with something else).  I've seen multiple episodes of My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding, and now, their new show, Gypsy Sisters.

Understand, I'm not proud of watching these shows.  What I am is transfixed; by their taste in clothes, by their incredibly sexist culture, by the sheer number of "Soowarofskee" crystals they stick on everything (one girl's wedding dress weighed 100 pounds - about 5 pounds more than she weighed).  The girls are sexualized pretty much at birth - they dress them like little hookers as soon as they can stand, and many marriages are made when the girls are 14 or 15.  There isn't any of that creepy FDLS cult stuff of old men in their 60s marrying child brides; boys marry similarly young, maybe a couple of years older, on average. In their culture, so the show explains, weddings are the biggest day in
a girl's life; they plan for it almost as soon as they can read and write, and it is not merely a wedding, but an announcement to the world that they are the biggest, the best, and the most expensive weddings money can buy. The marriages are almost always arranged, and to marry outside Gypsy culture is basically a shunning-level event.  It's the strangest blend of 1950s middle-class values, hoochie-mama clothes, and 1860s sexism. 

Depending on which Gypsy tribe you're in, the rules for women change, but a number of them do not allow women to drink at all.  The men, of course, can do whatever they want, including drugs, alcohol, and other women, but their wives must stay at home and raise the kids.  In reality, a lot of the rules blur, and the women are quite likely to come after their man with a carving knife if he strays, but they tend to be very parochial.  At the same time, the men want their women dressed in the tightest, skimpiest, most-bedazzled clothes money can buy.  Watching these shows, I'm struck by how colourful the women are - dyed hair, tons of make-up and spray (or sun) tan, huge earrings, massive amounts of jewelry, and outfits that barely cover the crotch, leave the midriff exposed, and are low, low, low cut.  Interestingly, their women mostly tend towards extreme thinness - the bride in one show who weighed 95lbs, and the eponymous sisters who look like the largest size they need is maybe a 6.  Strict inbreeding has produced very slim people, it seems - though I don't know many people who would want to be them, since Gypsies have a bad reputation the world 'round.

Sadly, the shows cater to that image, so we get to see all the bad stuff, all the bar fights, and the bad behaviour, and if one of them has a criminal record, you'll be sure to hear about it.  In fact, the one show, Gypsy Sisters, seems determined to show the women screaming at each other as much as possible.  These shows aren't for your edification, they're lifestyle porn.  We're supposed to look at them and feel deeply superior to these people who behave in such a vulgar manner - my dear!  Those clothes!  Those women!  Aren't we all so much better than them?  Let's all pat ourselves on the back!

I admit - it does draw me in because they live in a way that is utterly unlike my world - no-one screams at each other in my family, or amongst my friends.  We are mostly average-sized, and tend not to wear spandex.  Crystals, Austrian or otherwise, show themselves discreetly.  I prefer it - it's quiet, and I like quiet - but I find this other, alien world quite amazing, and I don't sneer at it.  Even my first wedding did not have half the fuss and ado a Gypsy wedding entails, and truth be told, I love watching it.  I would totally have had a wedding just like that if I'd known I had the option (note:  I did not have the option).  The families stick together, even when they're having screaming matches - supporting each other, presenting an unbreakable force to the outside world.   It's charming, in its own way - as long as you forget that a lot of Gypsy/Traveller (the Irish clans) money is earned in a somewhat shady manner.

The Sisters show doesn't let you forget it much - in the first episode, we find out that their mother was a con artist, and was in jail.  The sisters had been left with each other (no father around), and the youngest was only 10 when the mother was tried and convicted.  This is supposed to somehow explain why the youngest sister is an out-of-control brat at 20, but whatever.  She comes off as a self-destructive brat with no insight and a somewhat narcissistic tendency to blame all her issues on other people, but the producers are hardly likely to make a show about well-adjusted, law-abiding people who never get into trouble, are they?  Bob and I joke about the idea that it's only a matter of time before we're tapped for a "reality" show, since every new show seems to be scraping the bottom of the barrel in voyeurism, but I doubt there'd be many people excited about tuning into a show where no-one yells, everyone is polite, and the main person sits on the sofa all day.

Even I don't want to watch that.  Roll on the train wrecks, please.  I promise not to sneer.

Comments

( 9 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
tudorlady
Feb. 12th, 2013 03:00 am (UTC)
You know what I think? (I am a secret Hoarders junkie too.) I think this is our version of paying a penny to see Bedlam. And I think we do it for the same reason. We want to reassure ourselves that we're okay.

You know what? That's a normal human emotion. We needn't be ashamed of it.

Wanna come over for the next Hoarders marathon? We can have tea and embroider. I always end up with a clean house afterward. It's my version of 'Scared Straight'.

P.S. Lennie sez "HAI!!!"
attack_laurel
Feb. 13th, 2013 01:14 am (UTC)
That would be so fun. *sigh*

I agree with you on the Bedlam idea, too - I remember going to a State Fair once and paying $1 to see "the smallest person on Earth!!!!", and feeling really oogy after doing it, because she was just a little person trying to make a living by putting herself in a freak show. As someone whose name I can't remember once said "which side are the freaks standing on?".

I've known houses overrun with pet crap and hair and general filth - there's always *that* SCA person. It keeps me from being too lazy to clean.
tudorlady
Feb. 13th, 2013 03:37 am (UTC)
I've known houses overrun with pet crap and hair and general filth - there's always *that* SCA person

Oh, Deity, yes. I always want to grab the poor cats/dogs/whatever and run.
hederaivy
Feb. 12th, 2013 03:08 am (UTC)
I love reading your posts, whenever they turn up. I also don't blog much, for a similar reason. Several days in a row of "dragged self out of bed, took meds, drank decaf, thought about sewing but didn't have energy to climb three flights of stairs" just gets old after about...well, the second day.
I've become a Hoarders fan, too. I do wish they'd go more into the psychology and treatment instead of just the omgcatpoop-and-boxes. I've avoided the Gypsy shows so far. Closest I got was an episode of Say Yes to the Dress that I watched with a friend who's a fan. (Didn't like it.)

So sweet that vultures kiss after mating. It just goes to show you, even ugly girls and guys can find Twue Wuv.
grnvixen
Feb. 12th, 2013 02:26 pm (UTC)
Understand about the train wrecks of these shows pulling you in. Clean House used to be enough to get me spring cleaning, the Hoarder shows send me screaming (can't watch the animal one). I actually enjoyed the British version of BFGW, more insight into the culture, less howextremecanwegetonthesoundbites. If these train wrecks start to pale check out Lizard Lick Towing and Hardcare Pawn, both on a channel even more inappropriately named than TLC :).

Glad you are resting, can't wait to hear about the creative work!
christianet
Feb. 12th, 2013 03:42 pm (UTC)
I like to think of these shows as "Nouveau Gypsy" culture, because the Turkish Roma I've met are certainly not like them. There are, in fact, some really amazing parallels to certain Italian-American cultures (the yelling, the spray tans, the flashy jewelry, short-tight designer clothing, the emphasis on the wedding day as the most important day of a girl's life, the emphasis on family and "keeping to your own"). The difference is that many Italian-Americans inserted themselves into American life practically from the get-go, populated towns where they got into the local governing structure, their kids went to the schools the other kids did, but these gypsies hold themselves apart from everything. There are those that don't, own homes, work regular jobs - again, gypsy culture is not a monolithic whole.

Just about all the gypsies I have encountered have been musicians/dancers, so again, a different perspective.

Looking forward to more vulture tales. :-) We're overrun with buzzards up here.

(Deleted comment)
attack_laurel
Feb. 13th, 2013 01:10 am (UTC)
That's a tough one. On the one hand, it's not like they have a traditional dress that you're making fun of - they really hit the "overload" button on those crystals - but I think some people look at it as mocking a defining thing in Gypsy culture. These people often go on to laugh their asses off at the "white trash" photographed in Wal-Mart, and can't understand their hypocrisy.

(Deleted comment)
( 9 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )

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