Sunday August 12, 2012
To crow or not to crow?
CULTURE CUL DE SAC By JACQUELINE PEREIRA
Some winners get a pat on the back for celebrating their success, while others get a rap on the knuckles.
WHERE do you draw a line between a proud, individual accomplishment and a bullish statement of swaggering confidence? Why is it that some people’s achievements are celebrated, while others, when they overstate their accomplishments, are derided?
It seems that one person’s achievement is another’s overstatement.
Last Tuesday, style stalwart and Vogue Italia fashion contributor Anna Piaggi died at the age of 81. What set her apart from the rest of the pack was that Piaggi was not only known for making a statement with what she wore, but also for her wealth of knowledge of fashion history. Indeed, her ability to transcribe fashion trends was legendary.
The first time I saw her at the Milan and Paris fashion shows, I was shocked. She looked like a garish, full-on, walking fashion show (at least to the naive me then), appearing draped in a cacophony of colours, her blue-rinsed hair beneath an outlandish fascinator, disconnectedly piled-on pieces of clothing accessorised with everything from a cane to a bird cage, sometimes both at the same time.
You certainly could not miss her, and she was known to rarely wear the same items twice.
Eventually I did realise that she embodied what she felt and thought about fashion, wanting to project a particular interpretation whenever she stepped out of her house. She was a walking fashion museum, enhanced by her vast knowledge of fashion history and the mostly vintage clothes from her 2,500-piece wardrobe.
Piaggi enjoyed telling her story, in her own way. Even if that meant presenting it with red, Cupid bow lips and bright, lollipop-blushed cheeks. Whatever her age or wherever she was, Piaggi was eccentric and not ashamed of overstating her accomplishments.
Yet, despite a 50-year career in fashion, perhaps even people in the industry never quite “got” her.
Datuk Lee Chong Wei, on the other hand, is a modest embodiment of a sportsman. While he may not have the smooth moves of Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt or the sculptured chocolate-like body of Italian swimmer Filippo Magnini, his singular determination is evident in every game he plays.
With his painfully passionate strokes, he brought Malaysians together last Sunday as the nation stayed glued to the life telecast of the badminton men’s singles final of the London Olympics.
Still nursing a knee injury, he valiantly fought for his first Olympic gold medal. He won a silver – an accolade in itself – but he must have been crushed by his defeat at the hands of his nemesis.
Except for a few negative comments – probably sour grapes – the people of this country collectively congratulated Chong Wei, and consoled him with words of encouragement. But the first thing he did after losing his match was to apologise to his Malaysian fans.
Despite his dedication to his sport and the numerous titles and triumphs, this self-effacing young man hasn’t ever been arrogant enough to brag about his achievements.
These two people chose to acknowledge their achievements in their own way. Yet most of us, if we were to view Piaggi’s various photos, would immediately think that she was showing off. Some might even conclude that she didn’t know much about fashion.
As for our datuk of the moment, a few detractors were bold enough to say that he should be more aggressive in carving out his corner in the badminton world.
In case you are wondering where this article is headed, I’m curious about the fine line that seems to separate celebrating achievements and crowingly overstating them.
Why is it that with some people, modesty is celebrated, especially when it concerns their achievements, while others who offer up their deeds with loads of chutzpah are dismissed as being boastful. What causes the contrasting views on what we perceive as the right way to be.
On a personal level, I’m quietly proud of having been married for 10 years and will be celebrating this particular anniversary without fanfare. I won’t be telling anyone about it ...
■ Delighting in dead ends, Jacqueline Pereira seeks unexpected encounters to counter the outmoded. Find her on Facebook at Jacqueline-Pereira-Writing-on.