The Two Hayleys

"The Two Fridas," by Frida Kahlo

Above is one of Frida Kahlo’s most famous paintings, “The Two Fridas” or “Las dos Fridas.” She painted this shortly after her beloved husband asked her for a divorce. The Frida on the left of the painting is dressed in conservative attire; likely the acceptable societal clothing of her time, while the Frida on the right dons bright colored clothing that resembles her Native Mexican lineage. Who is Frida? Is she torn between what society expects her to be and who she truly is? The division of herself as two separate entities certainly suggests she has two faces, the true Frida, which likely sits on the right, and the Frida she presents to the world on the left. Somehow her impending divorce  has caused Frida to spilt and come forward as two very distinct selves in this painting.

If you look closely you will see that the conservative Frida in the white dress has cut her vein with scissors. This snip implies an end to the circuit that keeps the two Fridas together. But who is leaving who and which personality, each so different, will prevail?

While I am rooting for the Frida on the right (I’m a biased free spirit), I could not help but compare this to an event in my life that occurred the other day. I was picking up a pizza. As I waited at the counter, I scanned the menu while I chatted with the hostess. On the menu the buffalo chicken pizza caught my eye. It had roasted peppers, onions, hot sauce and homemade gorgonzola dressing- oh and chicken. It was certainly the most delicious buffalo chicken pizza I’d ever heard of. I said to the girl, “Your buffalo chicken pizza sounds really good. I don’t eat meat, but I used to love buffalo chicken pizza- before I became a vegetarian. Our conversation ensued and she suggested I get it sans chicken and that it would likely be as delicious as with the chicken, I concurred and went on to tell her that when I used to eat meat, like buffalo chicken for example, I liked the hot sauce, the fried crispy breading, and the dressing, but never truly liked the meat. She nodded her head in agreement knowingly.

As I walked out with my vegetarian pizza, crushed tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil, I thought about how it had sounded like I was talking about a completely different person as I talked about my former self- the one who used to love buffalo chicken pizza. Indeed we were no longer one in the same, but how could that be?

I had struggled with vegetarianism for years. Little support from others, and confusion about protein sources always thwarted my attempts. The United States was a tough country to be a vegetarian in. In this country meat was always front in center in every meal; the component to which the side dishes were planned. Aside from this, every time I went anywhere, people usually forgot that I didn’t eat meat. Because of this, many times I was lucky if they served salad. It felt inconvenient to everyone. It was at first, until people started to come around and liked the food I was cooking even without the meat.

Still there were people in my family and the world who thought I was crazy, who rolled their eyes and giggled after asking why I didn’t eat meat and I told them I didn’t because I felt bad for the chickens, cows, and pigs, or said that fish have feelings too. It didn’t matter if they thought I was crazy, I had my own opinion about their beliefs as well.

The other day at the pizza place, I drove home pondering the oddity that was the Hayley I spoke about in past tense. It really seemed as if I was speaking about another person; someone outside of myself. The other Hayley was much like the Frida on the left; she too conformed to societal norms such as an omnivorous diet because she wasn’t strong enough to break away from what was more acceptable and convenient. Yet as she continued to go through the motions, the wild native Hayley was there the whole time, almost nagging her and wondering when she would once and for all embrace a meat free diet; one that more closely aligned with her own beliefs; one that she didn’t have to consciously block out of her head that the source of the food was eating once consisted of the muscles and blood of an animal who recently was living and breathing; one that wouldn’t make her feel guilty.

In “The Two Fridas,” it is clear that Frida has reached a crossroads in which the two selves within her have met on the path and come face to face. Now that both individuals have been made clear, only one can remain. Will she suffer through life as a facade or be her true self? She has now been through it all and regardless of what she wanted, the primal Frida within her had been unleashed. This Frida represents all she stands for and where she came from; this Fridas heart remains while the conservative Frida is missing hers. One heart cannot beat for two, the viewer gets the sense that only one of these women will survive.

The emotional trauma of divorce was so great that it manifested both of her selves, side by side examining one another, fighting for life; this was a death match. Who will stay and who will go? It is likely the one with passion- not the facade, prevailed, because a free spirit can only wear the latest fashion for so long without going crazy, this is their nature.

I know the Hayley on the left, the one who more closely aligned with societal norms will never come back. That day when I picked up the pizza, I felt what can only be described as a complete severing from this Hayley as I spoke to the hostess. I later realized that I too had reached a major crossroads in my vegetarian journey: I no longer missed meat nor cared much for it anymore, which was a difficult feat, as I am still a vegetarian living in an omnivorous society.

This didn’t happen over night and it was a difficult and emotional process that took years. There are times throughout our lives when our mask and our true self have a confrontation. It is usually a battle of epic proportions that will direct the path of the journey that follows. I hope that it will always be the stronger and more inherent self that prevails as it does no one on Earth good when we pretend do be someone we’re not.

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