Friday, May 13, 2005

Now entering previously uncharted territory.

I usually keep this blog fluffy. I mention some of what I'm doing, thinking, seeing, and surfing online. For the past couple of days I've been sitting on this link I thought about sharing, but I didn't know if I wanted to go there. This could legitimately count as something I've been thinking/seeing/surfing, so I'm just gonna blog. If this post seems annoyingly didactic or dull, better luck tomorrow.

Look at this page. I can't even recall how I found it, but it was one of those "look how much retouching they do - FREAKY!" sorts of posts on another website. It got me thinking about something I've struggled with for a long time: body image. I'm struggling as I write this post because I just know you're all going to catalog my annoying physical qualities while you read, and I JUST DON'T WANT TO ENCOURAGE YOU TO GO THERE, AAAAAAA! Still, what should I care, right? They're there. You notice them, even the best among you who love me dearly and want what's best for me. But if I write a post about body image you're all gonna take sides on what you think, and it's hard not to take your opinion of the commentator into account. So anyway, realize that I'm sensitive on the subject and I do often feel that magazines, movies, and marketing of all kinds end up making me feel I'm not skinny enough, tall enough, or just plain ENOUGH.

I sound like I'm beating a long-dead horse. I mean, isn't EVERYONE telling us how bad the media and marketing's images of perfection are for the well being and self esteem of women especially? The fact that the name "Mary-Kate Olsen" has probably flickered across your brain since I brought this up should be evidence of that. But just like the violence in movies can't totally account for the violence in schools, the perfection of women on magazine covers can't totally account for sky-rocketing anorexia rates or the fact that I HATE my thighs.

Then I think, if you were the chick in the link, wouldn't you want just a smidge of help to make you look your best when MILLIONS of people would look at your image? Who wants their pores, their puffy eyes, their skin, their cellulite, or even their un-retouched ta-tas looked at by MILLIONS of people? It's bad enough when one person looks askance at you in the mall. Who wants to multiply that number, even if you don't see them with your own eyes or hear their thoughts? I don't think anyone has the self-confidence to stand up to that for years, not even quasi-perfect supermodels.

I also understand that companies want their products to look their best, so when you're selling eye cream, you don't want some model's eyes that look less-than-perfect up on a huge billboard. No one will buy! Even if their product doesn't make you perfect, if it helps, wouldn't you want to have tried it instead of being deterred by a model who went partying the night before the shoot and looked a little puffy under her eyes? Plus, we might not want to stare at a model's tattoo every time we glance at a spread in InStyle Magazine. We want to see the product, not the supermodel's tattoo honoring his fifth girlfriend, Winona.

But all this perfection takes its toll, particularly on people-pleasing, sensitive women. I'm naturally self-critical so it's hard not to compare myself to them. My husband NEVER compares me to magazine cover girls out loud, but I'm sure he's noticed my faults. Does that mean he's thinking of them when he says "I love you," as though he were mentally adding "well, most of you. Not your calves - they're too beefy. Oh, and the thick arms aren't doing you any favors, Baby?" HE ISN'T THINKING THAT. But I'm so obsessed with "being honest about myself" and competing with the images he is surrounded by in the grocery store check-out that I think he's thinking that.

So I'm stuck in my thinking. I understand that in a capitalistic society, advertising makes it important to have a pleasing image before the eye. But it is hard not to feel like you have to compete with those images - and you usually CAN'T compete with them because of PhotoShop and the miracle of sophisticated retouching. And it'll sound proud, but I'm not even that bad off. What right have I to complain loudly about the weight of inferiority that Gisele Bundchen puts on my psyche?

I guess that's where love comes in. Most parents love their over-weight children no less than they would the ideal-weight child. Beauty has little to do with character too often. I should be more worried about nagging my hubster than I should about my midriff. In addition, I should worry about health more than whether I'm a size 4 or a size 10. I have to focus on my priorities more and my insufficiencies less. I just wish it didn't take such a colossal effort.


Mair said...

nice post, sista. I'm quite certain that all women, even nearly perfect sorts, loathe something about their body. I have a friend - cute as a button - who may, on a bloated day, we a size 4. She posts pictures of skinny women inside her cabinet, so when she opens it, she decides NOT to have a snack. This is troubling. There are many time where I secretly, and to my husband, lament things about myself. I share the beefy calves problem, and I have an enormous rump (they don't call me M-lo for nothin!) and my skin get these red splotchy things that are less than flattering on my face. This is where we slap ourselves, and realize that we are among the most fortunate of women. We've opted out of the whole "impress a new guy every two months" camp, and opted in to the "he loves me for what I am, and even when that will change, will he still love me" security of an honest marriage. So, ROCK ON! We are who we are. (and hey - most men out there aren't perfect either!)

Mair said... i meant to say HE WILL still love me. end of semester exhaustion has trumped my ability to form sentences....(ok, i don't have that ability much anyway)