Susan's Blog

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

On Ugly

This blog post made me think about beauty and ugliness, and what we women put ourselves through unconsciously every single day.

As always, when I got out of bed I took a look in the mirror and assessed the “damage.” Face getting fat, hair whacked out (flat and curly at the same time) and in need of new highlights to cover emerging gray, this is too that, etc. Then I thought, “Too__? For whom? Why?” Thinking about it logically, it’s not about what Ned thinks. He loves me completely and as I am. So is it about others? Strangers? Other men? Why????

And then how to explain trying to look good at the gym, which is all women? Is it about trying to look a certain way, not for others, but because this is the Standard in my head, created by the fashion industry?

When you think it all the way through, it makes no sense at all. If a person is in a love relationship, and is healthy physically (not obese), then one is obviously fine-looking the way they are. One would think that would be enough? But of course we/I never feel like it is. I — and pretty much all of my friends — hold ourselves to that Standard. For me, I suppose it comes from television and magazines. I’m supposed to be making every effort towards that Julia Roberts/Demi Moore/Catherine Zeta-Jones look, or I’m letting down the team! I have yet to hear a woman friend say, “I’m fine just the way I am!” If we’re not working towards that Standard, then, we’re disgusting (to ourselves or maybe even to others!). Every single one of my friends, with maybe one or two exceptions, is the same, and we are not unusual. We are typical upper-middle class, college + education, raised by feminists for the most part, reasonably healthy, good relationships/marriages. So are family members. I have a cousin who dreams of a tummy tuck, which one blog friend told me she just had (post C-section) and that it is like being hit by a truck. Why does this cousin need a tummy tuck? And why am I jealous of her? I hear it in my gym, too, the whisperings of “going to do do it… ” and the only thing getting in their way is that they might die from the anesthesia. For me, it’s the death thing and the money.

Why? Why? Why? The Body Impolitic, et al., would say that this is a culture that hates women, and seeks to keep us down one way or another. A culture that teaches us to hate ourselves, to maim, cut up, diet to death, paint over, ourselves. I say that is nuts!

Or is it?


It’s not just women. Men feel pressure too. My gym has plenty of guys working out. I think the cause is as simple as just wanting to stand out in a positive way. No one wants to be average.

What I find really interesting about this all is that it’s a moving scale. Watch an old James Bond movie and notice how both the women and the men, who epitomized suave and sexy in their day, have subtly changed. In the movies from the 60 and 70s almost no one has visible muscle tone. People aren’t flabby but they aren’t ripped either. Go back another generation in the movies and things are even more different. The ideal body image has certainly changed.

As the population embraces an ideal you see more and more people pushing it in order to stand out. Sometimes to the point of absurdity. Super skinny models and steroid pumped muscle men are two ends of the same spectrum.

If everyone is fit and healthy who has the edge?

— added by Pete Lyons on Wednesday, January 17, 2007 at 10:58 am

I don’t spend a whole lot of time worrying about it.

Gym? Horrible noisy place. We have equipment at home. (And, importantly, space in which to put it, something that doesn’t happen for everyone.) Enough use has been gotten out of what we’ve bought that it’s paid for whatever gym membership would accomplish the same thing — and no time wasted driving back and forth.

Some days I almost regret the tummy tuck — sure, I don’t have a scar that’ll be visible if I wear a shirt that doesn’t quite meet my pants, but I’ve been getting more attention over my figure lately, and frankly, it’s starting to freak me out a little bit. If I’m in a gathering and there’s a guy I just want to discuss something with, and he’s checking me out, that’s not in my comfort zone. (Unless I’m being stared at for something like having body paint on me in an interesting pattern, or really neat clothing — what I’m wearing, not ME.) And I feel almost guilty about it when I’m around friends whose body image a year ago was worse than mine — I got this thing done, and they didn’t, and what the hell was I thinking?

OK, I’m not vain, I don’t worry about it so much — except to worry that other people might think I’m worrying about it! (Which is laughable, when you think about it. I’m chuckling over it as I type this paragraph.)

(Oh, and if it’s me about the tummy-tuck — it was NOT post C-section, I managed to do vaginal delivery on everyone, just diastasis recti. I need to get you a link to the picture taken of me a few days before I gave birth to the twins, so you can see WHY that happened.)

— added by Julia on Wednesday, January 17, 2007 at 2:06 pm

I only worry about my weight when I get reminded of my diabetes and my stomach muscles collapsing further.
My belief is that women and men need to be healthy, no matter what weight they are. Helathy isn’t obese or skinny or a perfect BMI. It’s feeling good, looking good, and having overall great health. I know a woman who is almost 300lbs, but she’s healthier than anyone I know. She never gets sick, has great cholesterol, and has the skin of an angel.
I guess my point is, our ideals are set by what we most often see. We, as strong, motherly women, need to decide what’s healthy for us.

— added by Anonymous on Friday, January 19, 2007 at 3:27 am

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