I hit a trifecta of body image remarks today, which was kind of interesting:
My friend Genevieve lost about 60 lbs. after her wedding with the Atkins diet, but has since gained about 20 of it back. I personally think she looks great...tanned, muscular legs, an average frame, and only a little noticeable lumpage around her stomach and back. But since it's Gen's body and Gen's neuroses, she is completely devastated by the extra poundage that's crept on in the five years since she was married. She decided about two weeks ago to recommence her Atkins-ing, and has been so meticulous about counting carbs that when another teacher accidentally knocked over a canister of sugar as we were all preparing our morning coffee, I actually saw Gen duck as the granules cascaded over to her side of the counter, and even though she claimed she didn't want to get her shirt all sugar-dusty, I think she was really secretly terrified that somehow she'd snort sugar through her Eustachian tubes and then Dr. Atkins would rise up out of his cheese gilded casket and take away her ketosis privileges for a month.
Gen eats some pretty nasty shit when she's doing low-carb...today I saw her eat a hot dog wrapped in a carb-free tortilla and she turned down my offer of organic strawberries in favor of some turkey jerky her husband left in the glove compartment of their car after a fishing trip. She's cranky and miserable and she thumbs through the food and wine section of our newspaper like she's poring over letters from a lost love. When someone walks in with a cookie or bread or pasta she acts like we're about to sit down to a meal of anthrax and hand grenades and she turns away from the table, shrieking, "Get that stuff out of my sight!". Basically, Gen is annoying the shit out of me with her diet and how much she's punishing herself and her incessant talk of "being good" or "being bad" or "cheating" and how she's only lost 4.5 lbs. in two weeks and even though that's perfectly acceptable by nutrition standards it's not good enough for her because she's not perfect yet.
And when she said that...that she's not perfect yet...you could kind of feel the wind sucked out of the room, because even though we were all offering our Diet Platitudes and I was hawking the Intuitive Eating book and feeling a little smug because I had dropped a little weight this week (albeit mostly because my new allergy meds make me not want to eat as much and our librarian has brought frog legs into lunch ever day this week and her graphic discussions of catching and gigging the frogs have rendered me appetite-less, and yearning for a trashcan and a quiet corner where I can dry heave until someone from PETA comes with the van and takes me to a better place), we all knew the feeling of being not perfect...not good enough. None of us is an Eva Longoria, or a Cameron Diaz. And feeling the collective weight of a dozen women all knowing what the others were thinking was extremely powerful and sad.
#2: NBC reran the "Womens' Appreciation Day" episode tonight. It's one of my favorites, and this clip from it was the second time my eyebrows raised over some body-image stuff today:
And this is kind of how I feel about the whole "Real Beauty" campaign in general. Every time I read the articles and the blog posts about how celebrities benefit so much from the art of Photoshop and that the media sets unattainable standards for beauty in our society, I roll my eyes, because we've been bleating out this same complaint for at least a decade now, and nothing's really being done about it. Nothing substantive, at least. If we're so adamant about being happy with who we really are, and not participating in punitive, damaging beauty rituals and exercise and dieting, then why aren't there more people putting out more resources on how to accomplish it? Why are the celebrities who claim to be the most ardent proponents of being natural and self-possessed still the ones who voluntarily drop twenty-five pounds to make the cover of Vogue? Why does Oprah still binge diet, and the Dove "Real Beauty" campaign still used coiffed and primped models, albeit plus-sized ones sometimes? Taking the point to its comedic extreme like they did on The Office just reminds me how the self-acceptance movement has great intentions, but there's a flaw in the execution somewhere because as long as we're preaching "You're gonna have to be tolerant of our flaws", even while giving us every available tool to still obsess over them, then women are still going to feel like shit about themselves.
And then I ran across this link on Tom and Lorenzo's site (I like how the Internet can let me pretend I'm on a first name basis like fabulous faux-celebrities like La T.Lo...Les T.Lo? Whatever.), and it blew my mind. I don't really care about how Brittany Murphy has awful undereye bags and how the Vastly Inferior Second Mr. Darcy has cystic acne, but the pictures of Beyonce and Kelly Clarkson and all the modifications they made to their bodies are remarkable. They seriously shaved off two pants sizes from Kelly's backside, at least.
And I guess that's how it trickles down...from the celebrities who stake their bank accounts on silently accepting the fact that they're not good enough for America without Photoshop, to their doctored photos that subsequently land in our mailboxes and on our computer screens to torture us and make us feel completely inadequate next to their unattainable beauty. It's funny to think that somewhere in the monied hills of L.A., starlets and A-listers are having the very same conversations over their $25 salads and Fiji waters that Gen, the teachers, and I had at our plastic lounge tables over plates of beef jerky and frog legs today.