The Body Un-Naturale

22 05 2011

There’s another wedding in the family and, since I don’t have a bunch of wedding-related baking to provide an excuse this time around and because this one sounds like a much more formal affair, I have had to focus more on what I will look like and what I will wear. This has meant that I’ve been looking at clothes and caring about whether they might do anything to improve the sorry state of affairs that is my physique or at least distract from it. This has led me to look at clothing ads and even the odd fashion magazine for an idea for a wedding appropriate outfit that won’t make me look foolish. Shopping for clothing is never a fun time for me. Shopping for shoes can be enjoyable. So can shopping for jewelry and makeup, but looking for anything that covers any region from my arms to my ankles (with the exception of good, comfy, cotton t-shirts)  is a long, tedious process for which I honestly have little patience.

I’ve often thought that it was because I have so little in common with the fashion industry’s six-foot tall, ninety-two pound idea of beauty and that is mostly true, except that, thanks to Photoshop, the fashion industry – and our culture’s – idea of beauty is no longer simply extremely difficult to attain. It’s now practically impossible, even un-natural. It’s now a seventy-two pound idea of beauty.

This is a rather well-publicized example from a few years ago. If you haven’t picked out what’s wrong, allow me to point out that, in addition to her absurdly stick figure-like limbs, her head is about the same size as her pelvis and is larger than her waist. That does not occur in nature… ever. It just doesn’t. An emaciated adult’s head isn’t larger the their waist. Also, while this particular image did get some media attention, it is by no mean a rarity. Victoria’s Secret ads and all the ones in the magazines are loaded with heavily Photoshopped, skeletal waifs glowering and pouting. Is it just me or do they look hungry? Do people even find these modified images sexy?

I’m a little too old and a little too rational in terms of my understanding of anatomically feasible thinness to be made to feel inadequate by these images, but it does concern me in terms of its effect on younger, more self-conscious individuals. I mean creating a goal that’s impossible to achieve and then foisting it upon girls at an ever decreasing age strikes me as a problem waiting to happen. I remember how desperately I wanted to be skinny and pretty as a fat, plain preteen and that was in the olden days of the nineties when models and other “beautiful people” were just anorexic and on drugs. Now they’re digitally modified, too.

A while back I was working on a post that never made the cut and I found this photo of Sophia Loren from the late sixties. She was a sex symbol in her day, but at the same time she was still very much a flesh and blood human being with the physical flaws that come with being human as opposed to digital. At one point in time not too very long ago, this image and those of other attractive, unaltered women made up the idea of beauty in our culture. If your thighs were a little less than sculpted or your breast weren’t disproportionately large and up by your chin, it was OK. You would be viewed as pretty, desirable, and the like because you were beautiful even though you weren’t flawless.

There are mountains of things that I find wrong with the 50’s and 60’s views on women, but I think that the scale on which female looks were judged was a healthy one. Where we as a society have worked to break down ideas that negatively effected women’s view of themselves in the areas of career, and family, and personal worth, and pretty much everywhere else, we have made it harder and harder for women and girls to view their bodies in a positive light and that, in turn, has an adverse effect on all of the other things we’ve improved on. If a person can’t be confident with the way they look, they won’t be able to radiate the confidence they need to in order to reach the goals they’ve set for themselves whether those goals are personal, professional, or what have you.

That picture of Sophia Loren makes me feel pretty good about myself, not because I in any way resemble that when I’m wearing just my underwear, but because it’s honest. Even the best looking among us has a flaw here and there. Even the ones that are deemed beautiful are never perfect. That’s normal. She might not be perfect, but she’s healthy, confident, and quite pretty.

I tried to keep this photo in mind when I was in the fitting room at Victoria’s Secret.

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Searching for Confidence on the SALE Rack

30 06 2010

It’s been two years since I’ve seen a regular paycheck. The last thing I need is another expense. I also don’t need to put myself on the path to screwing up my health for the rest of my life, so losing weight had to happen and it’s something to occupy myself with to pass the time between waking up and sleeping. So far, I’ve lost a little over thirty pounds. I’m estimating because I haven’t weighed myself in a while. No matter what the number is I doubt it would make me smile, but that’s an issue for another day – I’m aiming for a healthier weight, not one you brag about. Anyway, my slightly less fluffy self is a positive thing, but my resulting lack of proper fitting clothing is an economic hit to the solar-plexus. I’ve ignored the problem for as long as I can but it’s reached the point where, even if I managed to get an interview, I’d never be hired for anything because I look clownish – everything is baggy and drooping and tent-like. I’m not exaggerating when I say that only my socks and shoes fit reliably.
This adds several new facets to my current “F***-My-Life” mindset. My biggest issue is, of course, that I am once again a dependent – something a 25-year-old, able-bodied, reasonably sentient individual should NEVER be – and I have to ask my parents for everything. It’s enough to turn my stomach and it will if I think about it long enough. Since I’ve had to conduct myself this way, I have systematically trimmed down my life to limit the times I have to ask for cash. I hate it and miss going out with my friends and stuff like that, but I hate having my parents finance me far more, so I don’t regret putting myself in a nearly unwavering pseudo-house arrest that would impress the Chinese police. I’ve continued using my social networking site of choice as a means by which to keep my friendships intact and I did go out in New York to celebrate my birthday. Since I’m trying to be as light a financial burden as I can be, I had been ignoring the fact that I have very few pieces of clothing that fit but it finally has reached the point that it would obviously affect any attempt to find employment, so I have to ask for money over, and over, and over in hopes that, aided by a that fact that I don’t look like a bum, I’ll get a job, a week or two later get a check, and gain back a bit of my autonomy. In the interest of full disclosure and because I don’t want to give anyone the wrong idea, I’m not the most social of butterflies to begin with, so I promise you it’s not as tragic as it sounds. On a happiness scale that goes from Rogers and Hammerstein goofy bliss to Ingmar Bergman bleak, I fall somewhere around a Woody Allen comedy of the Diane Keaton era – many of my issues stem from my own tendency to over-think. If that changes, so will my behavior. I’m not much of a fan of Bergman.

There is also the fact that I really don’t like shopping for clothes. I enjoy shopping for most everything else – books, shoes, DVDs, and handbags all rank high – but I do not like shopping for clothes and, as I’ve gotten older I’ve begun to hate it even more. Usually, I take someone with me to make it more of a social outing and less of a chore that’s right up there with cleaning the toilet on my list of Detested But Absolutely Essential Things To Do. I hate it because it’s a lot of effort with little or no reward. Why? Because, in addition to not being 5′ 10″ and 98 lbs, I’ve got plenty of all that makes up the female silhouette and that presents a problem. Apparently those who design clothing have gotten it into their heads that the 21st century female’s silhouette is the same as that of your average 12-year-old boy except women are all six feet tall. I’d like to take a moment to address this error in basic observation.

Clothing designers,
Please allow me to clue you in, you couldn’t be more wrong about the average female form. Take a deep breath, prepare yourselves for what’s to come, and do an image search for the term “real women”. Once the shock wears off, you’ll come to the realization that, while not like those of all the models you’re used to, these less boney bodies with so much variety of shape and size to them are worth creating decent clothing for. Come on, give us a chance.
Much Obliged,
Me

I have already begun my hunt for suitable clothes because nudity is not an option and have had a major breakthrough – jeans that fit. No “booty gap” in the back. No muffin top. They just fit. Best of all, I have discovered that my own personal Jean-topia has more than one brand in it. I have tried on and bought two different brands – Christopher Blue and CJ by Cookie Johnson. Little In The Middle jeans have also been recommended to me but I have yet to actually try a pair and, when dealing with jeans, seeing is believing. This is a wardrobe victory, but I have not won the war. There are three big bags of things to be donated and I’m not done yet. I have a lot to replace, but it’s a start.
There is always some level of connection between clothing and self-confidence and I won’t try to doubt that there is some of that at play. I don’t just need something to wear to an interview, I need “interview clothes” even though I have had only a few interviews in the past two years. Perhaps it’s a case of having to look the part to get the role. We’ll see. I’m not exactly what you’d call an optimist but I’m finding that more and more that is what one needs to even be considered for any position anywhere. Modesty be damned, you need to practically radiate supreme confidence – more self-confidence than an obese stripper – to get hired, period. The longer you’ve been out of work, the harder it is to drum up that much confidence – a rather cruel irony. I’m hoping to find some of that attitude tucked in the pocket of a great pair of interview-grade black pants. As for a job, I’ll come up with something… eventually. My self-confidence may ebb and flow like a tide, but my hope springs eternal. As I go along I see plenty of people less qualified for whatever position they hold than I would be. My grand philosophy is that they can’t all be sleeping with their bosses and when they eventually screw up bad enough to get themselves fired there I’ll be, resume in hand and looking fierce.