Today, I joined my friend Sarah for a walk at Shelby Farms with our dogs. It was an absolutely beautiful day, and I really wanted to get out. Sarah has an Afghan Hound. I have a mixed breed mutt. Everybody stopped to look at Sarah’s dog and comment on how beautiful, elegant and exotic she is. I, in my best doggie voice, spoke for Ashok. “Yeah…she may be beautiful, but she’s too skinny.” “I hate walking around with that dog.” “I’m beautiful, too!” Even people who came up to pet Emma, the Afghan, would come over to Ashok, and say, “Awwww….you’re pretty, too.” Even in the dog world, pretty gets people’s attention and admiration.
The other day, I posted a pic of Kate Upton’s curvy beautiful body in a swimsuit on my Facebook wall. She has been criticized by a pro-anorexic site as being a “cow”. Now, granted, those people are obviously weird anyway because they are into unhealthy body types. But, the comments do make for good discussion on what is beautiful. And, I saw one comment as I was looking for pics of Ms. Upton that said, “She is NOT fat. She just has a big gut which makes her look like a pig.” Well, how nice of you to clarify that, a**hole! Keep in mind that this young lady is 20 years old. When I was 20, I was a child emotionally….most 20 year olds are. So, the fact that Sports Illustrated is using children as models for their 37-year-old male demographic is just a little weird anyway. But, sex sells. I know from writing my blog, if I write a blog on sex, my reader views at least double if not triple or quadruple. If I was making money on it, you bet I’d be writing on it more often. It’s just good marketing.
I grew up in a media family, so I have a different take on publicity than most. I hate the fact that so much of our images of beauty are unrealistic and unattainable, but I don’t think the media and advertisers have an obligation to be more realistic in their rendition of beauty. I think people need to be more aware and educated of its impact on their psyche. The more we look at the images of female beauty as portrayed in the media, the more real they become in our brains. The more we hunger for them. Taking away the beauty thing, think about the way hamburgers are portrayed in an ad. The Whopper looks freaking amazing in an advertisement. But, when you get one at a Burger King, it looks nothing like that. I still eat them, though! I don’t expect the real thing to look like the advertisement. Now, with Photoshop, we’re not even looking at real models. Take a look at this link that shows celebrities before and after Photoshop. It’s REALLY just an image.
Apparently, Sports Illustrated has about 18 million women who read the Swimsuit Issue for beauty tips. In fact, this year, they have a section on how to achieve the “looks” in the magazine. Now, if I show up somewhere in a white parka and a bikini bottom, somebody please slap me silly. That’s not even practical in any sense of the imagination, especially in Memphis. I’d need a lot more than beauty tips to achieve that look. But, I digress. I know I’ve purchased that magazine to look at what a “beautiful” woman looks like, especially when I was younger and at least had a minor chance to simulate the looks in the magazine. The photography is amazing, and they are beautiful women. The swimsuit issue was added in 1964 to perk up – pun intended – magazine sales in the sports-slow month of February. I think it worked. Sex sells.
My friend Jessica is a personal trainer and a 25-year-old, and she said the ideal image of beauty for her generation is more athletic. That brings it’s own set of issues where women think they need 6-pack abs, a lifted butt and sculpted shoulders. In fact, she had to quit reading fitness magazines for awhile because she started thinking that her “softer” body compromised her authority in the fitness field. Now, she concentrates on how her spirit is her most important asset. That’s one reason why she’s my trainer. She does help me stay fit, but she is more focused on making me feel my best rather than look my best.
I have curly, kinky hair, big boobs and a big butt. I’m short, and my thighs are much bigger than I would like. I’m 52, so my body is beginning to show the signs of gravity’s pull on my body. I worry about how I look in my middle aged body and, even worse, how I’ll look in ten years. I know I take good pictures, but what happens the first time a guy sees me naked? Or I have to wear a swimsuit? All bets are off then. There is no bra holding things up, Spanx pulling things in or clothes that accentuate my best features. When I grew up in South Louisiana, I was teased about my boobs, and I was teased horribly about my frizzy hair. It was so bad that I asked for a wig at Christmas one year. I wore it to school, and the boys yanked it off and laughed at me. I remember feeling so ugly and unlucky. Why wasn’t I skinny and blond with a boyish figure and straight long, beautiful hair? Those memories die-hard. The feelings associated with being ugly, even if only in my own head, don’t go away easily. That fear of having people laugh at my frizzy hair and see me as ugly is still there….even if it only takes a moment to get my wits about me and realize that I’m much more than my hair.
It’s not easy being a woman. I know it’s not easy being a man either, but this is Girl Talk. We see images of beauty all over the place. It’s in our face constantly. Even those of us who are most self-aware still see that ugly duckling in the mirror and hope that there’s something out there that will help us move closer toward an ideal image of beauty. Maybe the beauty tips in Sports Illustrated will help. I’m kidding, of course. But, that’s what we think. Why else would 18 million women read a magazine that is clearly geared toward a demographic of 37-year-old men? I know they are not reading the articles. This issue comes out in February…..the height of preparing for swimsuit season. Ugh….I don’t even want to think about it. I’ll bet Ashok is searching the internet right now trying to figure out how to get skinnier legs and that long, lean look of an Afghan hound. There’s just no escaping it.