skindeep
Image courtesy of Box Six

Lots and lots and lots of people have written posts, articles, scholarly dissertations, and entire books about the standards of beauty that are pushed on our society by media from movies to newspapers to billboards to you name it.  It’s a bit presumptuous of me–to say the least–to think that I can add to that.  But recently an college/internet friend was lamenting the insanity of body image and just by losing a few pounds (not on purpose), suddenly she was getting lots of comments about how “skinny” she looked.

I’m glad that people are complimenting her, but the subtext here is really unfortunate. “Skinny” as the correct goal, as the only proper body type for a woman to have, as if those stick-like runway models you see posing in Calvin Klein or whatever are the epitome of feminine perfection.

It’s just as twisted in Hollywood, of course.  I’ve done a bit of research and found that the vast majority of Hollywood actresses are both tall (few under 5’8″), slender, and small-busted (B or A cup sized).  When a woman gets up to a C cup, suddenly she’s “curvy”; you get over that and they start calling you “full-figured” or “voluptuous”, which in Hollywood-speak–but not in the real world!–means “overweight”.  In a culture that calls Jessica Alba (5’7″, 125 pounds, B-cup) “curvy”, you know something is out of whack.  And women that are Belle Epoque-style like Christina Hendricks or Kat Dennings stand out so much that you can’t hardly read a profile of them without their size being mentioned.  It’s insane.

(The thing that struck me is that in a country where the average height of a woman is 5’4″-5’5″, anyone under 5’7″ is considered “short”.  I keep thinking Rachel McAdams is short, but she’s 5’5″, for pete’s sake!  And when you watch “Firefly”, Christina Hendricks looks like she’s quite short, but in reality she’s 5’8″–she’s just surrounded by a bunch of men who are all over 6′.  Which is a whole different conversation.)

I once opined to a friend of mine that I really appreciated seeing actresses that were built like women, with busts and hips and whatnot.  She almost hit me.  “Plenty of women are naturally thin!” she said.  “There’s no one build!”  And she was absolutely right and I had been stupid, and that’s basically the point of this whole rant:  We come in all sizes, and it doesn’t matter a damn bit what your size is or even how you look.  I have dated women varying from 6′ tall and very slender to under 5′ and very curvy, and who cares, you know?

When you love someone, or even just like hanging out with them, you will stop focusing on the inevitable imperfections–my chipped tooth; my thinning, graying hair; my over-abudnace of stomach fat, my lack of much of a chest or a six-pack (which I’ve never had); etc.–and start seeing mainly, or even only, those things that you like.  Maybe like an ex-gf, you are fascinated by the lion-like yellowish tinge at the center of my irises, or maybe you find my chip-toothed smile endearing, or maybe my perpetually rumpled look makes you feel comfortable.  Whatever.  It doesn’t matter, ultimately, because if you like the person, you’ll like things about their physical appearance.  You just will.  Or you’ll simply cease to notice it.

Now I would be an idiot if I said that looks and build and whatnot didn’t matter at all.  Of course they do; perforce, they’re the first thing you notice when you meet someone.  And of course you have preferences; everyone does.  But if you limit yourself by those, you’re ruling out a pretty wide swath of people that you might quite like, or even want to partner up with.  Just because I tend to prefer curvy brunettes and redheads doesn’t mean I haven’t dated slender blondes (or slender women in general); just because I like being significantly taller than a partner doesn’t mean I only dated short women and indeed, I married someone who in our wedding pics looks taller than me.  Etc.  It’s the person, you doofs.  They say beauty is only skin deep, and I have to say I agree with Rosie O’Donnell in “Beautiful Girls”:

Implants, collagen, plastic, capped teeth, the fat sucked out, the hair extended, the nose fixed, the bush shaved… These are not real women, all right? They’re beauty freaks. And they make all us normal women with our wrinkles, our puckered boobs, hi bob, and our cellulite feel somehow inadequate. Well I don’t buy it, all right? But you fucking mooks, if you think that if there’s a chance in hell that you’ll end up with one of these women, you don’t give us real women anything approaching a commitment. It’s pathetic. . . If you had an once of self-esteem, of self-worth, of self-confidence, you would realize that as trite as it may sound, beauty is truly skin-deep. And you know what, if you ever did hook one of those girls, I guarantee you’d be sick of her.

And it’s true, kids; it really is.  If the person you’re with is not someone you like talking to, believe me:  The morning after in bed is going to be damn awkward.

I don’t know how to change the warped perceptions of “Beauty” (with a capital “B”) coming out of media, but we can all do it one person at a time, right?  Stop judging those women by their slenderness or big boobs; stop judging that guy by his nice ass and awesome six-pack.  Listen to Rosie; those things fade.  Let’s all get a grip.

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