Let’s not kid ourselves. Or should I say, let’s not let them kid us anymore. Try as we might to promote body positivity and wellness, there’s a deeper trouble: at the end of the day it hardly matters what type of body we have, what kind of face, it’s not going to be good enough. It’s not supposed to be good enough, because if it were, then we wouldn’t need to continue bankrupting all our resources to keep up. As in all the money, time, and energy spent on appearances in hopes our experience of this world might improve, that we might be judged more kindly, treated better, valued higher.
Let’s consider the energy expenditure. The precious resource of energy. The mental, the physical, the emotional. This stuff is such a drain. The amount of junk to process is a drain.
The fact is that there is always a manufactured problem with our bodies, no matter the size or type. Let’s just get through this somewhat banal point before we get to the juice, because it seems it still hasn’t sunk in. If you’re not skinny, then you’re overweight. Then you need to be on so many diets. Shamed in subtle ways if you’re average, or in obvious ways if you’re fat. If you’re thin, that’s another problem. Then you need bigger boobs, a bigger butt. Then you have to contend with “real women have curves” as if you’re not real when in fact women of all sizes have curves in all different proportions. But it’s like the only way for any body to exist and get its fifteen minutes is by devaluing another body. But that’s all just the tip of the iceberg. Size and shape are only the beginning of the problem.
Maybe you’re “not beautiful” because you’re “not healthy” enough and so you need to invest in fancy cleanses and fringe diets and unforgiving exercise regimes. Maybe your hair is too curly, too straight, too frizzy, too flat, too boring, too thin, too long or short, too blah. Your face is fading, sinking, shrinking, sagging. You’re too pale, too dark, too mixed. Too plain. Too spotty. Too short in this situation, too tall in another, too muscular or not buff enough. Too…. old. It’s all fucked up.
No matter what you do, you’re too much of one thing and therefore not enough of another. You can never win. And that’s why I have to question whether or not we are really so free as we think we are. If freedom is nothing more than being able to buy whatever appearance we want within our socioeconomic means to feel less inadequate and defective, well that’s a hole that can never be filled and I’d say it’s rather depressing and unacceptable.
I want us to be really free to not even have to think about this empty, over-hyped, overrated body competition circus and anti-aging nonsense, much less worry about it. At this time the plastic surgery and injections industry is probably the ultimate symbol of our second class citizenship, and it’s growing more than ever before. We are not allowed to be as we are without a fight – I think, not without an all-out loud ass rebellion. We are not allowed to age as men do because aging women are not seen as beautiful as they are because we as a society do not allow aging women to exist as a form of beauty. Now it seems we don’t even want them to exist at all. I posit that we are very beautiful as we age – in a different way than we are when very young – and we ought to demand that this is seen by making it so. Provided that our creativity and intelligence don’t get totally wasted on all this other bullshit. But at this point, aging among women is so taboo that it’s damn near impossible to appreciate it. Just like being “fat” used to be the most totally taboo offense until we started to reject it, now they’ve moved on to another trap: now it is the wrinkle. It is the shadow. It is the sun spot.
The injections marketing is so effective you’d think that botox and fillers are cutting-edge, hip, and par for the course. Instead of what they really are, which is just another ball-and-chain. The procedures, along with the outrageously priced creams and all the rest, seem to become less and less elective. Which is to be expected, when your appearance is the primary marker of your worth and value. You could say that our culture has never been more superficial.
To a lesser extent men are also affected by these pressures, but let’s be honest about who are the real bread-and-butter consumers of the diet, anti-aging and cosmetic industries. For men at least, plastic surgery still remains largely elective. As for the rest of us, I question how much “personal choice” there really is to participate in the new standard. Just as we “advance” beyond the pay gap, basic rights, and sexual harassment issues — well we now also “advance” to a more sophisticated brand of mainstream misogeny and sexism. A closeted brand that’s less about the amount of money coming in, and more about the outgoing expenditures required to keep up with the demands and pressures. It’s a brand we can buy into. For now.
Is this freedom? This struggle to project the perfectly crafted, composed, polished, “fresh” specimens of ourselves? We are hardly encouraged to be as we are in any kind of way, which is at the very heart of our impoverishment, and the crux of our updated role. And I argue that there is such a role. In the demand for youth and perfection on every level, we are asked to serve as a representation. We are asked to take on all of culture’s discomfort with the mortality, pain, and suffering endemic in real life. We are asked to take on its rejection of the full range of emotions, limiting our expressions to that which is most pleasant and pleasing. We are asked to blind ourselves and others to that which makes us all most human, including our vulnerabilities and our “flaws.” We are asked to use our own bodies and faces to uphold and validate cultural intolerances, asked to symbolize ever-changing cultural fantasies at every turn, asked to blithely ignore, dismiss, and bypass our own socioeconomic realities. How can we possibly celebrate our own lives in the truest and most authentic sense, without feeling invited to bring and assert our whole selves? All under the guise of “fun” and “self-expression,” we are asked to reject parts of ourselves, to micromanage what elements of life and of ourselves are seen, known, appreciated, and it’s at our own expense. And it’s so tiring. There’s always something to be done to become more desirable, but it is a losing battle.
Why not call this battle what it really is, because it sure isn’t progress. It’s a scam. Like all good scams, this one preys on the most vulnerable. And like all good scams, it really doesn’t look like a scam, but it is, of the most insidious variety. You think you get what you pay for. But the real cost is so much more more than the sticker price.
Yes we are beautiful. But we don’t need all this stuff to be beautiful. We don’t need all this stuffing either. We don’t need anything.
I know this is the truth.