Our Bodies, Our Selves

“New Body, New Life?”
While standing in the checkout line a few weeks ago, the cover of this “magazine” caught my eye and I had to breathe deeply and count to ten.  Of all the lies we are told and tell ourselves, this is one of the most insidious: the notion that by changing our appearance we become a different person, the one who gets to live the life of our dreams. 
I’ll concede that losing weight has probably opened up some opportunities for Jennifer Hudson.  She works in an industry that is generally unforgiving of women who dare to go above a size 2, so she’ll probably get a wider range of work as long as she keeps the weight off.  She’s probably made some good money shilling for Weight Watchers.  And maybe now she can line up for some designer samples for her red carpet appearances.  But a “new life?”  Seriously?  She is still the person who was a finalist on American Idol and won an Oscar (both at her larger size, incidentally), still the person whose mother and brother were tragically murdered.  She was a beautiful and talented woman before and is still a beautiful and talented woman.
Maybe my perceptions are a bit skewed and my antennae a bit too finely tuned in this area.  I’ve posted before about my parents, who instilled in me the idea that nothing mattered for a woman as much as her appearance, and that being Pretty (capital P, culturally-sanctioned, Homecoming Queen, Breck Girl pretty) was the key to the kingdom.  I assumed that if I could just get thin I’d be Pretty, as I’d always been told “you have such a pretty face, if you’d just lose some weight….”  My parents divorced when I was in 9th grade; I latched with a vengeance onto the idea that somehow being thin/Pretty would make my life “normal” and began dieting in earnest, spending the next decade and a half in the narrowed world of eating disorders.  I believed that solving the “problem” of my body would solve the problems of my life.  So during those years, rather than being focused outward toward the larger world and my place in it, I was focused inward in a never ending struggle to be “thin enough” to cross the elusive threshold into Pretty, when all of the chaotic pieces would somehow fall into place, and my *real* life would begin. Though I managed to get good grades both in high school and college, had friends and the occasional boyfriend, did well in the various jobs I held, my thoughts were often consumed by what I was going to have for lunch and what the scale would show the next morning and whether I’d ever look like the image of the 5’10”, 110lb models I’d torn from magazines and pinned up to inspire me on those nights when I was losing the battle with my growling stomach.  I have trouble remembering the dates of my first (brief) marriage and divorce, but I could probably tell you what I weighed in any given month and year between the ages of 15 and 30. 
In my early 30’s, I had a friend who was not just Pretty, but traffic-stoppingly gorgeous.  I’m talking a cross between young Susan Sarandon and young Michelle Pfeiffer gorgeous.  We’d go out, and she’d be swarmed by men.  I can’t tell you how many times some alpha male would sidle up to her and say all googly-eyed, “you are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen!”   When I’d remark on her beauty, she’d say “yeah, that and fifty cents will get me a cup of coffee” (the actual price of a cup of coffee at the time in those pre-Starbucks days).  She complained that men could never get beyond her looks, and weren’t interested in getting to know who she was.  No one ever praised her intelligence or sense of humor (she had both in spades). Her prettiness didn’t save her from troubles.  She battled with substance abuse, bad relationships, money problems.  Since then I’ve seen countless examples reinforcing the understanding that even great beauty doesn’t save us from struggle, from loss and grief, from sickness and death. 
The currency of Pretty is widely accepted, but it only goes so far, only buys so much.  Yes, it might open some doors, and smooth some roads, but ultimately the quality of our lives is mostly up to us and the choices we make.  We give too much power to Pretty.  Losing weight or changing some other aspect of our appearance may do much to boost confidence, allow us a broader range of sartorial choices, and be received generally more positively from the world at large. But Pretty doesn’t erase an unhappy childhood or replenish a ravaged retirement account or keep us dry when life is raining down shit.

The attributes of confidence, attitude, kindness, curiosity, a sense of humor, generosity of spirit, poise, character, and yes, style, will take us to all of those places that Pretty goes and then far beyond, and these can all be cultivated and sustained at whatever age, long after Pretty has flown the coop.  For those of us who don’t make a living in the lens of a camera or walking red carpets, Pretty is fleeting and of little value on its own.  Being known and loved, loving, being able to enjoy the moment, making a contribution to this world in whatever capacity we have…these are the things that determine the quality of our lives and aren’t dependent on being a size 2 or having flawless skin. 

So the next time we find ourselves caught up Before and After daydreams, it’s good to recall the words of Buckaroo Banzai, “Remember, no matter where you go, there you are.”

(And if I haven’t convinced you, go read this amazing post from almost four years ago, from A Dress A Day. )

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  1. September 21, 2010 / 12:15 pm

    Great post. Thank you for the reminder.

  2. Pearlaceous
    September 21, 2010 / 12:53 pm

    Very wise words.

  3. September 21, 2010 / 12:54 pm

    Great post. Thank you.

  4. September 21, 2010 / 1:01 pm

    The ‘must be pretty’ message sells product, so the magazines have to keep pushing it, relentlessly.

    You’ve pointed out the falacy in this view very well. Just look at the lives of some (most?) celebrities – broken marriages, substance abuse.

    Hard to counter when it’s so pervasive in our materialistic society.

  5. September 21, 2010 / 1:11 pm

    Absolutely great post. And, I am with Northmoon, selling thin and pretty is a huge industry. I can’t say it enough, people are too gullible; if the media says it is, then it is true. No, it’s not! Just like those circulating emails that tell us a cleaning product can kill out dog, doesn’t mean it is true! We should all be blind for a day to “see” what is truly beautiful.

  6. September 21, 2010 / 1:25 pm

    Like you, I had a friend that I used to hang with who made men swarm. Unfortunately, my friend didn’t have the confidence or brains of yours. Instead, she traded on her looks for love, which never worked out. She also judged men the same way–by their prettiness–and ended up with users and losers. Sadly, I stopped being her friend after she got me in a very dangerous situation due to same (oh, and I found out that she got her values directly from her mom, who helped get me in same dangerous situation). She had brains, talent, and abilities, but only believed in her looks. So sad, even after 20 years.

  7. September 21, 2010 / 1:43 pm

    I appreciate and resonate with every word, thank you! Wonder how many teens and twenties would? Beauty is still a very potent, universal currency.

    A friend of mine owned one of those introduction services (legit, not escort). She said the men said they wanted intelligence, kindness, sense of humour but chose the prettiest women every single time.

  8. September 21, 2010 / 1:57 pm

    Wonderful post. But that narrow ‘Breck Girl’ definition of pretty, blond,waspy,turned up nose,etc.,is in my opinion, a thing of the past. Pretty today encompasses all kinds of looks including a variety of ethnic features…although I would bet that the magazine lightened Jennifer Hudson’s skin color for the cover shot.

    Just look at the fabulous women on the Sartorialist and other fashion websites. Of course they are thin enough to wear clothes well, but they, thankfully, exceed that narrow definition of pretty.

    Maybe one reason why I have always been intrigued by French culture and sensibilities is that, in addition to having extremely pretty women like Bardot and Deneuve, there is a great appreciation for women who are belle laide.

  9. September 21, 2010 / 2:13 pm

    Great post…I admire Jennifer Hudson’s committment to losing weight and I think she does look healthy.
    I however and in the “fat” camp and seeing success stories like these make me feel inferior and undisciplined…and that is why I rarely buy mags like this one.
    Show me Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) on the cover of a mag with a caption like “Embracing Your Curves”
    and I would take out a subscription!

    Pretty is just part of the package anyways.

  10. September 21, 2010 / 2:34 pm

    You know – it’s always SOMETHING. I never had the ‘pretty or not’ issue when I was young because I’d been told pretty early on that the only pretty women were TALL and since I topped out when I was 12 at NOT tall, I knew I’d never be pretty. Funny, cute, peppy, interesting, creative, yes. Pretty – never. I never realized anyone else considered me pretty until a guy discovered me at a softball game (he was catching/ I was pitching). That was the guy I married. There is just this huge list of attributes that seem to be barriers to pretty (and we won’t discuss why pretty is somehow a necessity): height, weight, bust size, hip size, calf and ankle size (thing of all the nasty comments about Hillary Clinton’s ankles)..the list goes on and on. And in the end, it all doesn’t matter. At this point in my life, I’m pretty happy – I still have all my teeth, all my hair and everything works pretty well. I didn’t put a whole lot of stock into ‘pretty’ and it’s worked out pretty well for me.

  11. September 21, 2010 / 3:58 pm

    Although, as I’ve written in my recent posts on portraiture, I never saw myself as “pretty” (like Toby Wollin, I saw myself excluded from that territory for various reasons), I was lucky that my parents considered that attribute rather inconsequential. I was sometimes frustrated that they underestimated its importance for me, but thank goodness they emphasized my intelligence and, through their faith, insisted that I face outward to what I could/should do for others. Prettiness and Beauty continue to fascinate and generally elude me, although I’ve learned to content myself with Style (and its poor cousin, Fashion). Meanwhile, though, I have a wonderful family, great friends, engaging and satisfying work, and plentiful hobbies and aspirations. Looking at the newstand offerings for women, it’s hard to tell this range of possibilities exists — we really have to speak up, as you do here — Bravo, Pseu!

  12. Anonymous
    September 21, 2010 / 4:34 pm

    Often forgotten in the value of “pretty” is the other side. When you are selected as a result of beauty you will also be rejected when that beauty inevitably fades.

  13. September 21, 2010 / 5:30 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. I want to print it out and hang it next to my bed, because it is seriously that good.

    I had the same reaction as you when I saw that headline about Jennifer Hudson – as if she wasn’t beautiful, talented and awe-inspiring before she lost weight!

    I also have one of those incredibly beautiful friends who attracts male attention where ever she goes. And as a single 20-something, it gets frustrating to feel like the non-pretty wingwoman. But what you said here rings true for her – she has a hard time getting men to appreciate her intelligence, faith, etc, because they’re focused solely on her looks.

    Thanks for the beautifully-written reminder that Pretty isn’t everything.


  14. September 21, 2010 / 5:34 pm

    Well said, MIss Pseu, as usual.

    Miss Janey has believed the Pretty myth for most of her life. Even today after several years of attending OA meetings she can feel herself getting sucked in from time to time. Last week, in frustration about her body image, she took a picture of herself circa 1992 to her therapist. Miss J was training for the LA marathon at the time, was maybe a size 8… you could see the definition of her abs. She sees that picture now and thinks, “Holy shit was I HOT!” Naturally, at the time she considered herself fat. What a spectacular waste of energy and life to do this to ones self.

  15. September 21, 2010 / 6:22 pm

    What a wonderful piece! And in addition to depressing emphasis on appearance and weight, I am also concerned about the unrealistic beauty standards that women are asked to live up to. This was brought home to me when I was included in a meeting to discuss a beauty book project with Giselle Bundchen– and I didn’t recognize her. Without hair, make-up and fashion, not even Giselle looked like the iconic beauty. It changed forever how I felt about my own reflection in the mirror and I wrote about this incident in my no-nonsense beauty blog. Its bad enough to expect us to be thin and pretty forever– it verges on the ridiculous to be measured against manufactured standards. Thanks again for the reality check.

  16. knitpurl
    September 21, 2010 / 11:44 am

    DP – this was a great read, thanks for starting my day with this. Found you (again) from (Tish’s and) Marci’s list of blogs to check. (Does anyone know why Marci stopped her glorious blog?)

    Buckaroo Banzai’s quote says it all. xoxoxoCarole

  17. September 21, 2010 / 6:48 pm

    My daughter needs to see this, but she’s only 7. I think I will save it for her!

  18. jungleworldcitizen
    September 21, 2010 / 12:49 pm

    Very well put!
    Thank you for reminding us 😉


  19. Monalisa
    September 21, 2010 / 8:47 pm


  20. Couture Allure Vintage Fashion
    September 21, 2010 / 1:56 pm

    Bravo, Pseu! This is one of your best posts ever. Thank you so much.

  21. September 21, 2010 / 8:58 pm

    so Perfectly Put~ and the post from Dress a day was very inciteful too! Thanks on both counts

  22. September 21, 2010 / 9:57 pm

    Aargh. They never relent, do they, the people who want us to be unsatisfied so they can make money?

    The thing is, at least we can see them coming (or we can once we’ve smartened up to their game). Much more insidious, I think, are the messages we carry around inside ourselves that important people in our past burdened us with.

    Like the message my sister and I got from our father, that I was the smart one and she was the pretty one. (You know, because there’s only one way to be smart: book smart — and only one way to be pretty: thin.) I lugged that one around for years before I was able to chuck it into a ditch, and I think my poor sister, bless her, is still bent double under her half of it.

    Thank you so much for speaking out!

  23. September 21, 2010 / 10:24 pm

    Wonderful post! I’m always amazed at how many women have gone through what I have gone through. I’m raising a daughter who is just entering puberty and trying very hard not to pass on any of my past issues.

  24. La Belette Rouge
    September 21, 2010 / 3:42 pm

    I have a friend who was a very successful model. Now she is in her 50’s and I see her baffled by a world who no longer gives her what she want just based on her beauty. It is sad to see. And it almost makes me glad I am not beautiful. 😉

  25. metscan
    September 21, 2010 / 3:46 pm

    I just enjoyed reading this post. Thank you!

  26. Jana
    September 21, 2010 / 3:58 pm

    Thank you…we are bombarded every day by the message of beauty is everything. I appreciate all you had to say.

  27. Denise
    September 21, 2010 / 4:11 pm

    Well thought, well said. I very much appreciated that you separated capital P “Pretty” from Beauty. Pretty is fine, is fleeting. Beauty, on the other hand, is within us and around us, and is available to all of us. We’re born from it, and born to it. Beauty is in being, in doing. Pretty, to me anyway, just sits there, waiting to be noticed. Beauty overwhelms us, ravishes us, makes us cry with joy.

  28. September 22, 2010 / 12:55 am

    When do we change our perception of attractiveness ~ small children are attracted to personalities and characters that they feel comfortable around and enjoy doing the things that they enjoy. but some-where along the way this gets lost and teenagers start to seek out the pretty and the popular – then as adults perhaps we start to get a better perspective on what and who is attractive.

  29. September 22, 2010 / 1:43 am

    knitpurl – thanks so much! I know Marsi was travelling, don’t know if she’s back yet.

    Julianne – you’re very welcome!

    jungleworldcitizen – thank you.

    Pearlaceous – thanks very much.

    NancyK – You’re very welcome. This was one I needed to write.

  30. Mary
    September 21, 2010 / 6:54 pm

    Good subject for today. Each time I view your photos from the street I have noticed and compared myself to those women who all seem to be thin or at least thinner.
    However, I had – about 30 years ago lost a lost of weight during one year and afterwards, I WAS a different person. Yes, I had been the same person inside but when my outside changed I became a more out-going, freer person.
    Now, however, after an unexpected divorce and at the same time lost both of my parents, the weight just piled on and now I am trying desperately to remember how in the world I took it off the last time.
    I do want everyone else who may read this to know that my friends all think I am a VERY INTERESTING person and that I should still go out and not let it affect me. I do try…

  31. September 22, 2010 / 2:03 am

    Northmoon – so true, and the bar is always just out of reach. I figure that raging against the machine is the only way I know to counter the destructive messages.

    BODECI body – it’s so true. In the 1990’s, I remember reading that weight loss was a $60 Billion annual industry. I have to believe it’s doubled since then. Great point about being blind for a day.

    Pearl – I think it’s always sad when women are taught to rely on their looks to get by, and don’t develop their other talents.

    Duchesse – I think it’s the same with guys who go to bars to meet women. They tend to be the type looking for hot babes. And the women are looking for rich guys.

    Couture Allure – thanks so much!

    Belle – I agree that the definition of “pretty” has broadened considerably. But it’s still my contention that even on Sartorialist and other street-style sites, the women are almost universally very thin and young, and most of us don’t meet even those expanded definitions. That’s ok, the problem comes when trying to achieve whatever standard of Prettiness takes on too much importance in our lives.

  32. September 22, 2010 / 2:19 am

    hostess – I think making us feel inferior is the “Prime Objective” of many of these womens’ magazines!

    Toby Wollin – good for you! I think “pretty” is just one of many things we might happen to be. And I really think that we’re often at our most attractive not when we’re all decked out, but when we’re doing something we enjoy, and unselfconsciously.

    LBR- don’t make me have to say it….you ARE beautiful!! But those of us who didn’t rely solely on our looks are advantaged, I think.

    metscan – glad you enjoyed, thanks!

    Jana – you’re very welcome.

    materfamilias – thanks! Your posts on your portraits really were part of the inspiration for this rant. I hate that we diminish ourselves for not living up to some arbitrary standard, when really, we all have such beauty when taken as whole individuals. And these days, I’d take “stylish” over “pretty” in a nanosecond!

    Denise – yes! Beauty is so much more about the whole person, not a set of physical features. People we love are always beautiful to us.

  33. September 22, 2010 / 2:39 am

    Anonymous – that’s so true. I don’t buy the old adage about “beauty is power” because whomever determines what is beautiful or not holds the real power in that game.

    Marianne – thanks so much! That’s very kind of you to say. I know what you mean about being the “wingwoman.” It’s frustrating, but we eventually hit our stride.

    Miss Janey – oh yes, it sometimes is only in hindsight that we are able to recognize our own attractiveness. As I once read “I’d kill to weigh what I did when I was 20 pounds lighter, when I would’ve killed to weigh 10 pounds less.” It’s really a crime what we do to ourselves.

    Deborah – that’s so true! Living in LA, one sometimes spots celebrities on the street. They look so NOT like the glamorous image from magazines or movie screen. Almost normal, in fact.

  34. September 22, 2010 / 2:51 am

    dana – I think she’ll be lucky to have a mom like you who will help her keep things in perspective!

    Mary – it sounds like you’ve had a lot to deal with. Sometimes after big losses we just need some time to heal. At some point, you’ll be ready to more forward, and at that point, I’d bet your self-confidence comes roaring back.

    Monalisa – thanks!

    Paula – isn’t that Dress A Day post just the best? I still go back and read that one periodically.

    Rubiatonta – one of my very favorite quotes: “It’s hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head” –Sally Kemption

    Learning to kick those enemies out is some of the most important work we ever do.

    Terri – welcome, and thanks for your comment! The good news is that if one wants to, it’s never to late to develop a bit of style.

  35. September 22, 2010 / 2:56 am

    Kristine – I think just being conscious of the messages we get from our culture and media, and helping her to read between the lines will be of great help to her. The good news is that I think kids today are much more media savvy than we were.

    All Things French – that’s so true! Young children are drawn to people who are warm, fun and kind. Too bad we tend to lose that perspective!

    Kalee – it’s so easy to scapegoat our bodies, isn’t it?

  36. Jill Ann
    September 22, 2010 / 4:35 am

    I’ve been pondering this post all day, and how/whether to respond. My personal baggage around this topic is that I am a middle aged, overweight woman who loves fashion; and it truly is difficult if not impossible to dress attractively when you are overweight. Sorry, but it’s true. That doesn’t mean you (we) are unworthy as people, of course, but we sure get that message; and being a middle aged woman already renders one invisible, for the most part.

    Even though I was raised to be smart and educated and to be proud of that (and I am,) I still feel the sting every time I look in the mirror or try on clothes. Like others who posted, I can look at my old pictures and wish I still had that figure—-I was quite adorable, I now realize, until my childbearing/menopausal weight gain. Appearance is very important, especially for women, and as much as we wish it weren’t true, it simply is.

    Sorry to be such a downer! Btw, I am not advocating that everyone should be a size 0 and have straight blond hair. What I AM saying is that “everyone is beautiful” is pleasantly naive and applies to inner beauty, at best. And I do agree that we should stop being so critical of women’s looks. I wish I weren’t so critical of my own…………

  37. Terri
    September 21, 2010 / 10:00 pm

    You have a new reader. Unlike you, my parents never instilled the pretty message, but pushed education instead. That is what I pursued…and I have a “certified area of expertise to show for it.” Now, at a late age, I have a budding interest in fashion. In looking back though, I can see ways in which my life would have been very different, if I had given a bit more attention to my appearance. Not for prettiness sake, but for professionalism’s sake.

  38. Kalee
    September 22, 2010 / 1:20 am

    This post is very timely, as I just posted about needing to deal with my issues, and stop thinking that changes in weight will just change my life!

  39. aaonce
    September 22, 2010 / 11:51 am

    When I saw that magazine cover on the stands, it made me sick to my stomach. My first thought was, “What a crock!” Sometimes it feels like you are the only one saying “but the Emperor is naked!!! Why doesn’t anyone else acknowledge that?” Thank you for this post, and the link. I enjoyed reading them both.

  40. September 22, 2010 / 12:31 pm

    Ha! Thanks for the link. She still won’t be able to wear those sample sizes unless she’s the right height though! I don’t know how tall she is. Wait, I just checked. She is 5’9″. Perfect! I was worried she’d have to work on growing taller next.

    About “even great beauty doesn’t save us from struggle, from loss and grief, from sickness and death” — just the other day I was thinking (irritably) about how people seem to think fame/fortune protects others from misery. How many coarse comments have I read on the internet that minimize someone’s suffering because the sufferer has money?! It’s just a bizarre way to think. If any of the people who write such things hit the lottery, do they think all their emotions would go away? I’m always reminding myself that people who seem to have more — more beauty, more money, more success — aren’t necessarily happier and therefore shouldn’t be excessively envied. You don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.

  41. Veuve
    September 22, 2010 / 5:57 am

    Again, another great post! Thank you. I almost have that Dress-A-Day post from several years ago memorized; I have it bookmarked and read and recommend it often.

    I too, was raised with the same idea that you really didn’t count as a woman unless you were “Pretty”. And I was already thin, so it wasn’t about that. The bar was always somehow set higher than I could reach, no matter how much I obsessed over makeovers and magazines. Ironically, now that I’m in my 50s, I get more compliments on my looks than I ever did when I was younger. Because now I don’t care all that much and go with my own style– which was inside me all along, and I didn’t trust myself enough to tap into it until now. There’s something to be said for “a certain age”.

  42. September 22, 2010 / 2:49 pm

    A great post, as always, but while I will come back and try to be as thoughtful in response as you were in writing I have to quickly defend the magazine’s copywriter….

    The “New X, New Life” is a trope — “New Series, New Life!” “New Man, New Life!” “New City, New Life!” blah blah.

    Not saying it doesn’t prey on those of us who are overwhelmed by the Universal Shoulds, but in her case I think the phrasing is accurate.

    Hudson has a new baby, is talking about coming out the other side of the murders, and as part of her WW gig is doing some work around childhood obesity/activity. [As is Michelle Obama.]

    All those roles — mother, survivor of family violence, ambassador/semi-activist — are very different from her singing and acting stuff.

    And really the ONLY way her “new body”/weight loss has contributed to her “new life” is the WW.

    So that’s my defense of the cover, which I don’t intend to minimize all the great things you’ve written!

  43. September 22, 2010 / 3:58 pm

    It had to be said. And you said it all.

  44. September 22, 2010 / 4:35 pm

    I had to sit on this one. Here’s the one part I want to add, since everyone has done such a good job of saying what needed to be said. The currency of Pretty is deceptive. When you are Pretty, you like the coin. It’s hard not to – society is set up to tie the coin of Pretty to the bank account of Self-Worth. But Pretty is a scam, if you aren’t taught. Pretty coin sits in your account and opens up hacks and sends much of the value you’ve accumulated from Competency and Intelligence and Good Sportsmanship, overseas. The currency of Pretty rarely brings lasting benefit to the pretty one. But, like any other addiction, it feels good enough that it’s very hard to give up.

  45. September 22, 2010 / 7:16 pm

    I have someting else to say,after reading comments and thnking. Let’s be careful of falling into the stereotype that says that pretty, or beautiful or whatever level of aesthetic pleasingness a person achieves *causes* unhappiness, or when their looks go, they’ll be sorry. I have known a number of great looking women. Most of them were not solely admired for their looks, and are not now lost without their lustrous beauty. One is, definitely. One drank herself to death young. But I can think of at least three dozen who seem to be doing well.

    The other side of the coin is the envy of those of us not so genetically blessed.

  46. September 22, 2010 / 9:19 pm

    Loved this post.

    We are so much more than how we look and yet how we look defines so many off us.


  47. Susan Tiner
    September 22, 2010 / 4:43 pm

    What a treat to visit the first time and read this post.

    I have been meaning to visit for awhile — love seeing your comments on LBR’s blog and LPC’s blog.

    I also recently started reading materfamilias writes and thoroughly enjoyed the portrait posts.

    Thanks for the wisdom!

  48. September 23, 2010 / 3:40 am

    Jill Ann – I’ll admit it was hard for me to read your comment, because it’s so easy for me to go to that place where I hate how I look and hate my body. True, there are cultural standards of attractiveness, and no, not everyone is equal there. But I find it helps to remind myself that these standards are not universal, nor timeless. I’ve learned to accept that there are certain styles of clothing that just don’t work for me anymore, but others do and I focus on those. I don’t have to accept the invisibility that our culture wants to drape over me.

    Veuve – I agree! I think that reaching this age frees us up a bit to express ourselves more. And when we dress more in alignment with our inner selves, when the inside and the outside work together, we do look better.

    aaonce – I guess “the emperor is naked” doesn’t sell products. Thank you.

    Wendy B – yes, exactly! Beauty, fame, money, talent…none of these make for a trouble free life. Life isn’t a fairy tale.

    Vix – but all of the things you mention are part of creating her “new life” probably even more than her “new body” is. I understand it’s a trope, but it’s a very manipulative trope that I really despise.

  49. September 23, 2010 / 3:50 am

    A-Dubs – thanks so much!

    LPC – and here’s another example of why we love your writing. You’re absolutely brilliant. Thanks for adding this perspective.

    Susan Tiner – hello and welcome! Thank you very much. Isn’t materfamilias’ writing wonderful?

    Duchesse – oh I agree. It’s the whole notion of assigning a set of character traits to someone based solely on their appearance that chaps my hide.

    Faux Fuschia – thank you and yes. While focusing on style and our appearance can be fun, it’s important to retain some balance.

  50. September 23, 2010 / 12:29 pm

    Excellent post. Well said. There’s so much more to life than fussing over pretty and thin.

  51. September 27, 2010 / 3:21 am

    thanks for this post; i find myself constantly infuriated by the weight watchers and other weight loss ripoff industry ideas of what constitutes beauty. excellent point that JH’s career seemed to be not exactly a total loss before this big weight loss. (her tragic personal life is another matter). as a matter of fact, she wouldn’t have gotten her oscar winning role at her current “acceptable” weight. the other one that kills me is Sara Rue — who i thought ws a beautiful, fresh and talented comedienne and actress. she was the lead in a television show years ago, and was the best thing on the show Eastwick (well, aside from the ever luscious paul gross, of course). she was noticeble and notable. now…. eh. she looks bland and plasticized and i have to admit to a certain amount of disappointment in her choice.

    i remember years ago, a man told me, “you know, if you wore contacts and lost some weight you might be gorgeous.” i looked him up and down and said, “if you were six inches taller and had a full head of hair, you might be gorgeous too.” and do you know what… his feelings were hurt. you see, he was trying to pay me a *compliment.* i’m too old now to care anymore how i’m *supposed* to look. and i’ve never noticed my life changing in one direction or other with my weight.

  52. September 30, 2010 / 11:41 am

    What fantastic sentiments – I totally agree with you – as one who has been battling my weight since having children it has made me stop and think why I am so obsessed with loosing weight ? No-one cares what I look like other than me and if people judge me on my looks alone then they are not the type of people I want to be friends with. Balance – is the way to go. Thank you for making me stop and think.

  53. October 1, 2010 / 9:09 pm

    Great post. My parents were cool about weight growing up. It was the school kids that were mean. I am 10 lbs. away from my high school weight. Back then I thought I was fat. Can you believe that?

  54. Anonymous
    April 10, 2011 / 11:34 pm

    Interesting post. I have been told my entire life that I’m pretty. When you grow up with people commenting on your looks all the time, people giving you extra attention – it shapes your life a little, and not in a good way. My Mum taught me from a young age that there was much more to me than my looks though, and I’m grateful for this. I used to enjoy the comments, but these days I just say “thank you” and then think nothing more of them. Why? I know its temporary. I just turned 30 and realized I have puffy eyes in the morning. Little wrinkles are creeping up. I know that pretty doesn’t last for decades. But you know what does? Being a kind, interesting and intelligent person. I’m glad to have invested in my personality vs caring too much about my looks. I think it would be sad if I got to 50 and became a shallow person whose looks of 25 were a memory. Looks simply don’t matter all that much. While the way I look is a part of me – there’s a great deal more than just looks.

    My MIL on the other hand was very pretty as a young woman, still is very attractive. But she places so much emphasis on her looks it isn’t attractive. She is constantly dieting, talking about her looks. Blegh. I find it so incredibly boring. She’s having an awful time with aging, since she doesn’t get as much attention these days. I love my MIL but I think it such a shame she invested so much interest in her looks. Looks and youth are fleeting. Its the person we are within that is lasting.

    This is why I don’t take the “pretty comments” too seriously. If I invested too much in my looks, that would be a sad future!

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