Saturday, October 30, 2010

My skin is like a map of where my heart has been... --Natasha Bedingfield

**before you read this post, please watch this short 5 minute video on photo-shopping/retouching & body issues**

 Natasha Bedingfield, an English pop singer and music writer, made a unique music video called "I Bruise Easily."  She walks the halls of a hotel wearing Japanese traditional make up and a wig, hair pieces, false eyelashes, and kimono over her everyday clothes.

In the video she starts taking off pieces and parts of her costume and then removing her make up slowly to finally reveal herself, all while singing, "Anyone who can touch you, can love you, can leave you..." and "I bruise easily, so be gentle."

Ironically, the tall, slender, blonde musician is actually more lovely without all the get-up on than with the 9 pounds of make up.  But this video got me thinking about us women and our addictions to makeup, manicures, sunless tanning, Brazilian waxing, Botox, etc, etc.

We are crazy!  Not to sound like a raging feminist, but seriously, even many gay men don't go through the rigors we women do.  Why are we so addicted to feeling beautiful and looking perfect?

Personally, I remember feeling ashamed and ugly in the junior high.  I had really huge dark eyebrows that probably could have used a severe plucking, but neither my mother nor I had the presence of mind to pull off such a feat.  So I got called "Caterpillar Eyebrows" by some of the boys in my class who I thought were my friends and even advised by my best friend's older sister that I really needed to pluck my eyebrows.

While cultures around the world differ drastically in ideas of what beauty is, I think our culture in the United States is a little off-balance.  We struggle with both obesity and body issues bordering on obsession with being thin--teenage girls and even grown women struggle with anorexia and bulimia, disorders that threaten with death and infertility.  We're slicing, dicing, and rearranging our bodies to have bigger boobs, smaller/perkier/tighter/or flatter butts, plumper lips, smoother skin, or sharper profiles.

Change is usually a good thing--there's nothing saying we couldn't take off a couple pounds, plug in the treadmill and hop on it, or take care of our skin.  But the drive to be considered beautiful and acceptable or even perfect is pushing some women to the extremes of either obesity because of emotional issues stemming from rejection over their unacceptably uglyness, per se, or to starving themselves with bulimia/anorexia in order to attain the unattainable.

Reading blogs, articles, and findings about how culture should be changed, men should have to wear pantyhose and make up and curlers and high heels--yeah, I would love to agree that men should have to do those outrageous things so they could appreciate what we go through.

But I think we women have no one to blame but ourselves for our hatred of our body, our skin, our teeth, our hair.

You say to an angry, rebellious toddler who just slapped his little sister because she poked him, "You are only responsible for yourself.  No matter what your sister does to you, you shouldn't slap her back."  But do we stop to think of the same little quaint line when another woman informs us (whether knowingly or unknowingly) that we've gained a little pudge?  That our skin is a little pimply?  That we could use a little Botox?

We've lost sight of the "turn-the-other-cheek" principle.  We feel entitled to hit, kick, ridicule, back-stab anyone who does anything slightly similar to us.  It's our right to have vengeance--on others and on ourselves.

He dumped me for a skinny chick, so I'll show him.  I'll show myself I'm worth something.  I'll stop eating and I'll start working out several hours a day.  I'll gag myself so I puke.  I'll get skinny even if it means harming my body, harming relationships with my friends and family, and consequentially taking away anything I might have dreamed of having in the future.

We don't stop to think, "Oh, he's just selfish and stuck-up.  Sure he hurt me, but it's not my fault he's shallow," when a man dumps us for someone else (for whatever reason).

We don't stop to tell ourselves, "I don't want to be with someone so shallow."
Instead, we buy into their shallow mindset and try to change ourselves at our own cost.  We kill ourselves in order to be thin, a.k.a. "acceptable" with no thought of bettering ourselves mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and ultimately physically.

We are simply selfish and proud.

We don't have to look at supermodels and think, "Ugh, I hate myself for being a size 14 and not a size 00."

Why not think, "Oh wow, she must have amazing genes."  Or, " be that insanely thin, she must starve herself."  Or, "She must work hard for that body--and that career!"

We are simply stupid when we hate ourselves.

Women, we are beautiful by nature.  We're all different and all unique in our own ways.  We are smart and savvy, strong and powerful.

Women generations older than us fought for equality in the workplace and in politics and won.   

Let's fight a similar fight and win--the fight to be smart enough to think through what advertising tells us we should look like, what the media is telling us is "in", what health and beauty trends are popular, and what fashion says we've got to look like.

Let's be smart enough to research, to work hard, to eat well, to be humble, to encourage each other, and to lift each other up instead of tearing each other down.

Let's fight to be beautiful, healthy women who aren't so stupid and shallow we start hating the natural way our bodies are in order to become something that isn't even real--that's been photo-shopped and airbrushed and tweaked by professionals selling us their designer clothing, perfume, and gadgets.

If you know someone who struggles with an eating disorder, struggles with dieting & exercising, struggles with self esteem because they aren't the ideal stick-thin beauty, encourage them to love themselves with health and well-being.

For example:  think of an athlete who trains her body with specific exercise & routines, feeds it certain foods, sleeps a certain number of hours, and keeps tabs on everything with a goal in mind.  She may be thin, strong, and beautiful, but she got to that place by caring for herself and her body.

But think of my friend Kim, we'll call her (not her real name).  She started eating 3 leaves of spinach, a tomato, and drinking gallons of apple juice downed with laxatives.  She would purge after eating, then hit the gym for hours at a time until she had bone-thin arms, an emaciated face, but was--hurray--a size 0.  She was thin, all right, but she was terribly unhealthy.  She pushed away tons of friends in her fight to be thin.  Caused intense strain on her family as they tried to reason with her and fight to take care of her and prove they loved her.  She can't have children now.  And who knows if any man will be able to learn to love her when she isn't loving herself.

Please, women.  Let's be savvy.  Let's be healthy.  Let's be loving.

Turn the other cheek the next time your pride slaps you across the face.  You pass that skinny girl and you start to hate your body.  You get that fat, nasty, unlovable feeling?  Turn the other cheek and let your pride slap you on the other side of your face too.  Simply think.  Admire her stamina for working out, admire her for being strong in the face of chocolate cake temptation and use that admiration for another woman's success to spur you on to do the same--as long as you're not starving yourself.

Please, women.  The puking, the binging, the hating, the pinching, the pain--it's not worth it.  Please love yourselves and love the women around you.

We're in this together.

Watch this video:  Dove Evolution

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