It happened again. I turned on the TV for some background noise, and heard this: “Get rid of your problem areas…”
The commercial was selling one of those extreme body vetting procedures, one likely involving sharp instruments or a mysterious new invasive thing. It never described exactly how it could free so many of us from our burdensome silhouettes. There was just a promise of “problem area” obliteration. Call today!
I often smack my un-botoxed forehead when I hear these ads. They reek of the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and the aughts.
I thought, as a culture, we were finally winning the war on body shaming. There’s ample evidence we have evolved. Magazine articles, internet chatter, news, talk shows, and Dove soap commercials have all been hammering away that it’s okay to not look like a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.
And thank God for the pushback, because is it anyone’s true goal to crawl around a hot Caribbean beach in a metallic floss-kini, with fake fierce eyes gazing through strands of fan-blown hair?
But it seems the beauty industrial complex has not caught up to the anti-body-shaming movement. We’re getting mixed messages. As evidenced by my yellevision, the war rages on. The perfection industry is still trying to beat us down in its well-sculpted arms race.
Granted, some people, men and women alike, have health issues related to too much weight. That’s a realm for doctors and patients, and it’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m worried about when you are relatively healthy (or even not but you’re trying to be) and the vanity vultures tell you that, visually, you don’t measure up. If you have curves or some reserves, you are a walking collection of problem areas.
I’ve lived long enough to look back on my own distinct life stages and how my body has changed. Though I’m a nervous ectomorph, a vertical-ish type, I am human. There were college habits of too much late night bakery worship. There were pregnancies in my thirties. And now, hello, there’s the middle-age metabolic slow-down.
The amazing human body is always rearranging itself for the next phase. So what?
In her book “I Feel Bad about My Neck,” the late Nora Ephron wrote, “At the age of fifty-five you will get a saggy roll just above your waist even if you are painfully thin.” She went on to say this roll will force you to reevaluate half the clothes in your closet. I’ve always loved that she said that, plain and simple. I regard it as kind of a shrug. She didn’t advise taking extreme measures by altering the body with vacuum tubes or needles or scalpels. She suggested we alter our wardrobes.
I remember a month after giving birth for the first time I could not pull up my jeans past my mid-thighs. I also remember shrugging off that moment, because it was natural and my baby was healthy. What good fortune, I realized, to experience a temporary mid-thigh jean barricade because I had carried a brand new precious human being.
Now, in these days of the emerging saggy roll D’Ephron, I walk briskly or burst out into pathetic jogs every chance I get. But I move just to stay as healthy as possible. Screw vanity.
Beauty is what nature offers us, and that is diversity in our appearances. I’m learning the diversity even occurs within one person’s body across a span of years. I, for one, am totally cool with it.
I probably didn’t say anything new here on the topic of self-image and the huckster shamers amongst us. But I think every woman needs to be reminded, to counter all the constant, negative noise, that her body is a beautiful miracle, and not a problem area.
Reach Denise Snodell at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @DeniseSnodell