Fitties! I’m back! I never got around to my 5 Minute Friday post last week (I forget why. I think I might have been gossiping with a co-worker. It happens).
For those of you who are new to Fit with Lizzie, every Friday (er, sometimes Monday) I participate in a writing prompt provided by The Gypsy Mama. She gives us a one word topic and we write, allegedly, for the sheer love of words. I actually find words to be a bit of a pain in my ass and the right one always seems out of reach. I write for the sheer joy of feeling my brain cells creaking to life.
Anyway, I was just going to skip the last prompt because I missed Friday. And then I read this story about a 40 year old Brazilian woman living sort of close to my neck of the woods in Framingham, MA. She sought breast enhancement surgery before her 40th birthday and died due to complications from her surgery just days shy of that big 4-0. Her three children must be devastated. They must want their beautiful mother with her old boobs back. Her picture is of a really beautiful woman and it’s so sad that this surgery killed her.
This post is going to take longer than 5 minutes because this story hits close to home for me. I definitely wouldn’t rule out surgery as I get older. If the ol’ girls are swingin’ low, sweet chariot, I might have ’em stapled back where they belong, know what I mean?
But why? Who’s looking? I’m not planning to pose for Playboy, so who’s going to see my body? I mean, there are some very pushy-up-y undergarments out there, so why do I feel like I have to be nipped and tucked into some plasticized ideal? Maybe it makes sense for models and actresses, but I’m not one of those. So why on earth would I chase such a dangerous beauty ideal?
I wish I could say, “I have seen the light and repent of my foolish vanity, for now I know that beauty is skin deep!” But for every sobering story like this one there are 75 stories about how this underweight actress dropped 10 pounds and now she’s perfect or that actress gained 10 pounds and doesn’t she just look horrible, check out the cellulite on her butt. The message in our society is that, if you’re not pretty, no other accomplishment matters. Think about Hillary Clinton. I think everyone has strong emotions for or against her. What’s one criticism you almost always hear about her? Her looks. She looks old, or her thighs are chubby or she looks dowdy in her pants suits… it’s not enough to criticize her ideas but her appearance has to be torn down also. Would her ideas be less offensive if her thighs were skinny, I wonder?
I think that might be why women chase after beauty — because they feel if they can get the looks thing nailed down then they can go about their business without being criticized for stupid shit. The trouble is that you can’t please everyone. When our sense of self-worth comes out of seeking other people’s approval, you are bound to run into people who won’t compliment you or who think you just don’t measure up. So your self-esteem is at the mercy of someone else. And that someone else might just be a jerk.
When a perfectly attractive young woman dies seeking elective cosmetic surgery, that’s a problem, right? This is not the lady who had her face ripped off and needed a face transplant just to be normal. The poor lady who died before her 40th birthday looked lovely.
So what’s the solution? Oh sure, we can just say, “Beauty is fleeting, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.” But when it’s beauty, not character, that the world praises and values, that message is weakened. Right? We all want to be praised and valued. That’s why stickers and awards and positive reinforcement work so well — we want to do things that society tells us is good.
I wish I had a concrete answer here. I think the main thing is to accept the fact that no matter how beautiful we are, we’re not perfect. And even if we were, it doesn’t matter because time marches on and it marches right across our faces. And chasing perfection using a surgeon’s scalpel might make us just look weird and creepy and actually LESS pretty (see also: Linday Lohan’s trout pout and funny cheeks). It might just kill us, actually.
So rather than chasing after things that society tells us makes us pretty, maybe we grow a pair and we say, “Guess what society? I don’t think your beauty ideal is all that ideal after all.”
I’m pushing the ripe old age of 33 and the things that used to make me feel pretty kind of don’t make me feel pretty anymore. Like… putting on makeup. I am pretty when I hide my face? Doesn’t that sort of make me NOT pretty? If someone said, “Hello miss, here’s a paper bag for your head, please put this on,” I think we’d be pretty much offended.
I feel pretty when I make people laugh. I feel pretty when I write something that makes people think. I feel pretty when I conquer a fear. I feel pretty when I teach a good class. I feel pretty when I encourage someone who is having a hard day. Basically, I feel pretty when I’m proud of myself.
What makes you feel pretty?