Sunday, August 16, 2009

Whittling: Not just for logs any longer!

It's been nearly five hundred years since Juan Ponce de León y Figueroa went searching for the mythic fountain of youth, hoping to find it in what is now Florida. One presumes that he found a lot of humidity, and if the current day insect residents of that state are any indication, bugs the size of Shetland Ponies greeted him. I've seen some of the swamps in Florida, and even our youth obsessed nation might think a few crow's feet were preferable to taking a dunk in them. Then again, the latest craze in wrinkle reduction favors synthetic snake venom which people have injected into their bodies, so in reality we'd probably hop atop a ravenous 'gator covered in barbecue sauce if we thought it would shave off a few years.

I myself am a complete sucker for "essential soy brighteners". Also, I've seldom met a fruit acid I wasn't willing to slap on my face. I haven't ventured out into the sun without sunblock in a little more than a decade, and I've found myself willing to consume pretty much anything, no matter dreadful it actually tastes, if there is a promise of antioxidants in it for me. I'm thinking specifically of Acacia berries. Once while wincing my way through a small glass of juice, it occurred to me, "This tastes like liquid evil, what am I doing?" and that was the last time Acacia and I crossed paths.

So really, I'm not claiming to be any better than anyone else when it comes to vanity. I happily shell out my fair share of disposable income on lotions, potions, creams and a current trend towards anything that comes in a form guaranteed to peel me.

I don't even let the knowledge that none of these potions have yet to actually deliver deter me in any way, shape, or form.

But I draw the line at slicing and dicing my person. What surprised me is that recently it has become something of a trend with people I actually know. Not actors paid to maintain a specific appearance, friends of mine. I'm not blaming them, but whereas I will buy just about any jar, or tube, alleged to have youthful properties contained within, the fact of the matter is I'm happy with my appearance. I tend to buy cosmetic creams because I like them. Some people like jewelry, some shoes or clothes. I like little jars of things.

When a friend two years my senior informed me over lunch that she had decided to get her eyes and lips done, I was surprised, but not dismayed. When another friend, again close to my age, said she was looking into a "mini lift" I couldn't help but wonder what she was going to have lifted to where because gravity wasn't exactly her foe, she looked great. She clearly didn't think so.

Now both of those friends look perpetually surprised, and not so very slightly alarmed, but assure me that it takes a while to break in. I wouldn't quite say either looks younger precisely, but they do look different, at least for right now. However, who can't sympathize with the desire to halt time?

Still, there is a point of fixation with an exterior problem, real or wholly imagined. When I turned on a TV morning program recently I saw a story about a woman of 47. She confessed that she had spent money on trainers, ages on stair machines, hours on racquetball courts and not an insubstantial amount of time enduring, "emotional pain and suffering" because she felt she had cankles. If you are wondering what a cankle might be, evidently it is when a person doesn't have much definition between calf and ankle.

So this woman then plunked down eight thousand dollars to have her ankles more or less whittled. No kidding. She gave a bubbly interview about how now her world was sunnier or something, her confidence restored, etc. etc. "Hey, now that I no longer have this flaw, that really only ever existed in my head in terms of importance, I feel less like jumping off a bridge to escape my own self-perceived hideousness." was the gist. I didn't know whether to laugh long and loud, or think the poor woman a hug because guess what? Yeah, no cankles for starters, and then no perceptible difference after surgery. If she'd literally burned eight thousand dollars, at least she would have been actually warm for a moment or two. As it was she spent eight grand on solving a problem that only she ever saw. This likely means she'll start seeing another one soon, it seems to me.

We all want to feel attractive, but it seems like the excessive focus on exteriors hasn't accomplished that. Not even close.

The more we focus, nay fixate, on our looks it seems the more we are convinced that we are deeply unattractive. Also, if current trends on the Internet are any indication, it seems people in general are more likely to find physical fault in those they see also. I've stumbled across some really unkind remarks about absolutely beautiful actors and actresses. It seems no one is beautiful enough by our current estimations.

What's the solution? I'm not sure. Maybe we need to change what we say to each other, and to ourselves. Maybe that's a good place to start.

Whoever you are: You are worth much more than your packaging. That's all your exterior is. Also, do yourself a favor, if you are having a moment of feeling like you aren't attractive? Go and grab a photograph of yourself from ten years ago. Chances are you'll take one look at it and say, "Wow, I can't believe how thin/young/fit/good I look!"

Then pretend that today is ten years from now, go look in the mirror, and judge yourself as you would a decade from now. When you'd be willing to see yourself for your positive attributes, not as a list of faults.

Also, don't plan on whittling anything on your person, please. Pretty much ever. Trust me on that one.


PhilipH said...

I've already commented on the latest posting of yours and now I've had a gander at this one.

My young daughter, Clare, (the one who sculpts faeries for a living) was embarrassed by her 'stretch marks' on her tummy a couple of years back. She spent a small fortune on having her tummy-tucked to remove those stretch lines.

I was astounded, and somewhat scared, that she actually wanted to go under the knife for such a minor reason. But it wasn't minor to her of course. She went through with it and was happy with the outcome. I still think she was silly, but haven't told her so. What's the point? She's happy, so leave it at that. See if you want to see her and her work.

I've recently read that more men are choosing to have breast REDUCTIONS! They are not comfortable, apparently, that their boobs are bigger than their wives or girlfriends! What IS the world coming to?

Pauline said...

What an interesting post and funny you should mention it - I was pouring through old photographs the other day for a project and found one of me at 23 (several decades ago) and thought - wow! I was actually pretty (though at the time I clearly remember thinking otherwise)! I've taken your suggestion, looked in the mirror with eyes ten years hence and realized that the me I see isn't the one others see anyhow, so why be concerned? I yam what I yam, in the words of Popeye and whether I look "perfect" or not is neither here nor there in terms of WHO I am.

Land of shimp said...

I looked at your daughter's work a while back, Philip. She's got a lot of talent! Her things are lovely :-)

You know, I do think that if cosmetic surgery helps someone feel better on an actual issue, it's more understandable. If it made her feel happier, and more secure, then in many ways it's lovely that she had the option. After all, it can be very distressing to women, the changes in a body after pregnancy, and really she was trying to get back to looking as she did before she had a baby.

My beef truly isn't with cosmetic surgery, in and of itself, but the feelings encouraged by society that drive people to it.

I've known several people who had surgery to deal with something that made them feel awkward, or less attractive, and honestly felt better about themselves afterward.

I'll also tell you that many years ago I considered being an actress but rethought that when I was told by an agent that I would need breast implants, and likely a nose job. Oddly enough, I've always felt that I have a rather large nose, and certainly at twenty it bothered me that I was not in the least busty. So the agent had managed to target two areas that were already sore spots for me.

I balked, and decided not to try and enter a field where having my face or person operated on was something done as a matter of course. I mean, that was just the opening big on "work" I'd "need" done.

So I simply turned around and walked away from that brief inclination. But there is enormous pressure on women to look a certain way, and I was simply lucky that I was obstinate enough to say, "Thanks, but no. In fact? Forget the thanks."

Men are coming under tremendous pressure also. Not just to have great pecs, there are calf enhancements and backside enhancements for men also.

Land of shimp said...

Morning, Pauline! Isn't that funny? When we see pictures of our younger selves we are far kinder about how we look, "Wow, I looked really rather good!"

I think we need to access that for how we view ourselves today.

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