Who Is That Girl I See?

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In an earlier post, I discussed the origins of cosmetics and facets of their social impact throughout history. One facet I did not touch on in that post: psychological effects of a culture obsessed with achieving physical perfection.

The use of cosmetics for the purpose of enhancing one’s natural beauty on a day-to-day basis is quite normal and benign. But when the desire to look presentable and attractive becomes an obsession with unattainable, unnatural “beauty,” serious emotional issues can ensue. Fitness and beauty magazines often convey the idea that beauty and perfection are one and the same, and that without it we cannot be happy. Photos of willowy models with hair styled and makeup applied by a team of professionals, well-exercised bodies that are the result of a strict diet and fitness regimen at the hands of a personal trainer, and skin perfected by Endermologie and airbrushing are presented as the desirable ideal. This video made by Dove provides a disturbing insight into how artificial these photos can be.

Despite the fact that the expectation to look like a model in a magazine is unrealistic, many women, young and old, struggle to fit this distorted perception of beauty. Thousands of dollars are spent on “miracle” cosmetics and beauty treatments. Some resort to cosmetic surgery, taking unnecessary risks in the name of beauty. (I’m not referring to necessary surgery to correct serious flaws such as a cleft lip.) Some become so obsessed with beauty and the concept of eternal youth that rather than growing old gracefully, they morph into a caricature of their former selves. Others obsess over their bodies, some going to the extremes of anorexia and bulimia, some spending a fortune on gym memberships, patented diet programs, and body treatments – such as the aforementioned Endermologie, a cellulite reducing treatment which can initially cost $2250 for a complete regimen and $100 per month for maintenance. Those that have the means to undergo these many procedures and change their appearance drastically may one day look in the mirror and wonder, “Who is that?” Others, upon failing to achieve perfection, become depressed and undervalue themselves – all because of an ideal that is impossible to achieve.

I find it quite absurd that just fifty years ago, beauty ideals were dramatically different. Of course, cosmetics were used. Of course, fitness was a vital factor. But there was no airbrushing, no computer editing of photos. Lighting and makeup were the major options available to change the model’s appearance in a photograph. In my opinion, standards of beauty were much more realistic in terms of body image. Just look at Marilyn Monroe, a major sex symbol in her era and beyond, perhaps the most iconic American film star of all time.

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Look at Marilyn’s belly. There is a small bump. No, she’s not pregnant in the photo, she’s just a normal woman. Look at her hips and thighs. They are full and voluptuous, a trait that contributed to her seductive gait. Marilyn was as famous for her curvy figure as she was for her “dumb blonde” persona. Were she a famous star today, she would likely be described as “fat!”

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Elizabeth Taylor was another voluptuously endowed star. The violet-eyed beauty was an excellent actress with a fantastic figure. Naturally, in her early films she was a slender teenager, but as she matured, so did her figure, with curves in all the right places.

Interestingly, studies have shown that throughout history, most men have preferred, not the lean boyish figure seen in modern magazines, but the curvaceous full-hipped Venus, a shape that signals fertility to the male subconscious. The waist-hip ratio of .6 – .7 was found to be the most attractive. This means that the waist measurement equals 60-70% of the hip measurement.

I am not implying that weight management is unimportant. For health reasons, fitness should be an essential part of life. And for those who may find the above “golden ratio” difficult to attain, do not think that this makes you unattractive. The truth is that no matter what steps you take to achieve your ideal of beauty, there will always be someone who does not agree with your ideal. It is simply impossible to please everyone. So, be healthy, be happy, be kind. That’s the secret to true beauty. Then, when you look in the mirror, you will see someone you know – and love.

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5 thoughts on “Who Is That Girl I See?

  1. “The truth is that no matter what steps you take to achieve your ideal of beauty, there will always be someone who does not agree with your ideal. It is simply impossible to please everyone” -soooo true. Sometimes I wear make up, sometimes I don’t. Some people say blue eyeshadow is “out”…but I still wear it proudly when the mood takes me. I dictate what I wear and do to myself…no one else. If someone doesn’t like it…well they don’t have to look! 🙂 Some people default on loans getting surgeries to alter their genes and they still get cheated on by their husbands. What counts is what is inside…but to change your appearance to please someone else is ridiculous. The way we fix ourselves is our business, but as you said when it becomes an obsession to just be superficial and you lose sight of what’s most important, then it’s just wrong. Being sexy is not being made of plastic or botox. In fact, who said anyone needed to be sexy? It’s overrated. No one is truly 100% happy with how they look, but we can work with what God gave us and be content with that. It’s what we make of ourselves, not what others make of us. Very well written.

  2. I just realized how angry my comment sounded hahaha

  3. JDuffy says:

    Never mind 50 years ago–let’s go back 30. Remember Farrah Fawcett in the famous grinning red swimsuit poster? The hair, teeth, lips and body were all HERS By today’s standards her lips would not be considered “full enough”, nor would she be considered “well endowed” enough–yet everyone adored her in her NATURAL state–botox, breast implant and plastic-surgery free–a pretty girl in her natural state. Men used to prefer “natural” looking women–as recently as the Farrah Fawcett era. When did that change?

  4. 50 and liking it says:

    Some become so obsessed with beauty and the concept of eternal youth that rather than growing old gracefully, they morph into a caricature of their former selves.”

    I feel that one now that I’m 50 and allowing myself to “grow old gracefully”. I grew so tired of aggressive 20-somethings at mall kiosks calling me out of the crowd saying “Ma’am, what do you use for the wrinkles under your eyes?” (while trying to sell you a thimble-sized bottle of “eye serum” that runs about $125) that I now just smile at them and say “nothing” and keep walking. I can see their mouths drop open in horrified shock! Why is it not okay anymore for a slightly older woman to look like a slightly older woman? When my mother was 50 in 1978 she didn’t try to look 30–she was a nice-looking 50 (yes, with wrinkles under her eyes, a couple around her mouth, and (gasp) glasses!). It is as if you are considered unkempt if you don’t do everything in your power to hide any visible sign of aging, even if it means going into severe debt in the process. Enough already.

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