Back in January, I began a year-long course of self-evaluation in the area of body image. There were a few reasons for this - one, I had some weight I wanted to lose and two, I became curious about why numbers on a scale mattered so much to me. America is a looks-obsessed society - that comes as no shock to just about anyone. No one wants to age, except for the very young and Abercrombie & Fitch just got in hot water for marketing a push-up bikini top to seven-year-olds. We spend billions of dollars a year on goop in a jar to moisturize, exfoliate, firm, conceal, and/or color. Mind you, I like make-up - I think it's a hoot and I wish I'd had the gumption just once to put a purple streak in my hair. (And maybe some day I will.)
But we've just gotten out of control here.
Beauty standards change, of course. High heels have been used as a way to show off the male leg. And men preened like peacocks over the proper placement of wig curls. But overall, it's been the fairer (and less politically powerful) sex who have behaved like mooncalves over the use of cosmetics. Truly, for us, it's often been better to look good than to feel good. Women have been willing over the years to put any fool sort of poisonous concoction on their faces, provided it promised "youth in a jar." We'll strap ourselves into fiendish devices to accentuate certain body parts while downplaying others. We'll live on cabbage soup, take pills of dubious usefulness and avoid carbohydrates as if the Devil himself was in the kitchen. We've even been willing to break our daughters' feet to make them tiny and thereby adorable. (Bound feet also hampered natural movement, so good luck working and earning your own money to secure your independence. Don't tell me beauty isn't political.) Americans are "more civilized" than that, of course. We don't bind our daughters' feet, but we constantly hammer them with words and pictures that tell them what is desirable - and it's not realistic. Heck, it's not even reality.
Yet we buy into this nonsense. We starve, push, pluck, tweeze, and paint. Then we go further. We inject toxins into our faces, we undergo general anesthesia to "resculpt" ourselves - risking disfigurement and death - and we don't even ask "Are you Board-certified?" We celebrate the outside and ignore the development of the inside. There's a lack of balance and that's never good.
So I will continue to drink lots and lots of water. To eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. To exercise and increase my stamina and flexibility. These are all good things and I will take time (and make time) to do these things. And yes, I'll continue to wear lipstick and mascara and (just maybe) schedule a time to have that purple streak put in my hair. But I'll also keep reading and thinking and working on the inside. After all, you can always jam on a ball cap to hide bad hair, but it's a lot harder to cover up ignorance.