I was working, staffing a booth for the Clinic that I work for, this weekend. It was at an expo that focused on “Ageless Living” The expo was organized and promoted by a local company that is a conglomeration of pharmacies, plastic surgeons, dermatologists and the like – all firmly centered on the concept and realization of the “perfection” of the physical self.
The clinic I manage is focused on the body as well but in a slightly different way; we provide Chiropractic, Physio, Acupuncture and Massage. So we were invited to attend and take part and, like so many things in life… it seemed like a good idea at the time.
The daytime “health” expo was filled with Botox give-away draws, booths of companies solely focused on making the outside of your body as close to the societal ideal of perfect as they can. One company name is actually Ideal Me. While the day was a usual wandering of people who come to health fairs it was noticeably more populated with a certain grouping of people… mostly women, and mostly very “made up”. I have rarely seen that much silicon and collagen in one place. While I know that they exist, it was still startling to see that there is an entire company that exists with its business devoted to fake eyelashes. Signs that promise “the appearance of youth”…Sigh
The evening gala event of a local “Dancing With The Stars” continued to give me food for thought. Watching the rehearsals, and later, the event itself and seeing the amount of time and resources that people put into making themselves look a certain way stuns me. Seeing how much effort they put into creating and maintaining a facade must be exhausting.
Now don’t get me wrong… I believe that we each have the right to do what we want to in order to make ourselves feel good about our Selves… note I said “Selves”. That’s because there’s more to us than the packaging that we come in. If you have the resources and the desire and the time to apply makeup and do your hair and find and pick out just the right outfit- for every occasion – and augment your body with implants, nips and tucks (I’ve seriously considered some nipping and tucking myself….), fake eyelashes, hair extensions, tooth whitening and veneers, chemical peels…. well, if that is your thing and you are doing it because it truly makes you feel good.. then more power to you. Fill your boots. But if you are doing these things because you can’t go out without feeling “less than” without it all; well, that’s what irked me about the whole event. That we are being made to believe, still – after all the talk to the opposite – that our worth and our value is based on how we appear and what we look like on the outside. I certainly do care that I have been showered and my hair is somewhat not a mess and I have, usually, some mascara and gloss on when I go to work… I like to wear clothes that make me feel good… It’s not that I don’t “get it” but it’s all too much. I was almost sickened by the end of the day – seeing so much preening and displays of excess of physical Self obsession.
I was approached numerous times by young women looking for the booth that measured body fat or the booth to drop their name in for the plastic surgery prize draws… they would sometimes look at the info in my booth and many would comment that they needed Physiotherapy or Chiro for this or that and it was quickly followed with “but I don’t have the money (or time)”… yet they were always wearing expensive clothes, more make up than I care to think about applying, carrying high-end bags and wearing shoes that easily cost the equivalent of 4 treatments that they said they couldn’t afford. Why? Simple… because, to them, the importance is on what they look like, not how they feel or how healthy they really are.
On the upside, the day did give me a bit of perspective that I needed. I have struggled for most of my life with eating disorders, body dysmorphia and self-loathing for my physical Self. It is something that I battle with every day and it is the one thing about myself that I want to change most.Not my body… but my relationship with it. I long to not care what the number on the scale says, what the tape measure tells me. I want to look in the mirror and see my flaws and not hate myself for them. I want to make love without a single thought being in my mind about how I look and what I need to hide or cover up. Hell, I want to be able to have someone touch me again without having to control the panic that comes with exposing my body.It’s a work in progress… made a little better by a day that allowed me to go home last night and thank my body for being strong enough to work a 14 hour day on my feet, doing set-up and tear-down alone… that it may not be “perfect” but it’s given me experiences and taken me places and rarely lets me down. I may not be in that place yet that I love how it looks, but I do love it.
“…the one thing about myself that I want to change most. Not my body… but my relationship with it.” Wow, you really hit the nail on the head with that one!
For most of my life, i have been surrounded by women with eating disorders, who are killing themselves either with food or the lack of it. The age of visual media has brought with it an epidemic of self-image based self-destruction. We have to wonder when we are going to start taking it seriously as a society.