Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Beauty - A Man's' Perspective

I was making coffee, heard the front gate clang shut and listened as the lightest of footsteps glided up the stairs I share with my next door neighbor. He's a wanna-B rock star, and actually has some prospects. (the band is called "Bidwell") When others go up the stairs, it's with heavy "clump, clump, clumps", so I was intrigued who this might be.

Moments later the same light footsteps slipped down the stairs and I watched as a beautiful, fit woman in gym clothes slipped through the gate, into her car, and drove away. Her every movement was a symphony of motion. A true thing of beauty and grace. I believe she had a pretty face, but I can't say for sure. I was transfixed by the grace of her whole body, the way she moved, a confident vitality she possessed that seemed barely tamed. A woman for a man in his prime, able to be his companion, his equal in every way. Able to bear up under life's struggles, bear children, and be a supportive wife, mother, daughter.

Finished with making my morning cup of Vienna Roast, I opened my laptop to catch up with the day. A little good stock news had me in a good mood when I spied still another brewing story about the fashion industry.

I had the most intense emotional reaction reading this story, and thinking about it, I remembered why. I used to date a woman who was anorexic, and while I learned a lot about women's body image issues, it was a frustrating, and ultimately, heartbreaking experience.

You choose. Which is the more attractive woman?

I had met this woman at work, a temp filling in for a neighboring department's vacationing secretary. She was always very well dressed, and seemed always to be at the drinking fountain or copy machine when I was. (she admitted later she was kind of stalking me in this regard) She then showed up at the apartment gym where I worked out and I found myself inviting her to lunch.

One thing led to another, as I was newly divorced /=) and on the prowl. One night, after a wonderful night out on the town I lit a fire, cracked open a bottle of wine and took her on a soft, thick rug on the bedroom floor. I tried to ignore how gaunt she looked, even in the flickering firelight, and the sharp and bony feel of her body under me. I began to have the oddest sense that I might actually snap her spine in half if I weren't careful, so I was gentle with her until the very end.

Rolling her over on top of me (like a feather as it were) I was shocked at the complete absence of anything resembling a belly. Her ribs were like a rack her skin clung to like a limp rag. Her waist narrowed gauntly just above her protruding hip bones, and, perhaps due somewhat to my intoxication, I suddenly had the disgusting impression I was making love to an alien. I was reviled, and excused myself to use the bathroom.

When I returned she was rubbing her spine, her hand stained with blood. I had rubbed her skin raw between her lower back and the very thick "bearskin" rug. I was horrified. How was that possible when I had been so gentle with her? Applying some Neosporin I resolved to break up with her. The thought of being with her again became more and more repugnant over the next few days, and I ended it with her shortly after that.

The tragedy was we were pretty good together, but I knew her problem well by then, and knew she had fought the anorexic battle for many years, and loving me was not motivation enough to become what she subjectively saw as fat. This is one of the more insidious aspects of anorexia, that it changes your view of what "normal" is. Strangely, it did not affect her impression of men's bodies, as I was 5'9" and 165 lbs at the time. (I won an amateur body building contest around this time IIRC)

My goal in writing this post is to go beyond the timid admonishments of the popular media in saying that super-skinny models are not normal and are not healthy. I want to use the 'U" word, and say loud and clear that anorexia is UGLY.

Anorexia will destroy many relationships, your health, and your happiness. By contrast, health and vitality are always attractive and beautiful, in both men and women, and provide the foundation for emotional and physical stability through the many ups and downs life hands us all on our journeys. Anyone who is healthy is instantly more attractive, and this has always been so.

PS: It appears the light-footed beauty that glides up stairs is Brianna Bowie, an Olympic level gymnast winning several Canadian titles before turning to dance and jazz vocals.


Anonymous said...

A lot of companies are looking to provoke. I'm sure that's what RL did. The retouching is just over done.

I personally just find it sad that the models being used are getting younger and younger. And because they are so young 13, 14, 15 their bodies often look anorexic. I used to be really slim myself and people asked me if I ate! It made me really upset. I've always loved food. It's time to use older girls again in advertising. But then again knowing the scene I also know that is is rare to fins a good, healthy looking girl say in her 20's who is not overweight, not skinny, but has a great body!

Grey Beard said...

I have to wonder if the gay men who run fashion aren't subliminally looking to drape their clothes on young boys, since the girls they hire anatomically barely qualify as female.

I followed a few NY fashion week shoots via my blog friend Mary Rambin, and generally was disgusted with the whole industry. It seems to be built around the vanity of few egotistical asses, while the best, most original stuff always seems to come from some up and coming no-name.

There's something seriously wrong with the fashion industry these days, and I sure don't know how to fix it. I do know the body images that young women have of themselves are creating serious, real-world problems for otherwise healthy girls.

Having just read the Nov Bicycling Magazine story of a teenage boy who tossed his ADHD meds, and found a better and much healthier alternative in biking, I cringe to think how extensive the damage to girls might be.

A good step in the right direction would be to set some age limits and perhaps weight limits. You can't work as a stewardess or steward on most airlines if your BMI is outside of a certain range, and I see no reason the fashion industry couldn't be subject to the same rules.

I'm sure we men would be happy to "suffer" with models that actually look like women instead of stick figures. They don't need many models, so I'm sure they can find whatever they need.

I must say, I love your new muscular build, but then I have always loved strong, healthy women - going all the way back to my friend Sheri Stickles in Jr. High. We used to have such fun running track together and using each other for motivation and competition. It really was a great joy to have her as a friend.

Anonymous said...

I can tell you that the fashion industry is pretty corrupt. I would have some good stories to tell...or ask Thomas! Did you know that some model agencies "sell" their girls to old rich men? That's just one of them.

Yeah, I'm so glad I'm out of the advertising world. I used to believe that's what I wanted to do, but the people are really shallow. It's a gift finding joy in sports and you can see it in people's characters. Even though it can be so competitive, the ego tends to stay away, it makes you pure and down to earth.

Gotta Run..Gotta Ride said...

reading your post and now Stephanie's comment make me sad and angry all in the same emotion. The RL picture is AWFUL to put it nicely. Her parents must be heartbroken to see their daughter so sick.

I could jump on a soap box about this stuff. Thanks for posting and bringing some awareness to what is taking place.

Lourdes said...

Actually, she went public to say that the first picture was photo-shopped by RL. RL even admitted to that. She was actually fired from RL from being too fat! Imagine that. The picture was published/doctored after she was fired, thus, the reason for her going public and asking RL to take it off circulation.

Grey Beard said...

Yeah, the model is not anorexic at all, she appears very healthy, but was speaking out against RL's pro-anorexic marketing AND (I was incredulous anyone could get away with this) firing her and still using her (heavily altered) photographs.

The story seems to imply that isn't even her body, but that of another girl with her head photoshopped onto it. I think some legislation is needed in this area if this is OK under the current law! :-O

Btw, you are getting some very nice muscle tone in your legs these days Lourdes. Kudos!