Sunday, March 4, 2007

musing on our distorted views of human sexuality

when exactly did society begin to put such a high price on being rail-thin? i pose this question because of two incidents over the past few days. the first was a "documentary" (i use the term loosely) i watched on the history of sex in cinema. one of the opening scenes was of an early, silent, black and white nudie flick. the woman portrayed in this particular film was neither thin, nor particularly glamorous. she had a round little potbelly, thick thighs, and a pear-shaped rear end. in short, she looked NOTHING like society today would have a naked woman dancing for the pleasure of the masses look. she certainly didn't resemble angelina jolie or cameron diaz or any of the other myriad skinny look-alikes running amok in california. this woman wasn't ugly, but she certainly didn't conform to the standards of the 21st century. which was a-ok with me. at any rate, on the same token, today i ate lunch with a dear friend of mine. she is intelligent, vivacious, funny, and pretty. she's always struggled with her weight, putting on 20 lbs since we started vet school. however, while she's heavier than she should be, i would never describe her as fat. i love this girl, she has one of the sweetest personalities of anyone i know. at any rate, on friday night, we went out for giant greasy hamburgers and french fries at one of my favorite delis. during the meal, she kept exclaiming over and over how much she was enjoying her hamburger. it was kind of odd, but i didn't really think much of it. however, over lunch today, she informed me that after dinner, she kept thinking to herself how much she'd enjoyed that hamburger. further, after much self-examination, she finally realized what it was that caused this delight. she said that it was because of me that she so enjoyed the food. i was a bit mystified. but she explained that she always feels tremendously guilty when she eats something that she 'shouldn't' - that she fears that people are judging her for being overweight and not eating healthily. and that eating with me made her feel comfortable, because i never lament the amount of calories i'm ingesting or seem to feel any sense of guilt over having french fries for dinner. whereas, when she eats with our other gorgeous, thin, workout addict friend, she has to constantly hear about the calories in her food...

so those 2 things got me thinking. granted, i'm not overweight. i've always been built stockily (thanks, dad!) - like a little french pony (as laura ingalls wilder once said). but i've never had trouble losing weight if i wanted to, and i've never really felt fat. i eat a lot of crap, and i seem to stay in the same weight bracket, more or less. but i'm not skinny by any means. i never have been. i have big boobs and a very round butt. when watching movies (notably last night, vanilla sky with a VERY thin cameron diaz and penelope cruz), i realize how skewed our self images are (including mine, sometimes). when did we start starving ourselves so that we could look a certain way?

i realize that standards of beauty change, constantly. over the years, we've evolved different looks, different ideas of what constitutes beauty. and, in some ways, that helps keep me stable when i start to worry about how i look or if i'm too heavy. it's all arbitrary. but somehow i feel that most of the people i know and love don't have that same perspective. furthermore, health considerations aside, physical appearance is not that important. sure, it might help you get a job or something along those lines, but overall, our physical presence should be dimmed by our inner presence. i think of friends i've had that, when i first met them, i didn't find attractive at all. but the more i got to know them and love them, the less i became aware of their physical appearance and the more i began to think of them as beautiful.

it made me glad that my friend, whom i do love dearly and think very highly of, would feel comfortable enough and happy with herself enough around me to allow herself a 'naughty' indulgence. often falling so short of my goals as a person, it was nice to know that something intrinsic about myself makes other people relaxed. if only i could convince her how beautiful she is - on the inside. and on the outside, too - then i'd accomplish something...

**one caveat: i'm not championing morbid obesity here. there are people that need to lose weight for their own health and personal well-being. i realize that.**

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