What Price Beauty?

What lengths would you go to try and live up to the popular media’s conception of beauty? Judging by what is going on in society today, it seems that many will go to extraordinary lengths in order to compete in the marketplace.

An article in Maclean’s recently caught my attention:  Why these shoes matter more than an M.B.A. The shoes are those six inch killer heels (sometimes higher) that young women wear today. They’re sexy and make long legs look even longer. They’re called killer for a reason. They kill, meaning they make a statement, one that is guaranteed to get a lot of attention from the opposite sex. It doesn’t matter that in a few decades these women might be dealing with hammer toes and  other foot complaints making it painful for them to even walk.

Back when I was a model and wore 2 ¼” heels because I was tall enough at 5’8”,  I had difficulty with bunions and corns, resulting from squeezing my feet into shoes with pointed toes and raised heels. I have a friend who wore 3” heels back then and now can only wear sensible walking shoes and even that is a problem. She is in pain all the time. So when I see women tottering on towering spikes, I wonder what they’re thinking. Are all the admiring looks worth permanent injuries to their feet down the road?

And speaking of killer, one court in a distant land concluded those stratospheric heels were weapons when one young woman used them to beat up another woman who had eyes on her boyfriend.

But forget the shoes for a moment. It’s only a piece of what’s going on right now. The Maclean’s article goes on to say how beauty can get you those high paying jobs. A number of recently published books stress that looks trump education and experience, not to say that the latter two don’t matter. What strikes me however, is not how unfair this all is to the average worker out there, but how once again, there is too much emphasis on skin deep beauty and rather than losing ground, that emphasis is gaining momentum.

The Maclean’s article mentions how much has changed in the past two decades. “Naomi Wolf’s 1991 book The Beauty Myth that argued women were sacrificing feminism’s gains by getting breast implants and following doomed dieting seems quaint 20 years later: women (and men) routinely starve, sculpt and Spanx themselves well into old age…” Well, isn’t that special!

Shoving needles in your face is now acceptable even if it means freezing that part of your anatomy that shows your life’s journey in more ways than one. Why even dear Oprah, who I admire greatly for her generosity of spirit, has articles on her website that speak glowingly of the benefits of Botox. Yes, she does have alternate views, but the ones relating experiences of cosmetic surgeons and dermatologists and how their appearance has improved with Botox is most compelling. I thought, wait a moment, Oprah. You’re selling out.

And Dr. Phil, who I think comes up with some amazing therapeutic interventions, stunned me a year back when he told one woman, who was depressed, that she might benefit from a face lift. She was tired and frustrated with her teenage daughter. Yeah, her daughter was exceptionally exhausting with her behaviour, but why not get the woman to spend the money on a holiday, some place where she could chill out and take care of herself and her spirit? Or how about a life coach or a therapist instead, someone to help her learn how to support herself through friends, exercise, and a good diet? Why did he think she should change her face? What is that? He hooked her up with a plastic surgeon like he was some kind of benefactor that was going to make everything right in her world. Again, doing things skin deep never solves the larger issues.

What happened to the time when the old woman, or older woman, was regarded as someone who could offer some sage advice? She’d lived. She’d loved. She’d suffered, and oh could she tell you a few things.

Now, a grandmother, I hope my beauty has increased rather than diminished. I have two daughters. One, who’s bought what the magazines in the supermarket are selling and struggles to keep up to the image they’re promoting. She can’t figure out how I can stand living with my wrinkles and undyed hair. (It’s actually quite easy) The other celebrates my look and my age.

When did natural become ugly to so many?



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