A friend sent me a quote recently.
“Beauty is not caused, it is.” Yeah, I purred, appreciating his appreciation for Emily Dickinson.
The next day I found a copy of the Victoria’s Secret catalogue shoved in my mailbox. I didn’t ask for it. I used to order it, but that was back when women moved and looked more like women I could relate to.
But ever since Paris Hilton’s arched back and Rachel Uchitel’s pillow lips, bottled tan and blow-up boobs became the North American ideal — “beauty caused” at its artificial best — I‘ve stopped enlisting Victoria to fulfill certain aspirations.
I mean, what the hell is this?
Hyperextension has replaced the subtle serpentine “S” of a women’s back, and reduced her arms and hands to flippers. And it would take a chiropractor to unclick that hip.
Ladies, News Flash — stop trying so hard. I’ve got unscientific evidence from my guy friends that a woman’s beauty burns brightest when she’s not even thinking about it … so when you’re studying for a test, brushing your dog and pulling hot laundry out of the dryer.
I think our obsession with the red carpet and Facebook have changed the way we pose, move and self-actualize. This is not the first time, though, that technology (and not just social mores) is dictating how we appear in photos. The Victorians never showed their teeth because long exposure times for gelatin silver prints made it harder to hold a smile. As a result, we assumed people back then were all grim, like Susan B. Anthony. Contrast that with the speed and ease of Facebook which has turned so many women into “woo girls.” I’ve written about this before in verse.
But when Asian women started sporting blonde streaks and blue contacts ….
… well, that’s when I started my retreat back in time to the “Free to Be You and Me” seventies when all we wanted was to “teach the world to sing in perfect harmony” with the help of a fizzy bottle of Coke (glass, not plastic). That was when women made conditioner the last step in their hair care routine and freckles (remember those?) were mildly annoying, but still cute, and certainly no reason to pay a fortune for six sessions with a cosmetic blowtorch over your face or to rub gallons of self tanner into your skin hoping to even out the discolorations.
There wasn’t much tampering going on back then. Individuality led the way. “Nature Girls” in off-the-shoulder floral print dresses and wedges were the ideal. Today’s fembots have chosen a uniform issued from New Jersey but revered well beyond that. On the outside, it’s all bleached teeth, bleached hair, French tipped nail extensions, orange skin and massive lady lumps, while on the inside you’ll find pickled livers and angry hearts.
Surgery and self-tanner, like the internet, are here to stay, however. You could say we’re reaping the effects of our own inventiveness.
Now the decision not to alter your looks is surprisingly quaint, if not downright radical.
And, at the very least, it’s retro.