Taking an inside look on beauty

By Erica Fatland

Growing up is an interesting experience. What was once thought of as something of great importance at 12 ends up to be an experience to chuckle about at family functions.

But some thoughts linger for years, lifetimes for some.

Too many people spend way too much time obsessing over worthless things & one of these being their own bodies. I’m not talking about health issues here. I’m speaking of those who, day in and day out, worry about what others think about how they look & outward appearances only, and nothing more.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have, and still do to a smaller extent, look at myself in front of the mirror and wonder if my life would be different if I weighed a few pounds less, had longer hair or was a little bit shorter. Obviously, my weight and hair length can be changed, but I’ll always be 5-foot-10. That’s just how it goes.

A lot has changed in the past, oh, let’s say 100 to 200 years. Women and minorities are able to vote now, great advances in medicine have been made and people have walked on the moon.

But people, then and now, think way too much about outward appearances, especially women. Why they do, I don’t know for sure, and I won’t even bother to go into detail on it because there are so many reasons.

In any case, we could all lead much better lives if we all just forgot about our lopsided grins or our love handles.

This isn’t something that’s going to go away. I realize this. But I do think this irrational obsession that many of us, even myself, have fallen victim to can at least be made a minor factor in day-to-day life.

I am an avid reader. I especially like to read biographies. One of the most interesting books I’ve read in the past year would have to be “The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls” by Joan Jacobs-Brumberg. Hence, the reason why I’m writing this column.

After rifling through old pictures of my earlier years, I found out that I am nothing like I used to be. My hair is shorter and darker, I actually look a little older and I do, I regret to say, weigh a little more.

But it really doesn’t bother me anymore. I used to be completely encompassed by what I looked like. I was never thin enough, short enough or pretty enough. To a point, I was obsessive with my figure. Not to the point of developing an eating disorder, although after I lost a good 15 pounds after my high school graduation, my mother sat me down one afternoon and gave me the “You are perfect just the way you are” speech.

But I digress.

This book is a great read for anyone interested in how much women have changed mentally, physically and in the public eye over the past

What is interesting is that, believe it or not, women were at one point looked down upon for thinking about and using their outward appearances too much.

In the book, the author states that, through reading diaries of many young women, “before World War I, girls rarely mentioned their bodies in terms of strategies for self-improvement or struggles for personal identity.” Basically, in order to be better people, they were to pay less attention to themselves and focus more on giving to others and putting more effort into school. Boy, what a concept.

Now for today’s youth. According to this particular author, American girls of today are more concerned with the shape and appearance of their bodies than anything else as the main expression of their identity.

“Today, many young girls worry about the contours of their bodies & especially shape, size and muscle tone &because they believe that the body is the ultimate expression of the self,” Brumberg writes.

And this doesn’t change. In fact, it only gets worse for some as they get older. In one section of the book, Brumberg talks about Yvonne, an 18-year-old who decides to rush a few sororities at the University of Chicago in the 1920s, the time when looks and weight were becoming important. At one point during her rushing, Yvonne only was consuming 50 calories per day, eating what would be suitable for a large rabbit, such as carrots, lettuce and the like.

The woman went through many a fainting spell (as they called not eating until you pass out in those days) before her parents luckily became concerned enough to say something.

The whole point of this column is not to change the world and make everyone look at a person’s intelligence or sparkling personality (although it would be nice) before his blazing biceps or her small waist. My opinion doesn’t really matter.

No matter what, first impressions are going to be around. I do wish there could be beauty pageants where people could be judged by the strength of their character and not the size of their boobs. But that’s just not meant to be.

What I would like is for people to just be happy with who they are. We all can’t be Cindy Crawford or Brad Pitt. (Well, maybe if cloning takes a huge step forward we can, but that’s beside the point.) One day, inevitably, our looks, whatever they may be, will fade. That is, unless large amounts of money are spent to suck out those saddle bags and tighten up that double chin. We all can’t be Michael Jackson either, then.

But I do think all of us would be a lot happier if we just lived our lives and didn’t have to think about how bad our hair looks or how our butt looks fat in those jeans. Wouldn’t it all be that much simpler?