Friday, May 18, 2012

Looks can kill

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS NUDITY. MINE. Looking at it might send your heart racing for all the wrong reasons. You have been warned.

It always comes back to cancer. Despite my best efforts to ignore that teensy interruption to my life, there are constant reminders.

Last week I bumped into a workmate from Les Mills who's handsome, in great shape, and as is inevitable with those types, permanently hungry. 'Wow, you look so different with hair'.

Jack Sprat wasn't to know that my hair keeps me up at night. Partly that's because it's long enough now to get wrap itself around my face, block my nostrils and bring on that panicked can't breathe feeling you get when you can't breathe.

But mainly, it's because of Hillary Clinton. I've been thinking about growing my hair long. Ponytails are fun and so easy. They say, 'look, so effortlessly stylish'. Long hair is so versatile, so barbie and so feminine.

But have you seen Hillary lately? Let yourself go already Hils? She's grown her hair long and has taken to simply hoisting it back into a pontail at the nape of her neck. She looks drawn and tired and stressed and rushed and harried and careless. You would think she had better things to do than style her hair.

Turns out she's embracing the whole natural thing, only wearing lipstick and no other makeup, because at 60plus it just doesn't seem that important anymore. This concession from the woman who famously once said that Bill was a hard dog to keep on the porch. Which brings us to this:

There's a host of fitspirational images rushing around cyberspace at the moment. Typically faceless female bodies with chiselled abs dripping in sweat, they exhort us to work harder to get into the shape of our lives and stay that 'hot' til we die. The images stress the rewards of the hard work in the gym and reinforce the idea that those who attain the ultimate physique are more worthy and more deserving than the rest of us. And they are. They deserve their low body fat percentages and their washboards tummies. But no one I've asked can tell me what the abs are for? What purpose do they serve? I appear to have become a utilitarian. Which is why I'm so relaxed about this:

And this:

And here's the thing. As soon as you saw my semi-naked body, you forgot about my hair style problems.  You're probably uncomfortable, and if you're honest, this is why:

You prefer topless women you don't know, and with two boobs.

What truly troubles me more than the hypocrisy of people who marvel at how empowering 21st century porn is, while desperately hoping their daughters choose a different career, what troubles me even more than the destructive self-doubt and negative thoughts that are created by the fitspiration movement, what is really catching in my throat right now is the lack of thinkspiration.

Where are the posters of the leaders, the thinkers, the game changers, the servers, the contributors? Where are the motivational posters that encourage selflessness and the pursuit of something more meaningful and attainable than a body that will inevitably let you down? Imagine if those women, and it is mainly women, did something useful with their collective angst. How about solving problems that might count for something rather than spending hours debating the pros and cons of competiting diets. What if their undoubted strength both of body and mind was put to a purpose other then sculpting their bodies?

I get caught up in the fuss. I want to look pretty. I want nice hair. And I sincerely believe that if I was skinnier I'd be happier. But I challenge myself all the time to unpack the whys. And when the reasons are that strangers who don't know me and love me yet will think I'm cool, I have to face my own shallow stupidity. And when I question how someone as obviously awesome as me has got sucked into that advertising/media/social frenzy over the importance of looks I get really worried about all the girls I know. I worry for my daughter. For my niece. Their brains haven't even fully formed yet. Everything they are exposed to now is telling them what to believe about their place in the world. They don't stand a chance.

Looks can kill. Caring about them too much sets you up for a lifetime of stress. Stress can give you cancer. And then your looks will really suffer!

The photographer who took the photos above wanted me to look longingly down at my scar so he could photoshop a tear onto my cheek. Arty, he called it. I replied with something ultra-mature like 'suck my fat one'.

I thought of Hillary, her thinkspiration, her troubles with Bill. Her ponytail, her lipstick. I wondered if I could ever shed a tear for my missing breast, and my undiscoverable abs.

I don't have it in me. I'm saving my tears. Saving them for the girls who will battle with their bodies in a quest to look better before they can feel better. And who will waste so much potential doing so.