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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I've been thinking lately about women, and our obsession with our looks.

Maybe it's partly due to the influx of weight-loss advice -_-!!! I've been receiving because of the wedding. This ranges from the practical ( "eat less and exercise more" ) to downright absurd ( "5 apples a day" )

And of course, comes all the advice on clothing. This colour/style will make your butt/arms/breasts/waist look fat. This makes you look old. This is better. That is better. Wear a corset. ( Back to the Victorian pre-lib days we go! )

The advice irritated me to no end. First, slimness is not a prerequisite to happiness. Yes, being slimmer may be good for me healthwise, and would make me look better in photos, but will it make me happy? Do you mean that if I was fat on my wedding day, I would be unhappy in my marriage? That my husband would leave me at the altar?

Of course not, all these people would tell me. But it would be better for you. And healthier of course.

( The irony being that most of these people telling me this would be the ones who either eat loads of fried/grilled foods, or can't even jog 500m to save their own house burning. Me, who eats sashimi and subway sandwiches after 1.5 hours at the gym -_-!!! )

But if I scrape away the unintended advice, and my own reactionary irritation, I find something a bit more fascinating underneath all these. Namely, that women, from prehistoric to modern times, have not gotten rid of the unhealthy obsession with their bodies. We are still as preoccupied with our bodily image as ever.

Because if you listen carefully to all the advice ever dished out, you would realise that the main message being given is to slim down. All the other health risks of obesity: clogged arteries, weakened joints, etc are merely afterthoughts. ( "...and you will also get health attacks!" ) The driving point of all the advice is that I have to lose weight so that I will look slimmer and better, and also so that I will reduce my chances of heart attack etc. And definitely all the bad dietary advice I've ever received never even takes these health risks into account at all. Hardly anyone ever says, "Eat more veggies to reduce the clogging in your arteries so that you can have a healthier lifestyle." Rather it's more "Eat more veggies to reduce your weight, and your arteries will not be clogged as well."

Notice the slight difference in emphasis?

So you take all the comments people ever give you about dieting, and it comes down to this: That as a woman, you must look slimmer.

Funnily enough, despite all our advances and our supposedly modern thinking, this has not changed since caveman eras. That our outward bodily appearance is the sole deciding factor in whether we women score a date, a husband and subsequently get to reproduce our genes. You would think that given all the bras burnt, the pants worn, and the higher salaries, we would have had time to reconsider our criteria for a mate, but no, it remains woefully prehistoric.

And even this. Given our higher education, salaries, and increased women's rights, do we even need to score a husband at all??? Yes, laughable, coming from me, but surely there are tons of other stuff we could be doing, reading Shakespeare, curing cancer, saving dying dogs, other than spending the time on looking pretty for the men. Also, don't most of the dating advice out there start like this: "Love yourself first. Spend time on the things you like doing."? If he's not coming to you, and the waiting is making you miserable, then why not, instead of waiting, do tons of the other stuff that you like instead?

Our own bodily obsessions are our own undoing. We get together and gripe about the various men who have rejected us because we were the wrong size and look. But yet we also spend tons of time and money trying to get the 'right' size and look. In all this, we neglect one simple thing: If only perfect-looking women got married, then how about all the other 'imperfect' women that have gotten married over the centuries? And how about the 'perfect' women that have gotten divorced?

Ladies, it's time we stopped thinking in terms of waist size and kilogrammes. These are not prerequisites to a happy life. They are not going to open the door to Magical Happy Land, no matter how much we want them to. It's time we acknowledged that the key to our own happiness lies not in our stomachs, but in our own hearts.

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