Friday, July 10, 2009

the history of beauty

I walked into the lunchroom today and immediately commented on my coworker Katie's cute heels. "I don't want to talk about it," she smirked, still reeling from a long lecture from another coworker, this one morbidly obese, on how heels are just one example of how our superficial culture tells women to present themselves. "You'll regret them later!" she declared, wagging her chubby finger toward Katie's toes.

"Maybe I will," Katie admitted. "But I sure as hell don't want to hear about it from her."


Malia, sitting cross-legged on a chaise lounge, raises her tone as she reads aloud to us from a book about the American trajectory of beauty and self-image. We hear of thinness and fatness and acne and sex and how our capricious culture defines perfection. It's a sad, helpless thing; to watch the values of a culture slip from internal qualities to almost exclusively external. "How do we stop this?" she asks. We throw around pie in the sky ideas like, "wear less makeup?" "stop looking in mirrors so much?" "read more?" but when it comes down to it, we were all forced to realize that, intentionally or not, we are interwoven into what our culture tells us to focus on. So: Are we beautiful?


9 pm. Yoga class. "Use the mirror to square your hips and balance yourself," our strawberry blonde instructor guided us. "Don't look at yourself like you normally would-- how does my hair look? Use it to force your body into a better place." Namaste, yoga. You are one of the world's best teachers of the lesson: Here Is Your Body. Here is How to Make it Work Well. Enjoy Your Strength and Guard It."

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