Sunday, May 26, 2013

Let's be better than that.

I just found out Dawn French got divorced. I'm in shock, and by "shock" I mean "more than averagely surprised," I've not been hospitalised or anything. I'm not sure why I am so surprised - she's one of the celebrities I feel like I know. I love her confidence, her humour, her multicultural, long-lasting marriage. Now I feel confused. I am regularly confused about something, but it's not a state I relish. Her marriage has ended, she's remarried, she's lost weight... what? 

I think perhaps I find her having lost weight a little more disturbing than her having got divorced. Marriages end, it takes two people to make them work, and sometimes they just don't. But with dieting... that's a personal decision. And to be honest it is usually a negative one, or at least the process feels quite negative.  I mean does anyone ever really want to diet? You don't think "Yay! I am morbidly obese, I can change my whole life, and protect my health by losing weight!" you think "I have to do this, I have to do this, I have to do this. I can't do this. This chocolate is what's killing me. Why am I like this? Why am I such a failure?" 

I guess the issue I have is that I find it so very sad when people can't see how awesome they are and feel like they have to change themselves to become closer to some stereotypical idea of beauty. As it stands, I am the only person I know who has ever gone on a diet without beginning the process feeling ugly, or even slightly ashamed at my extra kilos. You can read about how I got to that place here if you want.  I know there must be other people out there who view themselves not just with acceptance but positively but I don't know them. 

One of the expats who vacations on my complex gifted me a load of magazines this week. They are old. I think the newest is from 2011. Not that it makes any difference to me. The only time I read those semi-trashy, celebrity, "real life" magazines, is when someone gives them to me. I don't follow those types of stories on the news. I might watch them on TV if  a) my scathing-of-popular-culture-husband was out, and b) we had a TV. Flicking through them there were two things I noticed. 1) I don't know anybody. Actually, that's not quite true - I had heard of Richard and Judy, but Coleen (Kai is running her ragged / wants to be healthy again;) Alex (angling for a payoff;) Kerry (hiding her love for this man;) Denise (jets off to save marriage;) and Leandro (first interview) - no idea. In some instances I don't even know the gender of these people. 2) These magazines are not positive, but are very much given to exaggeration. For example - one headline "Richard and Judy: Rocked by new family drama - Chloe reveals all" sounds like something bad has happened. As if there really has been some terrible trauma in their lives. Turn to the story - Chloe (Richard and Judy's daughter!) is happy and enjoying life, working on some show called "Dancing on Ice." The great family trauma...? They did a bit of research on their family tree and they had a dodgy ancestor. Is that news? obviously not for a serious news publication, but even for a trashy mag that has got to be stretching it. Two thirds of the front page given oven to advertising a non-story. How weird. Obviously it is total wishful thinking to want companies to only print stories if they are actually news worthy (you can't just pick and choose when you bring out you magazine after all) but surely their headlines should be a little more honest? I mean, okay they can't write "Richard and Judy experienced a non-event this week!" but maybe "Richard and Judy: surprised they have an interesting ancestor!? Chloe mentions it in passing."

Anyway, where am I going with this. I don't think that how miserably so many women think about their bodies is all the medias fault. The media print what people think, exaggerate it a bit, realise it sells, keep printing it, people keep reading it, and start to believe this is actually how the world is. One of the glossy magazines I was gifted was having a "positive ageing issue." According to their headlines you can "look better feel better live better;" eat "7 foods to keep you younger;" "take years off your body;" "rediscover your sex appeal" and enjoy some "facial creams and treatments tested just for you" (the bold typing is theirs.) None of this strikes me as positive. At least not more than superficially so. Where are the articles about mature women teaching younger ones how to appreciate themselves exactly as they are? Where is the shared wisdom from people who have really lived? Where is the article about people with marriages who have worked and lasted and still have something to talk about around the dinner table? Where is the pride that you have lived, and survived, that you have helped make a country in which women can be considered equal, in which we live longer than ever before? Where are the stories about older women who have really achieved something with their lives? Why on earth are women being completely fobbed off with articles about how to look younger?? Fine - people want to look their best, but a positive ageing feature and that is the sum total of the positivity - you can look better. WTF? Where is the afterwards - you go on a diet, you buy some new clothes, you get some good face cream and that's it. All your goals in life are fulfilled? There has to be more than that - women are better than that. Humanity is better than that. Nobody reaches old age without having loved and lost people – without understanding how transient life is and learning to value every second.

So to Dawn French - good job losing weight. But thank you for being a person who lets life shine through you. Who has had a career longer than my entire life span. Thank you for making the world a better place with your amazing ability to see truth and make it funny. Thank you for making dark places light. You have made a difference, and I am grateful.

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