There was a news article on NDTV (read about it here) about an Indian student's death in the United Kingdom believed to have been caused by weight loss pills. He was only 18. It made me really sad and I got to ruminating about the insane pressure to look good these days. So I just typed up some of my thoughts on the same and put it up on BI.
It could just be me, but there seems to be an incredible amount of pressure to look beautiful all the damn time. Earlier, the onus was entirely on celebs and they were and still are expected to hit the loo with pancake and lipstick on. But since they are paid beaucoup bucks to look awesome it is their problem if they get fat – shamed for daring to pile on the pounds post pregnancy like Aishwarya Rai or slammed by the fashion police for daring to wear their exorbitant designer togs twice(Gasp!). Nowadays, however, everyone is expected to sport the celeb look and be perfectly groomed and beautiful even when doing something unglamorous like taking out the trash.
If that there were not bad enough there is society’s current definition of beauty to contend with. Gone are the days when Rubens used his artistry to convince his peers that pudgy brunettes were the epitome of beauty. In this brave new world, a woman has to be skinny, possessed of alabaster – hued and blemish- free skin, poker straight perfectly coiffed hair, pearly white teeth and a sartorial savvy that includes a perfect willingness to sacrifice comfort for fashion. And it goes without saying that stretch marks, cellulite, bodily hair, junk in the trunk, unplucked eyebrows, uneven skin tone et al are the great destroyers of flawless beauty. Wearing comfortable flat – heeled shoes that don’t aggravate your acrophobia or your favorite pair of baggy pants and oversized tees that actually allows for unconstricted respiration is guaranteed to provoke uncalled for looks of withering scorn and sarcastic comments on how the frumpy, dumpy look is working out for ya.
The problem with gamely trying to become more beautiful than your maker intended you to be is that it is far too much work to be any kind of fun and it is ridiculously expensive. Agreed that working out is enjoyable and beneficial to good health, but if one is hoping to give Jessica Biel a run for her money or give our very own Bipasha Basu an inferiority complex, then the prescribed three hours a week is not going to cut it. A person would need to clock in the same amount of time in the gym as a regular 9 to 5 job and pay through the proverbial nose to get the desired results. There is a shortcut of course and that is to starve/undergo liposuction/use weight loss pills/steroids/develop an eating disorder/take up smoking and risk certain death or other potentially long – term ailments to get that deliciously malnourished look so prized by fashion designers, model agencies and the rest of the beauty brigade.
Getting skinny is only the beginning though. There is still the grooming process. Hard earned money has to be blown up on the beauty parlors and spas that have erupted like unsightly sores in every nook and corner of whichever part of the globe you head to, demanding that you enter their portals and subject yourself to the torture devices within so that you may be transformed from the ugly duckling you currently are to a beautiful swan, for the right sum of course. Waxing, manicures, pedicures, hair spa, hair straightening, coloring, oil massages, facials, body polishing are some of the services that have to be availed on a monthly nee weekly basis to keep from looking scruffy or just natural (What a horrifying and utterly revolting thought!) And if all that pampering has done nothing for a slightly crooked nose or smile lines, it is time to look up a decent plastic surgeon who can deliver the goods.
A girl may have puked for ten days straight before the compliments on her ravishing new body start rolling in or she may have practically beggared herself to pay for beauty treatments and plastic surgery but her quest for beauty is far from complete. The next stop is Fifth Avenue or the Champs Elysees for the moneyed, the nearest mall having a sale, or just about any store selling knockoffs for the hoi polloi. After all, you are what you wear aren’t you? So it is imperative that one invests in clothes, more clothes, accessories like scarves, watches, handbags, jewelry, and shoes, shoes and more shoes and underwear that is likely to asphyxiate your crotch. And it is a fashion boo boo to wear the same thing more than once so that thing we learned in school – “Waste not, want not” has to be unlearned asap.
I could be way off base here, but surely there are more constructive ways to spend time and money? Why are we all swearing by the adage that in order to feel good you must look good? Isn’t it simpler to feel good about yourself and love whatever the heck you see in the mirror? Even if the creature reflected in front of you has bushy eyebrows, thinning hair, crooked teeth, a double chin, a zit or two and absolutely no fashion sense to speak of? It is long overdue, but we need to paraphrase Keats and start believing that a thing of fugly can also be a joy forever if not for others (who cares about others anyway?) at least for the precious self.
The original version appeared here.