So I guess everyone knows why I’m referencing Cindy Crawford in the title, right? Because of the photo that had everyone so jazzed about body acceptance and how supermodels are Just Like Us?
Until, of course, the news broke that it was a LEAKED photo, and instead of a “Hell yeah, I’m old and Just Like You and it’s all okay!” message from Ms. Crawford’s camp, there was just an awkward silence. (And then a very chivalrous photo share by Cindy’s husband, Rande Gerber, showing the model in a much better light.)
As my dad used to say, “It’s okay to be excited.” But here’s the thing; you need to know what it is that you’re getting excited about first. Tons of folks hit the blogosphere and the Twitterverse with shouts of support before realizing that the share wasn’t intentional, on Ms. Crawford’s part, and then after said photos were hastily removed from various pages (good luck trying to get a peek at them now), the conversation turned.
“Why doesn’t she want the world to see her as she is?”…”Doesn’t she know how empowering it could be?”…”If you’re a celebrity, and you have your image shared for a living, you shouldn’t be a baby when an image of the REAL you gets out.”
Those are some of the thoughts circulating out there. And, maybe they’re valid. But so are these…”She was having her photo taken under the assumption that they would be touched up before being used; that’s the MO of most fashion publications, and Marie Claire dropped the ball by not locking down photos that were part of a business agreement”…”Forcing someone to “empower” other women–especially through an embarrassing situation–isn’t really empowering”…”Seeing Cindy Crawford unretouched shouldn’t make me feel better about myself, because I should already feel good about myself, no matter what anyone else looks like.” (The last line is a sort of co-opted thought from a Go Kaleo blog post, in which the author bares her own legs to provide what she had hoped the picture was, initially; just a photo of a real woman, without shame or apology. Initially, I had an impulse to don a black bathing suit like Ms. Crawford’s–as well as a pimp hat and dope Road Warrior-inspired coat like the one she was wearing–just to add my voice to the “See?! It’s okay to be old!” chorus, but as time goes on that urge is subsiding a little. Maybe my part will just be this post.)
In all honesty, I can’t say that I wouldn’t call my publicist crying and scream at him/her to get those DAMN PHOTOS OFF THE INTERNET, if I were in Crawford’s Manolos.
You see, as much as I like to wax poetic about body and age acceptance, I have my limits, too. It grieves me to think that a woman would feel like she has to surgically retool her body, if she finds herself single after several years of marriage and childbearing in order to get a man to even consider her. (Yes, I’ve actually had this conversation with someone, and she’s not alone in thinking this way.) I understand the idea–usually we pair up with someone when we’re young, and they see us go through changes gradually, and therefore aren’t shocked when we don’t look like, well Cindy Crawford when we’re naked. But here’s the thing; ideally, they fell in love with our soul in the beginning, not our body.
Yes, the body is part of it, I know. But…it shouldn’t have been a HUGE part of it–and definitely not all of it–at any point. And it shouldn’t be if you’re starting over at 40 or 50.
Yet it is sometimes.
Yes, we can sigh and lift our brows and lambast the “Media” and “This Culture”, and it’s true, in part. It’s also true that most deep ideas (and the idea of looking at a soul for the source of someone’s beauty definitely counts as “deep”) aren’t ones that are palatable or even understandable by a lot of the population. (I hope that didn’t come out sounding as “PEOPLE ARE SHEEP” as I think it did. I love people, really, I do. But I think you know what I’m saying.)
There ARE men out there who will cringe at your older body, if you’re a woman getting back into the dating pool. (There are also men–and women–who will cringe at the sight of you in a bathing suit even if you’re not trying to date them. Or interact with them at all.)
So what? F&*K THEM!
Seriously, I understand the desire to “Change the Culture”, etc., and yes, it’s a good idea…but I think we all know that there are just going to always be people who are surface/appearance based, who are going to judge you harshly.
But there are also people out there who look at souls, instead of (or in addition to) the body.
Maybe we focus on them, instead. And just live our lives according to the belief that we’re worthy, the way we are.
“But Jill,” you’re saying, “How do we deal with that, when we’re bombarded with images that are Photoshopped to perfection?! When men and women grow to expect that sort of aesthetically exciting image, and think anything less is a let down?”
Well…you could change what you look at.
As a freelance journalist/copywriter, believe me, I’m not telling you to stop reading magazines.
But I’m telling you to re-evaluate what you look at, and what you use it for.
One of the publications I work for, GORGO fitness magazine, has a policy about only Photoshopping for lighting issues. They’re certainly not alone–several magazines have moved towards natural images–but you will be hard pressed to find fashion and beauty publications that are following suit. (Online fashion and beauty pub Verily is one refreshing exception.)
It’s okay. It’s not for everyone, and don’t get me wrong–I still work for (and read) magazines that buff out imperfection and like the glossy presentation of a fantastical world where you can jog after a bus in high heels with perfect lipstick, and learn 10 Ways to Wow Him in the Sack.
But in the whole scheme of What We Look At, magazines (and really, anything to do with an image of someone we don’t know) should be a fairly slim slice of the pie, don’t you think?
Look at nature. Look at the person next to you at the grocery store, or in line at the post office. Read a f*&king book, for pity’s sake.
And also, when you want images of beauty, that will encourage you in those dark moments when you think, “Aaaaahh!! I don’t want to get wrinkly! I don’t want my boobs to sag! I’ll be ugly!” look at older women around you–ones you know personally, not Helen Mirren, God love her–and take comfort. (If you don’t know any older women you admire, maybe that’s part of your problem. You need to put down the magazines and get out there, and make friends across a span of ages, and find the beauty in them.)
I’ll go first…here’s a picture of my mother, one of the cutest old broads I know.
Yes, she’s adorable. And yes, I know, she doesn’t look old enough to be my mom. (I’m really getting a little sick of hearing that, to be honest. Okay, I’ve actually been exasperated with it since I was about fifteen.)
I had an epiphany, not too long ago, while I was sitting and looking at my mom. Now, let me preface this by confessing that I had just visited the dermatologist, asking about options to turn back the clock, skin-wise. The kind doctor laid out a number of options, not including Botox (sorry, that’s one thing I CANNOT do), which ranged from Retin A (which I hear is a wonder drug after you get over the initial stage of usage where your skin actually looks worse–not something I’m keen to have happen if I’m already in Sylvia Plath mode about how it looks now) to a non-invasive ultrasound procedure that could produce a skin-tightening effect that would last for up to a year.
That sounded wonderful! Ultrasound! Why, that’s not painful at all! (I was thinking of the ultrasounds I had during my million pregnancies.)
Except that, well, yes, it does involve a little “discomfort”, the dermatologist explained. (In fact, what she said was, “I’d be lying to you if I didn’t warn you that it’s painful.”
Well, just how painful is…”painful”?
She related that most women, on a scale of 1 to 10, would rate it about an 8.
Hmm. Well, no biggie, I could take an “8″ for…how long is the procedure, again?
About an hour and a half.
THAT made my eyes bug, dear readers. (I’m a little embarrassed to admit that the price tag–which was substantial–did not, but the thought of an hour and a half of getting the crap zapped out of the fascia under my face and neck was enough to cause me to remember how philosophically opposed I am to torture for beauty’s sake.)
Anyway. Where was I? Oh, yeah…my mom.
So, I’m sitting there, telling my mom all of this, and I realize as I’m talking that my mom, despite having the same sort of sun damage on her face that I do (wear your sunscreen, kids), and a neck that doesn’t look like a twenty-year-old’s…is still beautiful.
I realize that I’m talking about procedures to keep me from looking, well, like her.
But why would I want to do that?
(Yes, my mom is a biker. Source of many good jokes, and some of that sun damage we were talking about.)
Seriously…she’s adorable! Yes, she started life with a good amount of physical beauty, it’s true…
(This is my mom in high school, back in Paleolithic times. Notice the fur pelt she’s wearing–her club and pet sabretooth tiger were cropped out of this pic.)
But that’s not what makes her beautiful now. What makes her beautiful is…her. Her sweetness, her fun-loving spirit, and her loyalty, among other things. (She did have some moments in my childhood where I thought she was as mean as a snake, but five kids and marriage problems have made me my own brand of crazy, so I have a whole new perspective–and appreciation–for her).
I’ll say it again…change what you look at. Change WHO you look at, and change the way you look at yourself. “The Culture” may or may not come along for the ride, but someone who has decided to look at things differently will definitely make an impact on the micro-culture of their own little world.
And that’s a big deal.