People most want what is difficult to get, just because of its unattainable nature. It’s human nature. Marketers know that. Even children know that. (You want proof? Come to my house now that all the Christmas toys have lost their luster. The older ones only want whatever toy the baby is holding purely because the baby is holding it. It’s enough to make a mom wish for boarding school, I tell you.)
Toys are childs play though. Beauty is what every adult wants. Women want to be beautiful. Men want to possess it. It is revered, glamorized, idolized, coveted, stolen, bought & bartered every day in our culture. Your beauty is your currency. But what is beautiful?
The Changing Standard of Beauty
Angelina Jolie is currently touted as the gold standard of beauty. But a mere 50 years ago it was this:
Can you imagine if Marilyn Monroe were caught by the paparrazzi today? “Marilyn Monroe Pregnant! With Triplets!” or worse, “Marilyn Monroe New Spokesperson for Jenny Craig!” or even “From Famous to Fat.” I mean, look at those thighs touch! Don’t get me wrong – I think MM is gorgeous. She has one of the most symmetrical faces I’ve ever seen. And she is amazingly well proportioned. But she is not today’s standard of beauty.
But instead of comparing her to today’s standards, look at her compared to earlier models of perfection:
Like the Venus De Milo. She and Marilyn have a lot in common. They are both big breasted but, unlike today, they are also large hipped. Their arms and legs are soft and their bellies, most notably below the belly button, are rounded. Their faces are full, cheekbones almost completely undefined. Traditionally, this was the trade off for women: you have big boobs, you also have a big rear and a full face. Today though, thanks to surgical enhancements, you can have Victoria Beckham with her unnaturally large (and freakishly round) breasts combined with her teeny waist, toothpick thighs and razored cheekbones.
So What Changed?
For the majority of the history of mankind soft & round was in. Since about the ’60’s, it is (with the exception of breasts) completely opposite. The difference is attainability
. In the past, it was difficult to be round because food was scarce. Today, it is a feat to be thin when food is aplenty. Even more revered is to starve in the midst of a nearly global, daily feast.
It is said now that “thin is the new rich.” Meaning, of course, that now protruding clavicles are even more difficult to get than lots of money.
What is the Price?
Is our new standard of beauty merely a change of the times to be tolerated or even encouraged? Or is their a price we pay for this new beauty? People (often women) have traditionally gone to great lengths to be more beautiful. In the middle ages, they smeared lead on their faces to lighten their skin and dropped toxins into their eyes to brighten the whites. In the Victorian Era, women strapped themselves into corsets so tight they made them faint on a regular basis and actually altered their bone structure.
Our day is no different. We pay a price for our beauty as well. But, in my opinion, the greatest cost is psychological. More than ever before, we are encouraged to despair if we don’t meet the ideal. Women with everything to be grateful for in their lives (literally, everything), hate themselves and feel worthless because they don’t “measure up.” At the gym the other day, a friend actually told me that all of her accomplishments (of which there are many), mean nothing unless she can lose the ten (ish) pounds she put on over the holidays.
So which is worse – putting acid in your eyes or pouring it on your soul?