Archive for the ‘Self-image’ Category

If it ain’t broke, should I fix it??

October 8, 2012

A while ago I purchased a Groupon for a microdermabrasion facial from a local laser skin care and rejuvenation center. Included in the bargain basement price was a consultation with a skin care specialist. Aware that the business offered several expensive cosmetic procedure I wasn’t entirely surprised that although I had listed dry skin and occasional breakouts as my only skin concerns, the “skin specialist” I spoke to suggested I “really consider Botox” for the “lines around my eyes and on my forehead.” In a bid to reassure me that Botox is safe and effective, she let me know that she herself had regular injections. True, she had nary a line on her face. She also appeared to be about 25 years old. Granted, she could be 50 and her apparent youth the result of the wonders of Botox. Yet a glance at the stud through her cheek, Lulu Lemon tights and Sketchers sneakers suggested this to be highly unlikely. (So as not to undermine her credibility, I will also point that she was wearing a white lab coat, the epitome of professionalism). Even still, I declined the Botox. At 31, if I choose to look closely, I can certainly see where my face folds when I smile, frown, squint, laugh, or furrow my brow. I just feel that as long as I can still get away with referring to these as “expression lines” I will continue to age gracefully. (With the exception of my Vitamin A face wash, 2 eye creams, retinol serum and day and night anti-aging moisturizers). We’ll see how I feel in 10 years.

Botox is only one tool in the anti-aging arsenal. The technology available to essentially “turn back the clock” seems to grow every day. Procedures are also becoming less invasive, more convenient, and involve less downtime, meaning people can literally walk into their doctor’s office and walk out a newer, younger person almost instantly.  It seems every other week I’m reading about a new technique to treat some cosmetic condition that I have never even heard of or never would have thought about as a physical defect. A few posts ago I wrote about cosmetic surgery for feet. I have often cursed my wide feet while shoe shopping, but never would have thought about this feature of mine as a treatable deficiency. I have just accepted that I would have to live with this trait. Alas, not anymore! With advances in cosmetic surgery, wide footism is treatable! It makes me think: Are these advancement in cosmetic surgery serving to address existing weaknesses that impede people’s lives either physically or psychologically or are these new procedures actually generating anxiety and perceived imperfections out of the normal variations among us?

Let me illustrate this quandary using the prescription lash enhancement drug Latisse. You have likely seen the advertisements for this product featuring gorgeous spokesmodel Brooke Shields. The preparation itself was originally (and still is) used as an eye drop to treat glaucoma when it was noted that patients using the solution developed thicker, longer eyelashes. Result: Latisse. The cosmetically marketed product is brushed on the lashline, and about 12 weeks later you have longer, darker, thicker lashes. Of course any substance seeking FDA approval to be sold by prescription requires a valid medical indication. And this is the kicker. Allergan, the company marketing this “medication” has identified a medical condition called hypotrichosis, defined as “inadequate or not enough lashes”. That’s right, if you are a person born with thin, lightly colored or short eyelashes, you now suffer from a treatable medical condition. The bad news is that hypotrichosis is a chronic, debilitating medical condition that will plague you for the rest of your life. There is no known cure. The good news is that the good people at Allergan have come up with an effective treatment. As long as you keep using Latisse you will have longer and thicker lashes. But you can’t stop using the solution or your eyelashes will shrink back to their original form. Hypotrichosis requires lifelong treatment.

Beyond the now routine procedures such as Botox, Restylane, lasers, implants, tummy tucks and liposuction, the cosmetic surgery industry has progressed to produce processes to “treat” the natural variations that make us unique and distinguishable from one another. Enemy number one is any natural sign of aging. Newer additions: surgery to fix a cleft chin, liposuction to treat “cankles”, turning an outie bellybutton into an innie, iris implants to turn brown eyes blue, abdominal etching (selective abdominal liposuction to give the appearance of a “6-pack”), butt implants, bicep implants, calf implants, and even pubic hair implants. What next??

Cosmetic surgery can be a touchy subject with people feeling strongly in one direction or another. There are those who feel that any attempt to be physically altered is wrong. Others are more accepting of such a metamorphosis. I find most people are in the middle. The majority of us see some of our traits as requiring reinvention, while other deviations from the middle ground are the result of simple human uniqueness. Whether demand is influencing supply or vice versa, it seems that as people continue to seek physical perfection, advancements in the cosmetic surgery field will continue. Perhaps we need not attack the industry itself, but rather take a hard look at the way men and women are represented in the media and society as idealized specimens. Finally, we have to remember that we have the autonomy to refuse to buy into the message that we are being sold. We still have free will until it goes out of style.

MANOREXIA

August 24, 2012

Our new issue of GQ magazine arrived today. The magazine comes in my fiancée’s name, however we both enjoy the subscription. While I generally skip over the articles about sports and cars, I do enjoy the monthly glimpse into the male universe. What are they being told to wear, read, eat, and listen to? Why are there 20 variations of the same brown loafer in my front closet? The answers are in this magazine. Plus the ads are much more arousing and don’t illicit the same self-loathing as those in women’s magazines. Read: gorgeous men, often in states of undress. But I digress. When I picked up the new issue, I immediately noticed the coverline: “SPECIAL REPORT: WHY MEN ARE BECOMING ANOREXICS”. While there have been several reports indicating that the number of men with eating disorders has been on the rise, I was surprised to see this article in a major men’s magazine. How big is this issue?

 

In the last few years I have observed some subtle changes in the behaviour of men in general towards food. It seems more men are drinking diet soft drinks. I hear more men ordering “skinny” drinks at Starbucks (hold the whip!) or putting artificial sweeteners in their drinks. A lot of my male friends choose salad instead of fries as their side dish. At the last wedding attended, my fiancée and I were seated at a table with four male firefighters. These men were young, thin and appeared to be in good shape. Yet for some reason all four of them were on the low-carb “Southbeach Diet”. I watched with fascination as they removed the single crouton from the soup course, refused the pasta salad, and carefully removed the layer of breading from the fish. I decided not to mention that the 12 vodka sodas they each downed contained carbohydrates. I figured they would throw them up imminently. At another dinner I attended, a male guest questioned why both potatoes and rice were served: “Who serves 2 carbs??” In a female, this behaviour would likely not have even raised an eyebrow. In these cases I found it bizarre and off-putting. Yet I wouldn’t have suspected any of these men to have an eating disorder until I read this article.

 

As a woman recovering from an eating disorder I know that the triggers for anorexia and bulimia are complicated. However it has been shown that the pressures placed on women to conform to the media and societal ideal of perfection can certainly be a contributing factor. There was a time when this was a concern of women almost exclusively. In The Beauty Myth first published in 1990 Naomi Wolf writes of women’s magazines:

“Since self-hatred artificially inflates the demand and the price, the overall message to women from their magazines must remain…negative not positive. Hence the hectoring tone that no other magazines use to address adults with money in their pockets: do’s and dont’s that scold, insinuate, and condescend. The same tone in a men’s magazine-do invest in tax-free bonds; don’t vote Republican-is unthinkable.”

And:

“Unfortunately, the beauty backlash is spread and reinforced by the cycles of self-hatred provoked in women by the advertisements, photo features, and beauty copy in the glossies. These make up the beauty index, which women scan as anxiously as men scan stock reports.”

20 years later, the content of men’s magazines very closely imitates that of most women’s publications. Magazines such as GQ, Details, Maxim and Nylon Man have numerous sartorial recommendations for the stylish modern man, reinforced by photo spreads of young, fit male models. Articles detail what’s new in the worlds of technology, music, art and books, and ensure men feel sufficiently mediocre if these prizes are not acquired. Advertisements convey the quintessential male specimen, lean men in slim-cut clothing or topless displaying bulging pectoral, abdominal, and bicep muscles. Most months feature diet and fitness advice to help men look more like the sculpted, photoshopped gods gracing the glossy pages. If looking at an Armani underwear ad featuring David Beckham is the male equivalent of women having to look at a Victoria’s Secret ad featuring Giselle Bundchen then I have no problem grasping the concept of male eating disorders.

 

The article in GQ magazine reports some surprising statistics. The author, Nathaniel Penn, reports that 20% of anorexics are men, or to put it in perspective for those that aren’t great at math 1 in 5. This is up from 5% (1 in 20) only 10 years ago, and the number is increasing. It appears that men develop eating disorders for the same reasons as women. So why has there been such an increase in the number of cases? A person can be predisposed to developing an eating disorder but never actually develop the disease because they never experience a trigger. Is it simply that, as discussed above, western culture has evolved to a point where men are facing many of the same societal pressures that women have faced for decade? This is likely only a part of it.

 

An article in Details magazine published November 2011 titled “America’s New Male Body Obsession” showcased 40 images that changed the way men viewed their bodies. These images are meant to illustrate how the male ideal has changed over the last several years as well as how much more focused men have become on their physiques. Included are: Mark Wahlberg’s notorious Calvin Klein ad, Brad Pitt’s very toned body in Fight Club, Mark Jacob’s remarkable weight loss, Daniel Craig, the author of The Ultimate New York Diet, a bottle of Michelob Light beer, a picture of body wax, etc. Looking at People Magazine’s Sexiest Men list, essentially all of the men topping the list had a lean, athletic physique and are very well groomed: Ryan Gosling, Justin Theroux, Chris Evans, and the winner Bradley Cooper to name a few. Topping the music charts are songs by Fun, Maroon 5, Neon Trees and Owl City, indie and alternative musicians who insist on looking like starving artists no matter how successful they get, in skintight size 27 jeans and American Apparel deep V’s. The media and entertainment industries are screaming to men that 0% body fat and a 6-pack are essential for health and happiness. And apparently they are listening.

 

In a March 24th 2012 article on CNN.com Michael Addis, a professor of psychology at Clark University noted “male college students in his classes have changed and adapted to shifting cultural norms. In recent years, more of them spend time in the gym, focus on their appearance and monitor body mass.” He says “As women gain more financial power in society, men are expected to bring more to the table…In addition to being financially successful, they need to be well-groomed, in good shape, emotionally skilled in relationships and the emphasis on looking good is just part of the bigger package…” So a threat to male masculinity is motivating men to adopt behaviors traditionally attributed to women such as dieting and excessive exercise? Not according to some psychologists who believe men are actually trying to look more masculine by developing an obsession with muscle definition and fitness.

 

Clearly the reasons men develop eating disorders can be multifold and will be different for each person. Unfortunately, in males the disease often goes undiagnosed, at least until the patient is very ill, because doctors often won’t suspect anorexia in a male patient. Also, men are less likely to seek help due to the stigma of the disease, and the belief that it is primarily a female disease. As a result men on average will suffer with the disease longer than females, an average of 8 years. Many treatment facilities don’t admit male patients. These factors combined can be deadly, since according to the article in GQ as well as several other sources, the mortality rate of anorexia is up to 10%.

 

Most women know what it’s like to struggle with our body image. Therefore we may be in an opportune position to recognize if a man in our life is struggling with some of the same issues. It may be easier for him to talk to someone who can be empathetic rather than his male friends who he may feel aren’t experiencing the same pressures and insecurities. And the next time you find yourself worrying about what a man thinks of you, remember, he’s probably worrying about the same thing. So give yourself a break and give him one too. Nobody’s perfect.

 

 

What does it mean to walk the walk? Were you there for SlutWalk 2012?

July 26, 2012

Over the last few months various “SlutWalks” have taken place across Canada, with some still on the agenda for the immediate future. These events have gained popularity since last year when they began over a flippant sexist comment made by an ignorant police officer, and organizers hope to make the marches annual events. The disgusting and offensive comment was made in Toronto by Constable Jackass Michael Sanguinetti who stated the following:
“women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

Shockingly, this did not go over well with the public the good Constable was assigned to serve and protect. Many were outraged at the blatant attitude of victim blaming within police services this statement represented. Two Toronto women, Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis organized an event that brought thousands of women and men to protest in the streets of Toronto and in front of police headquarters to demand accountability for their attitudes towards women and victims of sexual assault. They called it SlutWalk. Since then, SlutWalks have been organized in many other cities in Canada, the US and around the world. Some cities, such as the one I live in (Vancouver), have already had the pleasure experiencing round 2, SlutWalk 2012. These events are carefully planned, with organizers regularly updating websites, twitter feeds, facebook sites etc. Some websites even allow supporters to donate money through the site to cover organizational costs. Many of the websites outline their own mission statements, values and goals which are generally congruent with each other and adapted from the “original” SlutWalk Toronto website.

The SlutWalk Toronto website, (www.slutwalktoronto.com), lists among their main goals advocacy against “victim-blaming” and “slut-shaming”. From the website: “Historically, the term ‘slut’ has carried a predominantly negative connotation……so we’re taking it back. “Slut” is being re-appropriated…….We are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result. Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work. No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault…..We want to feel that we will be respected and protected should we ever need them, but more importantly be certain that those charged with our safety have a true understanding of what it is to be a survivor of sexual assault — slut or otherwise…….Whether a fellow slut or simply an ally, you don’t have to wear your sexual proclivities on your sleeve, we just ask that you come……Join us in our mission to spread the word that those who experience sexual assault are not the ones at fault, without exception.”

On May 25 in Toronto about 1000 people took to the streets for SlutWalk 2012. The theme was “My Body is not an Insult”, however without any background information, a casual observer would be hard pressed to decipher a clear message from the diverse group of protesters who participated in the event/spectacle. Both women and men attended and were dressed in attire that ranged from the conservative (think business attire and even nuns habits) to lingerie. Some left most of their clothing at home choosing instead to go topless. Protesters displayed slogans everywhere from man made signs to t-shirts to bare flesh. Some phrases were clever and original while remaining moderate, relevantly bringing attention to the need for all of society to realize that the sexually victimized are never to blame under any circumstances.
“A dress is not a yes!”

“My dress doesn’t have a mouth but I do and I said  NO!”

“There is no Y-E-S in NO!”

Other statements were just crude with some making one wonder which side of the debate these people were really on.

“Sluts say yes” (Yes, this is for real. No, I don’t know what it’s supposed to mean.)

“There’s no shaming this slut!”

“We’re taking slut back!” (Did we ever have it?)

“I’ll f**k just about anything, but only with consent.”

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Listen, I get the spirit of these protests. I was angry too when I heard Constable Sanguinetti’s statements. I agree that society has a way to go in the way that we view the victims of sexual assault. Sadly, opinions such as Sanguinetti’s are all too common. Women are often thought to have “asked for it” based on their style of dress, current or prior sexual escapades, line of work or attitude. Women get the message they should watch what they wear for fear of inciting rape when we should really be sending the message to men instead that raping a woman is never OK. It is especially unfortunate that those perfectly positioned to enable them to provide protection to those who have been victimized or who are most vulnerable would hold such misogynistic ideas. And it’s not just the police. In 2011 Manitoba Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Dewar gave Kenneth Rhodes a conditional sentence instead of any jail time for a 2006 rape because he felt the victim sent signals that “sex was in the air” since she wore a tube top with no bra, high heels and lots of makeup, and flirted with Mr. Dewar before he forced himself on her on a dark highway. Justice Dewar said “This is a case of misunderstood signals and inconsiderate behavior.” From his ridiculous sentencing it is unclear whether he meant he felt Mr. Rhodes (whom he referred to as a “clumsy Don Juan”) was inconsiderate for raping the victim or the victim was inconsiderate for being such a cock tease. But don’t worry, the judge redeemed himself by adding “I’m sure whatever signals were sent that sex was in the air were unintentional,” Well at least he realizes the woman   didn’t MEAN to ask to get raped. The mentality behind this type of injustice is infuriating. But I still can’t bring myself to back the SlutWalk movement.

I support the SlutWalk mission to bring attention to the mentality of victim blaming wholeheartedly and to try to change this. But ending slut shaming? Taking the word slut back? Calling myself a slut? You see, this is where the whole movement loses momentum with me. I don’t want to be called a slut, or any other derogatory term used to degrade and belittle women. The participants in SlutWalk seem to believe that by reclaiming the word ‘slut’ for themselves they are embracing and owning their sexual independence. I call bullshit. Regardless of whether you call yourself a slut or a prude or any other term used to sexually oppress women, you are really just giving more power and validity to these misogynistic words which have been used for decades or centuries in some cases to attack, shame, and demoralize women. It is not feminism to conform exactly to the chauvinist idea of “sluttish” and to do it of your own accord in an effort to show the world that you are in control of your body and your sexuality.  Why would a woman want to proudly march in her skivvies with the word SLUT emblazened across her chest and be proud to bear this title which for so long has been used as a weapon thrown at women to punish them for their sexuality? Is this not the exact opposite of what the SlutWalk is trying to accomplish?

I’m going to be staying at home for SlutWalk 2013 in Vancouver. This will be my own silent protest. You should think about joining me.

Scent of a Woman

July 20, 2012

 

Source:scottcentral.dds.bschools.ca

For as long as I can remember I have loved books. I used to make my parents read me the same stories over and over again until I had them memorized and then I would recite them verbatim, impressing their friends and my aunts and uncles by telling them I was reading. When I actually did learn to read you couldn’t get my nose out of whatever book I was reading. My dad, an English teacher, would take my sister and I to the library often to ensure we always had a stack of books to pick from, especially during breaks from school. Even the fact that I got motion sickness from reading in the car couldn’t tear me away from a good story. I once vomited on a whole stack of library books strewn across the back seat, angering my father who then had to purchase all of the books and upsetting me who couldn’t finish the one I was reading. From then on I was sedated with Gravol for road trips. My favorite books of all were the new ones I was able to order every few months through the Scholastic Book Club at school. The catalog would come and I would pore over it oh so carefully, feeling heavy with the weight of my decision. Would it be The Babysitters Club or Sweet Valley High? Oh dear. Finally the books would come, packaged together, banded with an elastic. I remember how those books felt, their smooth covers, the way they smelled when you first opened them, the freshness of the new, crisp pages. I still appreciate the joy of a new book.

Source:bookpatrol.net

Does this interest you? Perhaps not. But perhaps my memories have evoked some fond ones of your own. Maybe you, like me, will be interested/amused/disturbed/skeptical/elated to learn that the new book smell is now available as a fragrance. That’s right. There is a new perfume out called ‘Paper Passion’ which “conjures the smell of your newest bookstore purchase”. It is a collaboration between Wallpaper magazine, German book publisher Gerhard Steidl, fashion designer extraordinaire Karl Lagerfeld who designed the packaging, and perfume designer Geza Schoen who perfected the scent. For $115 you get the perfume cleverly packaged in a panel inside of a book with it’s same name. Why a perfume that smells like paper?? According to Steidl “To wear the smell of a book is something very chic. Books are players in the intellectual world, but also in the world of luxury,” Chic? Hmm. Some books or series have gained cult status. Examples: The Secret, the Twilight or Hunger Games trilogies, the Harry Potter series, and the recent racy 50 Shades series. Devouring these books along with hordes of others can make a woman feel like part of something, give her a sense of belonging in a community. By reading works by undiscovered authors, or touching on controversial or unsavory material some may be trying to showcase their individuality and their desire to go against the grain, and perhaps their dissent from and hostility towards popular culture. Depending on genre or subject matter, possessing a certain book can make a woman feel sophisticated or intelligent or worldly. And apparently it’s looks and not just smell that matters when it comes to books. Recently publishers have been revamping the covers of their classics in order to attract more readers. Splinter, a division of Sterling publishing, hired Manhattan fashion illustrator Sara Singh to do the watercolor-like illustrations for the covers of their Classic Lines series. With the worlds of fashion and literature colliding perhaps books are becoming chic after all.

Source:walkingpaper.org

Let’s explore further. Scent is very much tied to memory and emotion. While the smell of a new book may lead men to think of sexy librarians, I doubt it will conjure up such racy imagery in women. Most women I know wear perfume because they like the smell but also because they like the way it makes them feel (sexy, happy, confident) or it evokes a nice memory. The smell of a book makes me think of my childhood, and it makes me feel happy and content. I have described some of the memories it conjures up above. Perhaps such warm, fuzzy feelings would be incentive for some women to make this perfume their signature scent. Only time will tell how sucessful this product will be, but if the popularity of similar products are any indication, Mr. Lagerfeld may want to stick to selling clothes. For example, the perfume “In the Library” by renegade perfumer Christopher Brosius with scents of paper, leather, and even dust, has managed to slip under the radar of popular culture.

The problem is that while many people love the smell of paper, much like many love that “new car smell” or the smell of gasoline (some people do!), I don’t know that a desire to wear this scent follows the adoration for it. When I long for the smell of a book, I can go to my bookshelf, inhale deeply and drink it in. I can go to the local library or bookstore for an extra dose. Some predict a day when books are no longer available. When ebooks and tablets will be our sources of literature. My children may never experience that new book smell. In that case I may wish I had a bottle of ‘Paper Passion’ available to waft under their little noses as I tell them all about my childhood and the wonder of holding a new book in your hands and opening it for the first time, the cover still stiff, eagerly anticipating the unknown world inside. Perhaps this perfume should be “put on the shelf” for now. Pun intended.

A Cindarella Tale…

July 1, 2012

In my last blog post I self-righteously proclaimed that I would not fall victim to the superficial wedding pretense by giving in to the pressure to change my physical self striving to become the archetypical perfect bride. Well dear readers, as it turns out, I lied. I may have to lose a few inches for the wedding after all. Not from my waist or hips, not even from my butt or thighs. I don’t obsess about whether my arm jiggles when I wave or if I have cankles. I don’t have a double chin. No, my problem areas are much more stubborn than the worst of these. They are my feet.

For most of my life my lower most extremities have been a source of some embarassment. My feet are a hybrid of the worst characteristics of those of my mother and my father. My incredibly high arches, though handy in ballet class when I was 5, as well as the extreme girth of my feet come from my dad. It is thanks to my mother that I am genetically predisposed to bunions. Mine are not the feet fetishists fantasize about. Once, when taking my poor little Oma to a follow-up appointment with an orthopedic surgeon after she had broken her hip, he stopped speaking to her mid-sentence after catching sight of my feet in my high-heeled sandals. “You know you’ll get bunions if you keep wearing those!” He exclaimed! “They’re already starting!” He then proceded to take a piece of paper and trace my foot to illustrate to me exactly how my largest and smallest toes turned in, leaving hideous bony protrusions poking outwards. My grandmother was all but forgotten. His mission was to convince me to abandon high heels and strappy sandals for sensible shoes. Perhaps even orthotics. Obviously this man did not know me, as if he did he would realize I would sooner cut off my feet. If I found out I was going to die in a week would I crawl into bed and wallow? No, I would live! If I am going to bunion town, I am going to go there in style!

So far, I have staved off my fate while amassing a rather impressive and certainly not “practical” shoe collection. Sure there are a couple of pairs of runners in there for exercise and some flats for days when I might do more walking than usual, but many of my shoes would make Lady Gaga jealous. I have been called the “shoe lady” on more than one occassion. I am not a brand loyalist though I do have certain favorites. There are also some designer shoe houses I have coveted yet have never owned. I have long yearned for a pair of Christian Louboutins, Manolo Blahiks, Giuseppe Zanottis, Lanvins or my favorites, Balenciagas. Ever since seeing these brands in my first issues of Vogue I have promised myself I would one day don one such elegant and extravagant pair. When I was younger, they were galaxies out of my reach. As a gainfully employed adult I can afford more luxuries though I have always thought spending $1000 on a pair of shoes just seemed reckless and irresponsible. That was of course until I started planning my wedding. A wedding is a great excuse for spending money. Thousands of dollars for one dress? No big deal. Hundreds for a cake? But of course. A bouquet of flowers is HOW MUCH? Well, if they’re EXOTIC or out of season it only makes perfect sense. And of course you need extra special $1000 shoes. Armed with this in mind I set out to find these extraordinary shoes. The shoes I have been dreaming about half my life.

Balenciaga booties

My criteria was red. I felt drunk with giddiness as I picked out the pairs of Louboutins and Manolos and Valentinos to try on. I could barely sit still as I waited for the sales associate to bring them to me. The first pair arrived. I slipped my foot in….wait…it’s stuck! Damn it! I can’t get my gargantuan foot all the way into the shoe, it’s too narrow! Okay, next one. Same problem. Maybe I’ll try the size up. I manage to squeeze this one on (just barely) but quickly realize that there will be no way I could wear said shoe for more than about 10 minutes before agony would ensue. This conclusion is devastating as it is the most beautiful shoe I have ever tried on. Simple, elegant, just the right amount of stiletto and toe cleavage. It is the Spanx of shoes. My foot looks streamlined and thinned, tapering just right to a subtle point. I feel like crying taking the shoes off. I quickly learn that my feet are similarly too wide for the Manolos and Jimmy Choos. It seems that high fashion is made for the very small, both in body and in feet. Of all the shoes, only one pair fit, the Valentinos. Feeling like an outcast in a store full of immaculately pedicured, narrow footed women,  I leave the store dejected.

Living with the inevitable blisters, calluses and sore feet after being on my feet in tighter than ideal shoes for hours, I have managed to live with my disfigured feet without them impeding on my life too much. But now my quality of life was being affected. I couldn’t eat or sleep thinking about my defect and how I wasn’t good enough for the best of the best in shoes. Something clearly needed to be done. So, I looked into the options. My first thought was some type of seaweed wrap. They advertise them all over for slimming the body, maybe they can slim the feet too. No go. Apparently all these do is heat you up so you sweat out a bunch of water and lose water weight. I don’t need ugly AND sweaty feet. Moving on. I know in some countries they bind feet to make them smaller. China I think. I look into it and find that a)this must be done before feet reach maximum width and size and b)this is a dated and barbaric procedure. So that’s out. I’m not really getting anywhere. Then I hit paydirt. I should have known! You can actually have plastic surgery to make your feet smaller. Dr. Ali Sadrieh, founder of The Beverly Hills Aesthetic Foot Surgery in Studio City, California told the Wall Street Journal: ‘It’s unrealistic to tell women not to wear high heels. I came up with procedures that allow the women to function, pain-free, in the real world.’ At his clinic women can have several surgeries aimed entirely at enhancing the aesthetic of their feet. One procedure is the clinic’s signature ‘Cinderella procedure’ which is a preventative bunion correction which narrows feet. The clinic can also shorten toes and can take fat from a woman’s abdomen and inject it into the balls of her feet for extra cushioning in order to reduce pain when wearing high heels. Such procedures are becoming more and more popular in the US as well as the UK.

After doing some number crunching I have determined that I can’t fit both the surgery and the shoes into the wedding budget. Darn. Also, my fiancee would like me to be able to dance at our wedding without a wheelchair or crutches. (I’m getting no support from him on this!) So unfortunately it looks like I’m going to have to live with my feet the way they are and just accept them. It’s one of the many flaws that I have and I just have to try not to fixate on them. Without my feet to dislike, I know there will be something else that irks me, begging to be remedied. Unfortunately, it seems this is the way it goes. Perhaps as an exercise in selfworth we should all try to focus on our positives which always outweigh the negatives. As for the shoes, I’ll just have to settle for the Valentinos. Boo Hoo.

The Incredible Shrinking Brides!

June 22, 2012

Tommy Europe and Nadeen Boman of ‘Bulging Brides’ on Slice Network
Source:tvlistings.zap2it.com

A couple of years ago I was addicted to the show ‘Bulging Brides’ on the Slice channel. The show follows women as they struggle to  lose weight in order to fit into their wedding dress, which they have purchased one to several sizes too small, apparently as a type of sadistic motivation to push themselves towards some perceived bridal ideal. Pushed to their physical breaking point by ex-CFL football player turned personal trainer Tommy Europe and starving after having their kitchens robbed of all comfort food by the show’s nutritionist these women are so determined to walk down the aisle in said dress that they are willing to miss social functions, get up at the crack of dawn to exercise, give up precious sugary sweets, and put up with being berated by Mr. Europe for (stupidly) breaking any of the endless rules (on camera). Most of them eventually do squeeze themselves into the prized dress, often just barely, leaving me feeling nostalgic for a nice Bratwurst and also pondering the tensile strength of satin and chiffon.

Just a few more inches and the dress should zip up!!
Source:fitnessmagazine.com

The show eventually got tedious to watch, and I haven’t seen an episode since, although the website indicates it is still airing new episodes.  Other shows of the same genre have also popped up, ‘Bridal Bootcamp’ and ‘Shedding for the Wedding’ come to mind, which similarly target the extra pounds holding women back from being the perfect bride on their special day. While most women do not document their journey on TV, it is certainly not unusual for women to obsess about their appearance as their wedding approaches. We live in a society where as little girls we are raised to believe that this day is supposed to be the most important of our lives. I know more than a few women who spent more time with their personal trainers than their fiancees in the weeks before their weddings. Strapless dresses mean shoulders need toning, tight bodices require a chiseled waist. Donning a bikini on the honeymoon? A whole body transformation is in order. Currently a bride-to-be myself I made a promise to myself that I would not give into the madness. I have already ordered my wedding dress. I did a novel thing and ordered it in my size, though the salesgirl was kind enough to point out that the bust would need to be taken in substantially. Likely the hips too. Apparently dresses are generally sewn in an hourglass shape and not straight up and down as I seem to be built. My wedding is in the winter, directly after the holiday season. It would show a high degree of self-loathing if I were to attempt any type of diet and/or exercise plan during this time ripe with merriment and excess. One thing I have learned after struggling to overcome an eating disorder is that allowing how you look and how much you weigh to define how you feel and your sense of accomplishment and believing others will judge you solely on these superficial traits will leave you constantly striving for an unachievable ideal that grows more distant as you get closer to it. I would love more toned shoulders for my lovely strapless dress, but I know myself well enough to know it’s a slippery slope down from there to obsession and I don’t have time to train for a Ms. Female Bodybuilder of the Year competition right now, what with a wedding to plan and all. So I’ll just stick to my regular routine and look like me on my wedding day, with a different hairdo and a beautiful gown. That I can zip up.

With enough time and body oil I feel I could definitely give Kim Chizevsky a run for her money!
Source:www.do-while.com

Why do you buy? (And no one asked you Karl Lagerfeld!)

June 13, 2012

The June issue of Elle Canada magazine features an article by Ben Barry (a modelling agent) titled “New Business Model” which basically summarizes his Ogilvy Foundation funded, Cambridge University thesis research regarding how “models-depending on their size, age, and race-influence purchasing decisions.” He notes this research differs from the majority of research into the use of extremely thin models in advertising which has traditionally focused on the impact this can have on women’s body image. As in it has already been scientifically proven that looking at gorgeous, thin, photoshopped models makes women feel crappy. Mr. Barry used a study group of more than 2 500 women aged 14 to 65 and sizes 0 to 18 from a variety of ethnic groups. He had them look at fake fashion ads all featuring the same product but with different models. The models differed in size, race, and age. He asked the women their purchase intentions when they looked at the pictures of women with similar and dissimilar sizes, ages and races as themselves. After the study, he also facilitated focus groups to discuss with the women why they may have made the decisions they did.

I think pretty much most women can guess what the results were. Women increased their purchase intentions more than 200% when the models in the mock ads were their size. When the women were over size 6 this increased to 300%. Purchase intentions also increased substantially (175%, 200% in women over 35) when women saw models their own age. Black women were 1 and a half  more likely to buy a product if the model was black. Why? In focus groups women explained that they could better imagine what the product would look like on them when the model looked like on them.  Would it look good on their body type? Would it be age appropriate? Would it look nice with their complexion?

Mr. Barry did not just do this research for his own interest’s sake. His ultimate intention is to show fashion companies that it would be fiscally wise for them to use a more diverse range of models in their ads and in their fashion shows. That it would attract a broader range of customers. As most of us are aware, most models in magazines are strikingly similar in terms of body size and shape. Even so-called “plus size” models are often smaller than the average American woman. And when was the last time you saw a woman in her late 30’s or 40’s (or older!) advertising anything fashionable? It is rare, unless it is an actress who has botoxed herself back to before she married Ashton Kutcher. Barry quotes the legendary and distasteful Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld (most recent offense being calling singer Adelle fat) “Unreachable beauty is a reminder to make an effort. But if you see something, and you can reach what you see, then you do not have to make an effort anymore.” Blech. I guess that explains his face.

Oompa Loompa

Karl Lagerfeld

While I agree that doing sit-ups with a picture of Gisele Bundchen on your ceiling may be quite motivating, I doubt most women would look at her in a bikini and want to run out and buy the same one. Watching the Victoria Secret fashion show does not make me feel like any sort of angel. The recent trend of using very young actresses to sell adult designer clothing lines, such as Dakota and Elle Fanning for Marc Jacobs or Hailee Steinfeld for Miu Miu is very perplexing to me. I don’t look at a child in an outfit and imagine myself in the same one. Most children and young adults I know could never afford designer clothing. It would only seem rational to target advertising to the middle aged women with established careers who are actually buying these clothes. On the other end of the spectrum, many ads show women my age (30ish) wearing incredibly short shorts (bum cleavage? Please!), jeggings, crop tops, or neon. I have no desire whatsoever to relive my teens. I have also seen ads  for skirts, suit jackets with bras underneath, or see-through  button-downs portrayed to be career wear. If I get fired, will Karl Lagerfeld hire me in Oompa Loompa Land? If I promise to keep reaching for that unreachable beauty?

Once and a while you will see a glimpse of a model in a magazine who doesn’t look emaciated, or who has a wrinkle on her perfect forehead. More and more fashion shows will send out 1 or 2 “plus size models” down their runway. Perhaps research such as Barry’s will help to convince fashion companies that diversity and a touch of reality in fashion is not a bad thing. I think Karl Lagerfeld is a lost cause. However the fashion world is ripe with successful female designers both established and up-and-coming who will hopefully have a better grasp on the female market and on the female psyche. Until then we will just have to rely on our own common sense, honest friends and camera phones to guide our purchase intentions. Just never trust the change room mirrors. They lie.

SUMMER IS HERE! TIME TO GET OUT THE BATHING SUITS:)

May 16, 2012

Source:sodahead.com

The sun is shining. The birds are chirping. The temperature is rising. Summer is officially here. Spirits are high. We wait all winter for this season. We look forward to time outdoors in the parks, in the mountains and at the beach. Perhaps the only downside is that summer = bathing suit season which for us women can cause more dread than running into an ex boyfriend while at the grocery store in a sweat suit with no makeup while he is with his gorgeous new girlfriend.

There really is no greater pleasure than the search for a new swimsuit, whether for the summer season or a mid-winter vacation. There are many ways to embark on this quest. I have tried them all with differing levels of success. There is the tried and true try and buy method. No woman looks better in a bathing suit than she does under the fluorescent lighting of a department store change room. Pasty white from the winter, unshaven legs, bathing suit tried on over top of her underwear and viewing herself reflected in the funhouse mirror that seems to make its way into every change room.

Source:whohidthedonuts.blogspot.com

Buying and trying on at home can mean more flattering lighting but can lead to the depressing realization that your age is not the only thing that has gone up in the last year. Then there is the catalog or internet order method. Buying a bathing suit you admire on a swimsuit model and then guessing your size, only to receive it in the mail 4-6 weeks later and SURPRISE it doesn’t look quite the same!! Does wonders for the self esteem. Magazines this time of year will tell you that there is a bathing suit for every body type. The problem is that the models in these magazines range from 5′ 8″ to 6 feet tall and 100 pounds to 125 pounds. Their definition of curvy does not exactly represent the average woman. Most of us looking at these articles aren’t encouraged. But not to fear. There are three times as many articles telling us how to get our bodies bikini ready in 6 weeks or less. Thank you crunches! Ugh.

If you hate swimsuit shopping or donning a swimsuit you aren’t alone. A new study has found that even imagining trying on a swimsuit can put women in a bad mood. In the Journal of Sex Roles in May, psychologist Marike Tiggeman and her colleagues ‘wrote four scenarios to test the impact of clothing on self-objectification: In one, women were asked to imagine themselves trying on a swimsuit in a dressing room. In another, they imagined wearing a swimsuit while walking down a beach. The other two scenarios had the same settings, but instead of a swimsuit, the women were asked to imagine wearing jeans and a sweater.’ 102 female undergraduate students filled out questionnaires regarding their mood and feelings of body and self-objectification after imagining these scenarios. As you could imagine, imagining wearing a swimsuit made women feel worse than wearing jeans. But wearing a swimsuit in a dressing room made women most likely to self-objectify, not wearing a swimsuit walking down the beach. This shows how much self-objectification is an internal process. A 2006 study by the department of psychology at the University of California published in Body Image found that 31% of women had avoided wearing a swimsuit in public.

When it comes to attire, there is nothing more revealing a woman will wear in public than the glorified underwear that is the bathing suit. It is really no wonder women feel self conscious in swimwear. Adding to this is the mounting pressure women feel to not only have, but also to look perfect in their beach wear. Bathing suits are no longer just for the water. Victoria’s Secret fashion shows and designers have made swimwear high fashion. Couture bathing suits are found poolside at the most posh resorts and the most exotic beaches. They are a billion dollar a year business. In every magazine we see gorgeous, airbrushed women with perfect bodies modelling tiny bikinis. Tabloids determine who has the best and worst bikini bodies and call out those celebrities who have let themselves go each summer, as well as those who have (gasp) unsightly cellulite. This sends the message to us lay people that image is of utmost importance.

There are many options for swimsuits, from the bikini:

Source:telegraph.co.uk

To the tankini:

Source:modeikon.se

To the birkini:

I myself have my eye on one that I first spotted at H&M in London:

Source:www.h&m.com

It was sold out everywhere there, which tells me that I’m not the only woman that is feeling a little more modest this summer season. Or perhaps a little less interested in getting bikini ready in 6 weeks or less. But realistically, on the beach no one is airbrushed. Every woman has perceived flaws, no matter how perfect she may look to others. The important thing women need to learn is to be happy with who we are and to not obsess over every thing we want to change.

MEAN GIRLS (i.e all of us)

May 9, 2012

thetbjoshuafanclub.wordpress.com

I am in the beautiful city of London right now. I have found the locals generally accomodating and friendly in this city. Unfortunately, the city also teems with hordes of tourists wandering aimlessly, seemingly unaware of where they are and where they are going. Today alone I have been directly walked into, had my feet stepped on, been bumped into and been cut off numerous times. In a large and congested city this is almost unavoidable. What bothers me is the fact that these incidents go unacknowledged. It seems like nobody appreciates consideration for their fellow man anymore. People walk around texting without looking, run into you, and don’t bother apologizing. You let someone into your lane while driving, and they don’t even bother to give you a wave. You are walking into a building after someone, and they let the door slam in your face. Where is the courtesy?

I will admit I was once a mean girl. In the movies the mean girl is usually a beautiful yet evil creature that everyone hates yet pretends to love who manipulatively and purposefully sets out to destroy another girl who secretly makes her feel insecure. The other girl is tortured and humiliated but perseveres and ultimately prevails in life. I did not have a specific arch nemesis nor was I the alpha female in my social group. I was simply part of a large group of female friends who were considered popular at my high school. I was the traditional insecure female high school girl trying to climb the social ladder. My friends and I would often gossip about each other or turn on each other over petty dalliances. We would be cruel to girls who we felt were ‘losers’ or who dated any boys any of our friends liked. We would bully others for their physical or mental weaknesses. Of course I was not a mean girl all the time. I was a kind and true friend to many girls, several whom are now women I still consider good friends today. My lashing out as a teen came from wanting to fit in and being unsure of who I really was.

I consider myself a reformed mean girl now. As I have come to be more sure of myself I no longer have a need to drag down other people to make myself feel better. I have at times been asked to describe people I know with one word. There are some women I know who I could not find a better word to describe them with than “nice”. They are genuinely kind and caring with not a malicious or sarcastic bone in their body. They see the glass as half full. They see the world through rose colored glasses. They would bend over backwards to make sure everyone else is happy and taken care of and not resent it in the slightest.  I am not one of those women. I can be cynical and sarcastic. I can be moody and short-tempered. But I do believe I am genuinely sincere when say that I make every effort possible to be good and kind. I give to others. I share what I have. I try to think of others. I try not to be petty or jealous. I try not to be greedy. I try not to judge.

But at times like this, when it seems like the world is lacking any sort of civility, I wonder, what if I decided to abandon all attempts at kindness? Maybe I will just go on a nice strike. The next time I have a seat on a bus, maybe I’ll just keep it. Little old lady gets on? Tough. She can stand. Better yet, let her sit on her walker. She has a mobile seat, why doesn’t she use it? Person with a wheelchair? Also already seated. They will fare just fine in the aisle. Lady with a baby carriage? Why should I get up for her? I’ve been standing all day at WORK. What’s she been doing? Sitting at home? No way I’m getting up. Hold the door open for the next person? Screw that! Do it yourself. Donate to charity? I work for my money. Why can’t those lazy people in Africa just do the same thing? There are mines and stuff there they can work in. I hear people are starving there. Maybe more people should get jobs. I’m not sparing any change either. You need some lunch? I need some lunch!! Do you know how much the salad bar at Whole Foods costs? Never mind the organic soda. Go occupy something. No, I’m not free to talk. I have to catch up on Gossip Girl. It’s the season finale. I’m sorry if you’re marriage just broke up, but over 50% do so what did you expect? I can’t make it on Saturday, I just don’t like you and your cooking sucks.

This will never actually happen. It is a proven fact that doing good makes people feel happier and this has proven true for me. (This is only true when you are doing it for truly good reasons and not just to make yourself feel superiour!) But I must admit sometimes it is tempting. Here in London tipping appears to be an unusual phenomenon. So I guess if the feeling does come over me, I can feel mean just not tipping my cabbie. For the rest of you, there is nothing wrong with letting out some steam once in a while. The reason some women seem so nice is that the rest of us can’t be all of the time.

Let me see that….

April 28, 2012

The other night I found myself frantically searching my underwear drawer for my lone pair of thong underwear. Why the emergency you ask? Well, I had thankfully double-checked my appearance from all angles before leaving the house and realized the bikini briefs I was wearing were not only causing some unsightly PLs (that’s panty lines for those of you not down with the lingo) but they were also cutting into my tush giving the appearance of a double bum. Now, I may not have buns of steel here, but I have been doing my Brazilian Butt Lift workout religiously and feel my butt is well on it’s way from flat to FAB as promised. So assuming I did not in fact sprout a second rear end, I needed to fix this asap. The only possible solutions I could think of were 1)Ditch the panties. This was not an option. I’m over 30. Also more frightening than the idea of going out with twin tushies was going out with camel toe. 2)Wear a thong. No more underwear cutting into butt as underwear will have no backside, only a strip riding up between my butt cheeks giving the sensation of a perpetual wedgie. Number 2 won. So there I was ripping my drawer apart.

Source:xpshou.com

After this episode I started thinking about underwear and the role it plays in women’s lives. Clearly underwear serves a practical function for women. It holds things up and holds things in, it acts to smooth things under clothing, it serves as a barrier between intimate parts and clothing. It can change or accentuate a woman’s shape. In many cases it can also change the way a woman feels, whether it makes her feel more comfortable, sexier, more youthful or more mature. I have underwear for different moods. I have my nice ‘going out underwear’ and my laze around the house ‘boy shorts’ underwear. I have my comfortable slightly more relaxed fit ‘pms bikini brief underwear’ and my older almost ready to throw out ‘period underwear’. I have my seamless underwear for under tight pants and dresses and even a couple of pairs of gigantic high-waisted granny panties which I have learned are actually great for tight dresses as they don’t leave unsightly lines and seams across the front of the dress. And I have that one pair of emergency thong underwear. Why am I so averse? I once worked a job at a restaurant which will not be named where the orange shorts of the uniform were so short that the only possible underwear which could be worn underneath without peeking out of the bottom was a thong. For two years I donned this get-up while in university for my pharmacist degree. I grew to despise the thong. When I finally quit I threw out the shorts AND all my offending underwear and relished in wearing panties that covered my entire bottom. I haven’t gone back.

NOT ME!! Source:flickriver.com

It is believed that women have been wearing some form of undergarment since 3000 BC. Throughout history there has been a lot of controversy surrounding women’s customs with respect to underwear. Often women of higher classes wore very elaborate and constricting undergarments in order to shape their bodies to a form considered appealing in their time. One of the more controversial pieces which is still in existence today is the corset. The first corset appeared in medieval times and has persevered throughout the rest of history. During the French Revolution, women revolted by adopting the un-corset instead. This was a prototype which lacked the rigid boning of the corset making it much more comfortable and less constricting. However by Victorian times the corset was back again. Many have said the corset oppressed women throughout history, and also was the cause of unnecessary health problems. It has even been said that the lacing of the corset is a metaphor for sexual intercourse. The second controversial piece of underwear is worn by most North American women every day. It is the bra. Originally called the brassiere, it originated in the early 1900s, banding the breasts down so women could more easily do athletic activities. In 1935 cup sizes were introduced. In the 1960s and 1970s many feminists pronounced bras repressive to women, and bra burning took place all over the US and Canada. Today, there is a bra for every woman, from lined to unlined, underwire, push-up, push WAY up, backless, strapless etc.

1880s corset Source:corsetsandcrinolines.com

While at this point of my life I have to admit that my own underwear drawer is pretty G-rated, not all my undergarments are purchased for practical purposes. As I said before, sometimes women buy underwear that makes them feel sexy. Other times, they purchase undergarments to look attractive to someone of the opposite sex. Usually in these cases, we call the articles in question ‘lingerie’ and charge a lot more money for them. Lingerie is the fancy stuff, made out of lace or silk or satin. Or if you’re really kinky and in a seedy area of town it might be make of vinyl or pleather or PVC. The question is, why are we buying this stuff? Certainly society and class does not dictate the undergarments we must wear the way that it once did. That is not to say we have nothing to influence our decisions. Almost every day I see ads of beautiful models in sexy lingerie, often beside gorgeous men who are looking at them longingly. In movies and on TV, when an actress undresses, you never see her wearing ratty cotton panties and an old mismatched bra. No, you always catch her on a good day when she’s got on a matching set and she just happened to (thank goodness) throw on her best garter belt. And their relationships always end in happily ever after with perfect men who adore them. Then there’s those Victoria’s Secret Supermodels. Need I say more?? Women are constantly bombarded with messages that tell them what they need to wear under their clothes to be attractive. Not to mention how we should look in these get-ups. It’s just another impossible standard for women to live up to.

This past Valentines day, armed with romantic thoughts and courage, I visited a local lingerie shop. The first thing I noticed is that all lingerie seems to be made with men in mind. When I asked the salesgirl if she had something with a “whole bottom” she looked at me with a confused look. Apparently most women do not go there with modesty in mind. The second thing I found was that they did not appear to have bras in my size. 34A. The only A cup they had was 32A. But the girl assured me my “sister size” was a 34B and this would fit ‘perfectly’. In fact what it did was squeeze may back so hard skin poured out on either side of the band and I did not nearly fill the cup. Hmm. Thirdly, every bra seemed to be filled with either gel or water and weighed about 10 pounds. I think my significant other would know something was awry if my breasts were suddenly 2 cup sizes larger, pushed up to my chin, and sounded like the ocean. No, this was not the place for me. I eventually found what I was looking for somewhere else, something that I felt comfortable and sexy in. Did he like it? I didn’t ask.

I think as women we worry too much about what other people think about how we look. We worry about our appearance at work. Will we be taken seriously? Do we look professional? We worry about how we look when we go out. Do we look sexy? Pretty? Cute? Awake? What impression will I give? The answers we give ourselves are heavily influenced by what the media and society tells us. If we want this to change, maybe we can start with our most intimate attire. Wear what makes YOU feel good whether it’s white cotton or red satin. And sometimes practical can even be sexy to some people. I’m going to invest in another practical thong this week, you never know when you’ll need to pull it out.