Sunday, June 05, 2005

Beauty and the City

I was reading the Sunday Straits Times when I came across this article 'Changing Perceptions of Beauty'. The opening paragraph reads:

WE are bombarded relentlessly by images of what is considered as "ideal" faces of men and women in the mass media. So, is it any wonder that many people are developing unrealistic expectations of finding a life partner with stereotypical Western-style good looks?

Not just the face that is important, body size and shape are important too. This fact was further illustrated on the latest episode of CSI (the original one), which I just watched.

One of the cases was a male body, found in a hotel room. Cause of death was determined to be asphyxia (suffocation) due to a heavy object lying on top of him. Obviously when he was found, the said object was not there anymore.

The CSI team also found a purple strand of silk in the man’s mouth, which came from a woman’s lingerie. So they rounded up all the women who bought that kind of lingerie. From the sheets, they also knew that there were two women who spent the night with the victim; they swabbed the women to get a matching DNA sample.

The interesting thing was that all these women were at a convention for fat people. The man was believed to have a liking for big bodied women. From the investigating team’s interviews, it was known that the victim was a jerk. He slept with the women, but wouldn’t be caught dead (pardon the pun) with one in public places.

Still, two women slept with him. They successfully identified the two women who slept with the victim – let’s call one of them A. When interrogated, she told everything, from the beginning.

A's story was: she has been fat since high school. No one liked her and she never dated in her teenage years. In college, it was the same thing. She has tried everything – diets, going to the gym, obesity programs, etc. Nothing worked.

When the victim showered her with a little attention, she felt loved for the first time in her life. She felt wanted and she enjoyed the attention; both which had not happened to her before. She agreed to go to his room, even though she knew he was a jerk.

After having sex, she felt angry at herself. She realized how could she have done it with a guy like that. She admitted to killing him, by smothering him with a pillow.

Case solved? No. Something was not right. If the victim had died from suffocating from a pillow, how do you explain the purple silk? The CSI team deduced that she had accidentally killed him.

The truth was: A was actually drunk when she came into the room. They had sex, with her on top and the victim lying on his back on the bed. She was so into it, that she didn’t realize that she had killed him. Just imagine, something weighing 300 pounds, lying on top of you - you would have difficulty breathing in less than ten seconds.

Confronted with that, she admitted to the truth. She said that she would rather say she killed him and go to prison for murder, then let the truth be known. Which was: she had literally crushed the victim to death.

The bottom line was, to her, being obese was like the worst thing in the world, the greatest sin ever, the most accursed life to lead, the … you get my picture. Nothing could beat that, not even spending 20 years behind bars.

I mean, how sad and pathetic is that? I know a lot of people want to look good, but isn't it more important to be comfortable and feel good about yourself and your body? Not everyone can have a face like Orlando Bloom and a body like Travis Fimmel (if you do, please leave your number at the message board. Thanks.)

Today's culture places an enormous amount of attention on beauty and youth. Images of beautiful people can be found everywhere - magazines, newspapers, billboards, TV, internet, etc. No one can deny that all these would influence our perceptions and expectations of beauty.

I admit that I am vain too, to a certain extent. The CSI case was just an extreme example of how the environment and society overruled better judgment and intelligence.

I do go the gym at least twice a week. It is not to get an Adonis-like body, but to maintain my current one - it’s hard not to put on weight sitting at the desk for eight hours everyday. People who can eat like an elephant and yet not put on an ounce of weight – don’t they just drive you nuts? But I so do not envy them. *fake grin*

The point I want to make is that, we have to be able to think for ourselves and not accept the standards and expectations that society, deliberately or otherwise, sets for us. Our lives are ours to live. Sometimes we have to put our feet down and say enough is enough.

Remember, we are not lemmings. We are all individuals and we come in different sizes, shapes and colours; whatever that you possess is something to be proud off. We don’t need to fit in all the time.

I shall end with a quote from a doctor, taken from the article, 'We need to have a paradigm shift. We always focus on what is wrong with people, not what is right with them.'

Here's another quotable quote 'When a society fails to imbue people's life with a sense of worth and meaning, then they must find these qualities as individuals. Robbed of a broader meaning to our lives, we appeared to have entered an era of mass obsession, usually with ourseleves: our appearance, our health and fitness, our sex lives.' Dr Richard Eckersly

Now excuse me while I go for my monthly facial session. What? It’s not like I do it every week.

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