The Paradox of Choice: Appearances

Media and peer pressure tells us that obesity is a matter of choice, personal control, and personal responsibility, that we should aspire to look perfect, and that if we don’t, we have only ourselves to blame. According to the culture, if we had enough discipline and self-control we could combine sensible eating habits and exercise regimes and all look like movie stars. That in a typical year Americans buy more than 50 million diet books and spend more than $50 billion on dieting suggests that most Americans accept the view that what they look like is up to them.

The illusion that each person can have the body that he or she wants is especially painful for women, and especially in societies, like ours, in which the “ideal” body is extremely thin. When efforts to be thin fail, people not only have to face the daily disappointment of looking in the mirror, they also must face the causal explanation that this failure to look perfect is their fault.

Perhaps one of the most frustrating setbacks in the industry that I love (media/advertising) is how deeply it must delve into the collective psyche (re: insecurity) in order to effectively push product.

So maybe because of my hyperawareness to how much undue emphasis is placed on “perfect” appearance, I find myself hugely attracted to women who internalize their imperfections & thus are perfect in an entirely different way: perfectly accepting of their own, natural body.

I can empathize: standing at all of 5′ 5″, I routinely get passed over by the opposite sex during the “selection” process.  As society tells men their women must be “thin,” so too must a man be “tall” for prime eligibility with a discerning woman.

I have no gripe with my height (fact: highly advantageous in snaking through a dense concert crowd to get to the front row).  I do sigh at ludicrous norms & double-standards, though.

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