I remember once when I was in high school, sometime during the dirty late-2000s, the teachers gathered my peers and I for one of those annual “body image” chats. Naturally, we watched one of those Dove beauty commercials.
We looked at old paintings of “voluptuous” women whose bodies were once considered “ideal”.
Someone mentioned that boys actually liked girls to have a bit of meat on their bones (though why a bunch of adults were bringing up the sexual appetites of teenage boys perplexes me to this day).
Anorexia was a buzz word at the time. It was sick and it was bad, but it was also kind of an exciting thing to have. Like a two-tone hairdo and a smashing pair of Uggs. Celebrities had it. Nicole, and maybe Paris. Certainly Mary-Kate.
“Ugh, they’re way too skinny” we’d tell each other, though we lapped up all the information we could find about how they’d gotten that way.
“Remember girls,” I recall one of the teachers saying, “skinny won’t be in vogue forever.”
I remember thinking she was a raving, if well-intentioned, lunatic. Skinny would always be in vogue. And while I understood what she was saying (it’s what’s on the inside that counts, blah blah blah) she just didn’t understand what it was like to be a teenage girl.
But, in a way, she was correct. The body that’s considered ideal in 2020 is markedly different from its 2007 equivalent. For one thing, tabloid media doesn’t dictate what’s in and what’s out. Social media does that. And so, the beast becomes gnarlier. Instead of far-flung socialites living off a diet of cocaine, we look to squat-loving Instagram Influencers. It’s better, and it’s worse.
Our general relationship with food is different too. In 2007 it was all about eliminating naughty snacks. In 2020, it’s about eating clean. In 2007, it was going on a diet. In 2020, it’s living a healthy lifestyle.
In 2007, it was Atkins. In 2020, it’s Keto. Paleo. Intermittent Fasting.
The difference is subtle, to the point of not being any different at all.
The truth is that we’ll never be free of the ugly beast if all we do is change the wrapping it comes in. The truth is, I hardly know one woman with a truly healthy relationship with food. Including myself. I like to think of it as an ongoing journey – one where I’ll likely never arrive but where I’ll hopefully get closer and closer.
I want to eat a “bad” snack without hours (sometimes days) of guilt. I want to give myself the nutrients I need without worrying about my portion size. I want to see my belly expand after a Sunday roast and not feel devastated.
I’m getting there. But I’ve still got some way ahead of me.Support Villainesse