Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

April 12, 2013

Time to stop judging the cover

— — If you are a female, you have something new to worry about. The thigh gap. Didn’t know it existed? Didn’t know that was another part to examine and fret over as bikini season busts open? Didn’t know you had a new insecurity to obsess over, to cast a shadow over your already murky body image? Yeah, I didn’t know about it until just recently either.

Seriously, who comes up with this stuff? What misogynistic diet program or self-loathing fashion editor decided we — and, much more importantly, adolescent or young women — need to worry about the air space between our thighs?

This is where social media becomes especially destructive and dangerous. Apparently you’ll find on Instagram, a photo-focused social network, Kate Moss-thin young women who are proudly posting pictures of their spindly bodies, displaying the room between their right and left leg as though it were a 2,300 SAT score or a national soccer trophy. Big deal! Who cares that you could pass a Special K meal bar through there without brushing skin? Is this really something to brag about?

First it was breast size. Then it was the super long torso. Then it was the squared-off abs. Now, it’s air — between your thighs.

Give me a self-confident, talented, and amply proportioned Queen Latifah or Adele any day. Do not try to impress me with unhealthily lean limbs and a bony clavicle.

There aren’t many things I appreciate about Jennifer Lopez or Kim Kardashian ... truly, this is the only one: they embrace the non-Twiggy lines of their bodies, which have made Rubenesque derrieres popular again, as painter Peter Paul Ruben did back in the mid-1600s. J-Lo and KK again made it “hott” to have junk in your trunk, as the cool kids used to say.

And, thank you double Golden Globe winner Lena Dunham. I haven’t watched her TV show, “Girls” on HBO, but the “most successful writer-director-producer-actress” everyone is talking about willingly strips down to her birthday suit in many episodes. The 26-year-old doesn’t do this to exploit and sexualize herself but to say, literally nakedly, here is my less-than-mannequin perfect body ... I will not be shamed. And you shouldn’t be either.

I read recently in a Slate article by Amanda Hess that Dunham was interviewed by Playboy and asked, “If you woke up tomorrow in the body of a Victoria’s Secret model, what would you do for the rest of the day?”

“I’d be really disoriented and wonder what had happened in the night,” Dunham responded. “I don’t think I’d like it very much. There would be all kinds of weird challenges to deal with that I don’t have to deal with now. I don’t want to go through life wondering if people are talking to me because I have a big rack. Not being the babest person in the world creates a nice barrier. The people who talk to you are the people who are interested in you. It must be a big burden in some ways to look that way and be in public.”

I bet she’s right. I would imagine that being distractingly gorgeous carries with it a lot of pressure and is its own liability. Girls may be immediately suspicious of you and guys may be immediately and singularly enamored, which makes the girls even more wary. It becomes a different kind of barrier than what Dunham refers to for herself, but a barrier all the same. People may be slow to look past your outside and get to know your inside. I would assume that stunning beauty truly can be a stifling burden.

Honestly, if you are as gorgeous as a Victoria Secret model, embrace that. Make the most of it and make money off of it, while also making the most of your mind. But everyone else needs to refrain from treating that as the gold standard of beauty that the rest of us should aspire to. If everyone has ample cleavage, long torsos, flat abs and a thigh gap, it would make for very boring scenery. There is authentic beauty in the diversity and variety one can find in high school hallways, carpool lines and office cubicles.

The funny thing is both the stunning and the unremarkable struggle to be seen for who they really are. Everyone is judging these very different books by their very different covers and not opening them up to examine what is written inside — the character, heart and soul of the individual often goes unexplored. We jealously examine The Other, desiring their looks, their brains, their confidence, or whatever we assume they have that is better than us. Then we judge them to be better or worse or just assume way too much about who they really are.

It’s time to stop worrying about thigh gaps and focus on the gap between accepting ourselves and accepting others, the gap between celebrating individuality or celebrating sameness. It’s time to stop judging the cover — let others reveal their personal narrative and write our own one with confidence, knowing the cover is only skin deep but the story being written inside is uniquely, intriguingly and fascinatingly beautiful.

Jaletta Albright Desmond is a columnist who writes about faith, family and the fascinatingly mundane aspects of daily life. She lives in North Carolina with her family. Contact her at jdesmond@bdtonline.com.

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