Human vanity never ceases to amaze me.
I just can’t understand the lengths to which more and more folk are prepared to go, and the pain they are prepared to endure, to become someone else’s idea of ‘perfect’.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m as vain as the next not-so-yummy mummy trying to beat off the ravages of time and too many cheese pies as she hurtles towards her 45th birthday.
Every morning I apply slap to my face and try to tease my hair (recently butchered by my usually trustworthy hairdresser in a fit of snip-happy enthusiasm) into some semblance of sassy smart, and I try to avoid clothes that make me look like a pregnant hippo on heat.
I would LOVE to look like the gorgeous creatures that populate the pages of the magazines and TV screens. But I’m also a realist.
Reality is that I am something like a cross between Xena the Warrior Princess crossed with a Rubens’ muse or one of those larger-than-life ladies that Beryl Cook used to paint. My hands are an un-manicured disgrace, and my eyebrows look more like a healthy rain forest than a neatly kept lawn (someone once asked me why I don’t pluck them – the answer’s simple: It bloody hurts!).
To become anywhere near the so-called ideal everyone seems to aspire to these days would take far more time, money and dedication than I have to spare. And pain, incredible pain.
And for what? To become yet another clone to have had every last milligramme of fat hoovered out of my body (making me look like a famine victim, with eyes and teeth too big for my head)? To get arms and legs like pipe-cleaners that shatter the minute someone sneezes too hard on them? To eliminate all feminine curves (except for the obligatory augmented boobs) in order to look fabulous in clothes I can’t afford anyway?
No. Quite honestly, I can’t be bothered.
Though I moan on a regular basis to my long-suffering Other Half about the bulk of my considerable behind, the expanse of my upper thighs or the unstoppable creep of my double chin, I’m just not prepared to sacrifice everything to adopt the “Me! Me! Me!” attitude that it would take to make me ‘perfect’.
I DO care about my health. Though I have the occasional food splurge, I generally eat healthily. I don’t smoke (even though most skinny bints recommend it to keep the kilos at bay). And I take a brisk hour's walk almost every day. It hardly puts me into the same category as fitness-Queen Madonna, I know, but it seems to be keeping me healthy. I just happen to be healthily imperfect.
The idea of someone wrapping a band round my stomach to ensure I writhe in agony and throw up every time I swallow more than a thimble-full of soup does not appeal (that kind of aversion therapy is not for me - I ENJOY food too much). So that's not an option.
And anyway, I don’t find the half-starved, pre-pubescent look teamed with plastic bazookas, an orange tinted fake-bake tan and too much blusher attractive (but maybe it's just me?).
It’s no longer just us girls that have fallen into the quest-for-perfection trap. The man who made my cappuccino when I stopped off my way to work this morning had clearly had a recent hair weave. It looked like his head had been covered in a fine dusting of candy floss, which was then trimmed, had a precise hairline added with the help of a geometry set, and was sprayed with super-strength lacquer. Not a good look. I wanted to look him in the eye and say “Why?”. But – softy that I am – I couldn’t do it. Obviously, he thought it was worth it, so who am I to shatter his illusions?
Let’s face it, very few of us are truly beautiful. Just like very few are really ugly. Most of us are just average, ordinary, with some good points and a few bad ones.
So why this obsession with physical perfection, which so often ends with its victims looking like Comic Book caricatures of themselves and the loss of any ability to express emotion?
Is it to get a man (or woman)? No, most of us manage to find someone even when we’re far from perfect.
Is it to achieve success? Doubt it, as relatively few of us are top models and manage to make a living through brains, ability and hard work.
Is it to boost our own self-confidence? Possibly. I know I’d feel much better if I was a Size 10 with bumps only in the right places. And yet, all my skinny friends are always moaning – to me! – about how much they’ve let themselves go.
Back in the prehistoric, free-lovin’ hippy days of the late ‘60s, there was a song that said “If you can’t be with the one you love, Love the one you’re with”. Maybe now, 40 years on, we need to adapt that to “If you can’t be the one you love, Love the one you is.”?