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Sunday, April 27, 2014

W- is for Why a Ban on Excessive Photoshopping Won't Work

A to Z April Challenge

We had a small gathering at Chez Poinker yesterday as a belated celebration of son Hagar’s twenty-first birthday and as is my custom I heroically sorted through the old photo albums for ‘Hagar paraphernalia’. The violent sneezing fits brought on by layers of dust couldn’t deter me and I managed to unearth his first tooth, ultrasound pictures from the womb and his little newborn ankle bracelet.

I also came across a photo I hadn't seen for decades.

It was of me walking the three eldest boys through Hyde Park in Sydney. Hagar was only about seven months old, Thaddeus four and Jonah about three years of age.

At the time the photo was taken, I distinctly recall hating myself. Giving birth to three kids in four years had taken its toll and I felt fat, hoary, unattractive and at thirty-three years, well past my prime. I was merely a milk machine, a nappy washer and cook.

But this serendipitous little find told me a different story. I didn't look fat or old... or unattractive.

Why then did I believe I was so physically repellent back then?

I wonder why many women allow these festering, terrible self-images to darken their confidence and sense of worth?

How many times have I trundled into the motor registry office to renew my five year driving licence and on seeing the new and disappointing photo (with the inevitable startled, wild-eyed expression) and wished I still looked like the earlier photo…the same one I despised five years ago?

There’s a bit of a hullabaloo in the media about a new bill recently introduced in the US congress ensuring fashion and beauty advertisements don’t promote unlikely and disturbing body images by banning excessive use of photoshopping.

As I ate my Vegemite toast in bed this morning, I listened to a couple of social commentators (whatever the hell a ‘social commentator' is and what qualifies them I’d like to know) discussing the issue on the telly. Their main concern was how photoshopping celebrity goddesses into unrealistically perfect icons might affect the physical and mental well-being of teenagers.

Bugger the bloody teenagers, with their naturally slim hips, dewy skin, post-orthodontist smiles and pert boobies. What about us old chooks? Don’t we have feelings too or are we to be shunted into a corner again with Black Cohosh in one hand and a tube of Estogen gripped in the other?

The only time I ever furtively flick one of those idiotic trash magazines into my shopping trolley is when the headlines scream, “How Celebrities Look without Make-Up!”

“That’s what your Katy Perry REALLY looks like!” I’ll snidely remark to Scotto, sitting beside me on the couch as I maliciously rifle through the New Weekly.

“Who’s Katy Perry again?” he’ll ask in a weary grunt.

“That young one wearing the weeny, animal skin who sings, Roar!” I’ll snap back in a tone strangled with envy. “You know who she is and don’t pretend you don’t! I’ve seen you looking at her!”

Truth is, I’m old enough to have given birth to the poor girl (and I’m not talking a teen pregnancy here), so why do I find her to be threatening in a sexual-jealousy kind of way? 

It’s ridiculous.

I should be allowing the soft folds of lard to settle on my belly like a comforting life jacket at my age; not squeezing my spare tyre angrily leaving deep, bleeding fingernail marks whilst wailing in anguished torment , “Why am I so freakin’ FAT????”

Why can’t I be happy with the way I look right now? Is it because there are so many glamorous, thin women thrust in our faces via magazines, television, the Internet?

Did my mother have to put up with this crap?

Essentially, I think she did.

There were unquestionably glamorous women in magazines and movies back in the sixties which Mum undoubtedly measured herself up against; women who had stylists, makeup artists, hairdressers, lighting crews, Vaseline on camera lenses and who had their photographs meticulously hand-coloured.

So why is everyone worried about the smoke and mirrors now if women have always been subjected to idealistic comparisons?

Until the notion of beauty as a purely external thing is eradicated altogether, we women will forever suffer constant negative, self-imposed judgements of ourselves.

I look around at my friends sometimes; their voluptuous hips, well fed bellies, relaxed but unmade-up faces and imperfect teeth and I think how fortunate I am to know such stunning and magnificently beautiful women.

I wish I could just get over myself and see the same thing when I look in the mirror.

Banning photoshopping isn’t going change a thing.

Perhaps changing the fundamental idea of where true beauty emanates from and what authentic beauty is may be the only solution.

And in the meantime I’m going to stick that photo of myself on the fridge as a reminder I should be happy with the junk I have in my trunk right now and embrace those jowls and wrinkles... because from this moment on I’ll probably never look better.