lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Eye of the beholder

Mirrors don't lie.

Actually, they do. What does mirror image mean? Mirrors show you images with left and right reversed, after all. A true reflection might appal us by being rather unlike what we are used to seeing in our mirrors. But even as it jolts us to see ourselves as our near and dear ones actually do see us, there is this; they see us thus and they still put up with us and love us.

Pictures don't lie.

Well, they do, too. What with touching up and airbrushing away blemishes and magicking away a few inches, the supermodels we see in magazines are not what we should be aspire to be, figure-wise. It is software telling us lies. They are not very real, what with all the doctoring that goes on before we see the images.

Recently, I read with great bemusement that Victoria Beckham has a twenty-three inch waist. Fascinating to know that a mother of two can regain such wasp-waisted hourglass figure. And more fascinating still, to think that media write about it and we read about it as if it was an earth-shattering piece of news. Kraktoa erupting again it isn't, after all.

I've been reading about how hyper thin is the new standard, too. But when I look at the specimens held up to aspire to the thinness of, I am gobsmacked. Is anorexia what young women should aspire to? Looking like a victim of famine?

I have never aspired to thinness because I am realistic. I know I have big bones. When I look in the mirror I see, always making allowances for the reversed image bit, of course, a reasonably well preserved woman in her late forties, with a face that will crease into smiles or frowns if I am talking instead of gazing into the mirror.

But when anorexics look at themselves, they don't see a toast-rack of a ribcage, or stick thin limbs. They see what for them is a very real acre of flesh to be dieted, exercised and exorcised away into preferred weight, size and shape. They truly can't comprehend when slim becomes thin and thin becomes dangerously anorexic ready to hand in the dinner pail, never mind it's not been touched for days.

I read about this somewhere, and I was reminded of it as I heard a friend list his body flaws. I have a lump of a nose, I have buckteeth, I am not hirsute enough, he grumbled.

I considered the possibility that he was fishing for compliments. On a scale for hunks I'd give him an 8 and that would be to seem impartial. He had a straight nose, lovely thick eyelashes, designer stubble and a beautiful mouth. He did have a gap-toothed grin, but it was an endearing thing, nothing like Bugs Bunny. But no, he was honestly if erroneously, dissatisfied with his appearance.

I can sympathise with that. Because on days when I am feeling low or wretched, the mirror shows me a rather plump woman who desperately needs a make over and needs to shed some five kilos. Every flaw becomes magnified. My laugh lines are transformed into wrinkles, my reasonably full-figured body looks pudgy and in need of those clinics that offer to sculpt your body for you.

Despite such a demoralising image, I prefer to look after my body without intervention of scalpels or liposuction and variations on the theme of body sculpting. Walking is healthy and it costs me only the calories I expend. Yoga is good for the same reasons.

After all, body image shouldn't be confused with self-worth.



Blogger db said...

Well said ! .. If only better sense prevailed among the "beauty" seekers, VLCC & Co. would be out of business ..

5:58 pm  
Anonymous Ash said...

That last sentence says it all. Good post.

6:00 pm  
Anonymous priya said...

well, imho, people get confused between looking healthy and looking [for want of a better word] good. vlcc might be a necessity for badly overweight people who don;t know the right way to go about losing weight.
i read sometime ago about women who ask their plastic surgeons for 'madhuri dixit nose' and other such things, saying that getting a better nose 'increases their confidence'. how, it beats me.
it doesnt matter what the shape of your face is, it all matters that you keep yourself healthy so that you naturally carry yourself with confidence, and hence look good. what say?

7:00 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Ram- Better sense, yes. It is more about defining one's self-worth as being more than having a good figure. The beauty seekers you mention forget that there is more to a person than a pretty face and a toned body.

Ash- Thanks. *dips head graciously* :D

Priya- Ah, that deserves an entire different post, why people think cosmetic surgery can change their lives.

People miss the point. Fitness regimes or staying healthy is not about looking good, but feeling good. I'd rather be a healthy frump than a malnourished supermodel lookalike, any day.

8:18 pm  
Blogger Rimi said...

I agree with this last paragraph of your reply, Lali. Trust me on this, Priya, when I lose weight it feels bloody good! After every workout where I felt I'd lose at least one limb, I felt incredibly alive. The blood racing through the veins, and all of that. And when, for a rare month, I had a 27" waist, I preened at my body-profile more times than is considered healthy, believe you me! :D

You shouldn't talk. You're gorgeous, like I said :-) But most people cross the line between not feeling like a tired sack of potatoes and aspiring to be an assembled monstrosity of bits of seven other people's anatomy. I do sometimes, too. I'd like to be pretty, like X. Effortlessly wispy, like Y. But then I know the stallion who envied other animals became a camel. So I beat a hasty retreat :D

I don't grudge VLCC their business. But I'm happy the way I am. Maybe minus ten kilos, but I'm happy. And therefore sane.

9:21 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A very thought provoking read. And the comments too.

You see a pudgy woman in your mirror when you feel low you say, and rimi says you shouldn't talk, you are gorgeous.

Ah, Lali. You get better and better.


Secret admirer

11:49 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Rimi-I'd like to be pretty or have a great figure, too. But I don't lose perspective, even in daydreams. I stick to what is possible, attainable, and sensible.

Working out because it makes you feel good is the right approach. Working out to achieve a particular size in waist or hips is obsessive behaviour, if you get my drift.

Anon- Thanks, but do tell me your name or get yourself a pseudonym. I will change comment settings otherwise.

1:59 pm  
Blogger Priya said...

Lol...I was silently enjoying all the talking at cross purposes going on in your comments section;) Primarily, because of the two Priyas in question here! I know, each of us is gorgeous, but I think I know a little more about who and what Rimi has in mind here;)
Now to actually comment on the post. I, too, wondered about Victoria's secret when I read about it. But couldn't be bothered as I never had, nor will have such aspirations. The only time I bother about my waistline is when I don't fit into my trousers (either they almost fall off or are too tight):P I don't know how it happens and I can't be bothered.
I'm more worried about my depleting RAM really, and the amazing alacrity with which I'm forgetting words:P Keep hunting for the right one, more often than I'd like to:( Alzheimer's creeping in I guess:(

5:20 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Priya- I know, two Rams and two Priyas. But I know who is who, so I am not the one who is confused. :-) What's funnier is Anon thinking Rimi addressed the remark to me. :D

So you two Priyas know each other?

Nice to know I am in good company. I keep searching for words which my brain seems to have erased from its circuits,too.

6:06 pm  
Blogger Siva Sivaaa said...

Walking is healthy and it costs me only the calories I expend. Yoga is good for the same reasons.

I concur. Exercise and exorcise your phobia. Go cycling. Its healthy, you may look better and feel DAMN good. Its price-less!! You know where I'm coming from :D

11:17 pm  
Blogger Speech is Golden said...

Have u noticed Tamil ppl (in general) like their women more 'curvy'. From Savithri to the latest Namitha, no stick figures for us thankyou.

As for good healthy exercise, I guess walking/cycling become impossible in the Indian context. I know it is tough in Chennai for my dad who has to compete with all sorts of vehicles on the road during his morning walks. Parks, walking tracks, bike paths are rare, if they are present at all. So I guess that VLCC and the kind would give the chance to allocate some time for physical activity which otherwise we wouldn't bother to. Still, 23 inch waist... eeks!

4:59 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Siva- I know where you are coming from, alright. But consider this picture. A middle aged woman on a bicycle in Calcutta's streets. The mind boggles.

But give me empty stretches and pretty scenery I will ride for miles.

Ram- It's a much remarked upon trait in Tamil people, that they like women who look real.

Biking or walking in cities is an exercise fraught with risk. Gyms are one thing, you can tone your body or try to lose weight, that's understandable, okay. But to take the lazy route and get the fat excised by scalpels is carrying it too far. It would come back unless one changes one's habits and outlook.

12:07 pm  
Blogger Raj said...

Lalita ,some of the words you have used in your recent posts - Eidetic, gobsmacked, hirsute ,Rictus, twerps- ought to be hyperlinked to the dictionary, you know, to make life easier for vocab-challenged people like me.

And when the mirror shows you a rather plump woman who desperately needs a make over, it is time to change the mirror.

7:47 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Oooh. Raj posts a comment. How lovely.

I recommend Wordweb, which is free and is comprehensive, if you can tame its American English.

Not for you Raj.

For you I say: what lovely advice. I will go forth now to buy a new mirror.

11:06 pm  
Blogger jhantu said...

i look at my body everyday and am absolutely freaked out, i need to work on my arms, my chest, my tummy and everything else and the worst part i aint even anorexic
:(( and cant also afford the surgeon's knife

life sucks..

8:36 am  
Anonymous Rajesh said...

Go by what your mirror shows you when you are feeling good. Better still, avoid the mirror on off days. :-)

10:22 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Jhantu- Come on, things aren't that bad, surely? Quick, change your outlook. If you choose an exercise programme, stick to it long enough for it to show results.

Rajesh- Excellent advice. I shall follow it religiously. :D

1:08 pm  
Anonymous PTC said...

Thanks,I felt a lot better after reading your post.And I always thought that my grin looks dumb.

2:09 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

PTC- Nah, you have a lovely smile. :D

2:24 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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10:01 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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3:41 pm  

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