“At what point will I be able to open a magazine and not feel shame that I don’t look like the women on the pages..”
Anna Vocino, Hollywood Actress and Best Voice in podcast history*
This made me really wonder –When did I go from wanting to grow boobs and hips like Marilyn Monroe to thinking those things made me “fat” and unattractive? That would have been the mid 1960’s when a male photographer, Justin De Villenuve discovered a girl with a beautiful face and boy like figure in London salon, and suddenly it was no longer “groovy” to have tits and ass. In the flash of a bulb, girls were expected to look like waif like androgynous little girls with not an ounce of fat on them. Many of us were just adolescents and beginning to sprout those long awaited body parts.
So there I was one day waiting to grow up and look like a woman. Happily stuffing training bras with tissue, drawing pubes on with eyebrow pencils and finally one day growing some of each and BAM they changed the whole damn game on me! All around me and in magazines the older girls were trying to look like skinny young school girls, what the hell!? Button down shirts tucked into little miniskirts with knee highs, Mary Jane’s and a little tie. But damn those boobs and hips were so not working for that look. So I was sitting around waiting to “grow” up and now I was to chop my hair and become like a little waif girl, like Twiggy. This was a boon for those girls who were already slow developing but for the rest of us we wondered “when will I grow up and look like that”? Where the hell was that training bra I had out grown? Instead of stuffing it, it would help bind and flatten the evil twins who had emerged at a very in opportune time and made me just look “fat”.
As the 60’s progressed, the obsession with thin and beautiful did not; it apparently wasn’t the fad my mom told me it was (or that she probably hoped it would be). We got some new icons; got to grow our hair out and try to look like Michelle Phillips (the skinny one), Peggy Lipton and Cher. We still had Pattie Boyd and some of those Brit beauties too.. But again there was a common theme – long hair, long legs, longer thinner bodies. Our role models went from being waiflike school girls to ethereal fairylike creatures; still pretty slight but, taller in build. What were girls with boobs and hips to do? Ah ha! Playboy! Well hell no because there you had to have perfect boobs, exceptional legs and bedroom big hair. It seemed one extreme or the other. So we were doomed to not eat and try to be “ethereal”. At no point did our mother’s or anyone else ever mention the word genetics or that the images of those women weren’t even real (in an era before Photoshop there was lighting and retouching).
At some point Cher, who wasn’t all that curvy that I recall, decided it was ok to go solo, put on skimpy clothes and show what you’ve got! As long as you didn’t have too much, but she made it cool to make it “appear” like you had curves, just not really have them. She had her own clothing line, with halters, hip huggers and miniskirts. But in reality you couldn’t have a curve and have them fit right or you just looked fat. By the time Gloria Steinem came along and told us to burn our bras and let everything hang out we still had the problem. Braless was great for those girls who had their Twiggy like builds. But those girls who had an ounce of anything on them or larger boobs… halters were an issue… not to mention gravity. They were looked at as “sloppy and fat” (Janis Joplin was a size 6). Then along came Raquel Welch, Farrah Fawcett, Suzanne Somers and then the super models, whose breast seem to defy gravity and had not an ounce of fat on them, and on and on it would continue to where no matter what the hell build a girl or woman had it was simply not the right one. Body image and lack of self-confidence for most of us, would become so ingrained in our subconscious that it would spawn generations of eating disorders, insane diet programs (another blog another day), and send that industry skyrocketing because women were trying to attain that perfect body and weight of the moment, whatever it might be, and feel less than, when they failed to achieve it.
Today, girls and younger women have it tougher. They not only have to be thin, curvy, but fit and to top it all off – petite. Tiny little toy like women (or as men refer to them “spinners”) who would make Twiggy almost look gargantuan next to them. Yes I said it gargantuan. To think that Jlo , the Kardashian girls and Christina Henricks are gargantuan is laughable, that the standard size of a uniform at Paris Club in Chicago or Sur in L.A. is a size 2 or that the average size of a film or television actress is a size 0 speaks volumes of the problems my generation and that damn photographer, whose real name was Nigel Davies, have passed down to today’s young women. So listen up broads and little broads, trust me, life is long too long to be ashamed that you don’t measure up to what is a total fantasy world.
We have run the gamut of extreme body types in my generation, and I can’t recall a normal one in the bunch (well maybe Sally Field who went from Gidget to a nun’s habit probably because of her body). As if it was not enough to have us suffer from bad body image and poor self-esteem for over 30 or 40 years of our lives, during that time we have had to negotiate, hormonal bodies, post baby bodies, now getting older bodies and trying not to grow into Aunt Bea bodies. To retain any value as we grow older in today’s world we are now expected to try to look and have the body of a 40 year old, oh yes and now have large firm breasts, but small waist and hips bodies. Does it ever end? Oh wait, you work and starve and maybe get that together then wave to someone only to be told you have bingo arms (honestly I can’t tell you the last time I wore anything sleeveless)! Does Goldie Hawn, Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Cher or Twiggy have bingo arms? You see there it is again, shame that I still don’t look like those women and that my body has betrayed me once again.
Ok, so what is left for us to do now? To try to work with we were given, keep it all healthy and let’s be honest here, grateful that all our body parts work at all, as well as the miracles of modern medicine to keep us that way, because honestly 50 10 isn’t the new 40. Lastly, I am really grateful for Photoshop. Because with a scanner, old photos and a few clicks of a mouse any of us can finally look like those girls in the magazines of years ago, although I am willing to bet that when you go back and look, you will discover you won’t want to alter them at all because you were pretty great just as you were.
I know this is just going to be the first of a series posts on this subject because as I wrote it I was getting pretty pissed off..