I’m not sure when it started, but the media has been selling it to us for awhile: skinny is beautiful, not-skinny is… not. Maybe it started with Twiggy, the model who was skin-and-bones and now occasionally makes guest judging appearances on ANTM. Or maybe it was cultural backlash after Marilyn Monroe… I don’t know. But I do know one thing: until recently, I bought into it, and if it weren’t for Mad Men, I might never have really come out of being “culturally persuaded.”
Mad Men is many things. Immoral, racist, chauvinist, sexist, homophobic. It’s an exploration of the lives of immoral businessmen during the 1960’s — a time when it all seemed so innocent, but in reality was a den of bad behavior in secular, upscale company — where rounds of scotch with lunch, sexually harassing secretaries, and constant smoking accompanied general chauvinism and double standards. And while I do not recommend the series that managed to ensnare my attention over the weekend, it does have one thing going for it: an actress that is not a size zero.
To be honest, Joan’s first appearance shocked me. You see, I am a CW watcher. I am used to twenty-something bean poles who either have no figure at all or have had work done. But put a “real” woman on the screen and my first response, thanks to our culture and years of anorexic actresses, is, “She should lose a few pounds.” Shame on me! Ten minutes later I was eating my words, because even an idiot can see how beautiful Joan is. It was a risky move on the part of the casting department, the notion of escaping bean-pole land and putting in someone with curves… but it fits. The 1960’s were an era in which being curvy was attractive. Marilyn Monroe, from what I understand, was anywhere from a size 8 to a 14 at the peak of her career and while I certainly do not approve of her behavior or her photo shoots, it’s almost refreshing to think about a time when a size eight was considered “normal” and “attractive,” rather than the size 4 or 0 they are now shoving down our throats.
How did this happen?? I don’t know. Look at paintings from bygone eras and you will discover that curvy women have always been seen as attractive by men — most of the painters have captured this well, dating back hundreds of years. “Plump” women implied good fortune, prosperity, and happiness. Their ideal woman was plump because of what it represented — and there are rolls of belly fat on some paintings to prove it.
Now understand me, I believe we should take care of our bodies and do our best to maintain a healthy weight. We are, after all, temples of the Lord and He asks us to be good stewards of all we are given — including our bodies. But we are also made in His image and of great worth to Him. He created us, He gave us form, He knew what we would look like long before we were more than a tiny piece of tissue. He wants us to love who we are and in doing so, realize several things about ourselves: that we are beautiful in His eyes, and that not all of us have the same body type. And that’s okay! We are still desirable.
Much as I would like to, I can never look like Kristen Bell. There’s no way with my bone structure and build that I could ever be that thin and not look anorexic. (Look it? Heck, I would BE anorexic.) And I doubt someone curvier than me would look good wearing my size. It’s not to say that I won’t still struggle with a desire to look like her, or that I won’t see promos for the gorgeous size zero girls on Gossip Girl and think, “I need to lose ten pounds.” Maybe that’s true, or maybe I’m being too hard on myself. But I am who I am. God knew what I would look like and wants me to be “okay” with it. There are some things I can change — my hair color, the length of my fingernails, even my weight — but my bone structure is not something that can be altered.
Our society is sick, so why do we listen to it? Why have we allowed ourselves to become convinced that skinny is always best, no matter the potential consequences? There are seventeen year old girls out there (and much younger than that — fifteen? twelve?) starving themselves because they want to look like the skinny girls in magazines. It’s sad, but it’s also a way the enemy gets hold of us. If he can make us look away from God and examine ourselves too closely, he’s succeeded in distracting us from what matters most. In one fell swoop he creates a false god within us (the “perfect weight”) and makes us feel insecure and unwanted at the same time. True, we all laugh at that quote in The Devil Wears Prada when Emily says, “I’m just one stomach flu away from my goal weight!” … but it’s not really all that funny, is it? It can become our own little graven image, a quest for unattainable perfection.
So then, why do we do it? For ourselves? Doubtful. For guys? They would much rather prefer a healthy girl than a sickly-looking one. Just to live up to the world’s standard? Meh, the world isn’t worth it.
My philosophy is this: be healthy. If you are healthy and get exercise, you will find that perfect weight. It probably won’t be the same size as your best friend, but you’re unique. You’re you. And you’re beautiful.