Broken Record

I'm going to repeat myself today, probably at great length and hopefully in a way that is just different enough that I don't bore you senseless. Today, prompted by this entry on Go Fug Yourself, I'm going to rail against the thin (rail... thin… oh, ha-ha!).

I, too, watched the Golden Globe's awards on Monday - so much more fun than the Oscars - and couldn't help but notice that there seems to be a very slight move away from the superthin (except for Angelina Jolie, who used to be slim, but healthy-looking and now just looks... well, like she very much needs a sandwich). Or maybe it was that the focus for once was more on substance than style, actors there for reasons to do with ability and talent first and foremost such as America Ferrera, Meryl Streep (was she beyond fabulous or what?) and Helen Mirren.

Maybe it's yet again living through a prevailing female body image that glorifies dangerously thin as supposed to be beautiful - I'm old enough to remember when Karen Carpenter died from complications of anorexia and not too long ago, a Brazilian model named Ana Carolina Reston died for the same reason. I look at the teenagers around me and sure, many of them are naturally gangly, in the throes of growth spurts that make them look like coltish giraffes, but on the other hand, I don't know any women, especially those under the age of 40 who aren't in some way deeply concerned about gaining weight (once you hit 40 or so, it seems to simmer down a little bit. Well, sort of). Not too long ago, I stood behind a woman at my marvelous local fishmonger, waiting to pay for the pound of tilapia that would feed me for two days. The woman in front of me had purchased several small pieces of different kinds of fish, requesting them to be vacuumsealed, each piece clearly representing a dinner for her. Each piece being less than half of what would satisfy me and my mind boggled. How many of us pick at a salad for lunch? Or don’t eat after six in order to keep our weight down? Or only share dessert? Or didn't quit smoking because we didn't want to gain weight? Or regularly don’t eat enough to meet our nutritional needs? I don't think it's a coincidence that Red Bull and other energy drinks have become so popular at the same time as severely underweight is considered beautiful. Our bodies need fuel in order to function and if you're not eating, that energy has to come from somewhere.

About a decade ago, The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf was hugely popular and I read it (and tried to make every woman I knew read it). In it, she talks about models being on average 23% underweight and I frequently yelled (ok, still yell) about the distorted image of beauty that the average North American woman - estimated to be much shorter and heavier than your average model - is trying to attain. Since then, models have dropped another couple of sizes and are now dropping dead because of it. Madrid and Milan have banned models with a body mass index of less then 18.5 and about a week ago, I read a story in the New York Times (reg. req.) regarding the guidelines issued by the Council of Fashion Designers of America designed (!) to address this issue. Of course, the guidelines have absolutely no teeth, no requirements for a certain BMI, in the grand tradition of "let's look like we're doing something, while we continue business as usual".

Maybe it's getting old is that has made me realize even more than ever before that true beauty doesn't develop until you get old enough to care more about your health than your looks. It's then that you put on a little bit more heft, your centre of gravity changes a bit, making you seem grounded and stronger and there are lines in your face that show that you have lived and loved and laughed. You have opinions and are unafraid to share them and you’ve stopped making excuses for yourself (or others). And that's why Meryl Streep was a goddess on Monday night, both in looks and giving the speech of the night, it’s why America Ferrera was one of the most beautiful women there and it is why in my eyes, the sexiest woman of the night was Helen Mirren (61, thank you very much). She clearly doesn’t have a plastic surgeon, hasn’t wasted an hour of her life worrying about her arms being perfectly toned, wearing a dress cut down to her midriff showing off a truly spectacular cleavage and whose energy, warmth and spirit gave her more class and sensuality in her little finger than most of the younger crowd had in their entire bodies.

When I grow up, I want to be Helen Mirren.