It’s been the law of the land in fashion and entertainment for decades: for a woman to be deemed valuable and appealing, she has to fit a size two and resemble a Victoria’s Secret model. This notion sends the message that sample size is king – or queen – and self-love comes from bodily and facial perfection.
But in recent times, A-list celebs and other influencers are flipping off the social script and killing it with talent, regardless of Hollywood glamour laws.
Adele is one of the most successful musicians in the working world, and gives zero fucks for your perception of her weight. Amy Schumer regularly gabs during her sell-out shows about how media magnates criticise her body type. (She also looks absolutely killer in this year’s Pirelli calendar.) Rebel Wilson will smash a burger and then the box office with her roles in various comedies.
These are women finding success in the face of what society tells them. Yet despite these individuals crushing societal expectations, there’s still pressure to look flawless. We’re still being covertly convinced to acquire perfection – and the end results on your self-esteem can be crushing.
I’m about five foot eleven weighing in at fifty-eight kilos, with a bump on my half-Greek nose and a receded jawline. I’ve been described as ‘lanky’, ‘waifish’, ‘alien-like’ and ‘dangerously thin’. No matter what I do, I can’t put on any damn weight. A girl might find that kind of look appealing; that might even be her goal.
But for a guy, that ain’t right. Us dudes have to be muscular, fit and powerful. We’ve got to be strong-jawed, clean cut and suited up with stylistic flair like a Jack London model.
I remember when I’d go out to gay clubs; I’d look around at some of the guys, stare up at how beautiful they were - and feel angry. I’d be physically vibrating with rage that I couldn’t look like them. I would stand around, grimace, cast prejudgements galore and wallow in my misery.
And I remember when it drove me to seek surgery.
I wanted to get my nose hacked off and my jaw reconstructed. If I couldn’t be born with a strong, sleek jaw like a model, then God damn, I was going to build one for myself. When the surgeon said ‘We can take the bump off your nose, too,’ I was emotionally available in a way my ex-dates never were.
After so many years of hating my own face, I was gonna have my time. I was gonna look fantastic. All of those gorgeous guys? The ones who would probably never even look at me, let alone strike up a chat? They were gonna regret never giving me a second glance. And obviously I would win a modelling contract, because I would be just that fab.
And I remember when I changed my mind entirely.
Because I realised something that, if you’d asked me years ago, I would have found strange and terrifying.
I kind of liked my bumped nose.
It belongs to me. It’s one of the many unique qualities that make me who I am. Why would I ever want to get rid of it? Why can’t I be proud of it? Why would I ever want to change myself just to fit a mould? Why was it so damn important?
The answer was: It wasn’t.
So I cancelled the surgery it took me years to plan, a week before it was due.
The media is changing and bending to the will of a new culture of people who are happy with their bodies and their faces. Young girls and guys are aspiring to new icons, who bravely fend off criticism and loudly disparage our culture that actively inspires self-hate.
But in spite of all these uplifting developments, it’s still hard to ignore the stabs of envy when you see a babe in an advertorial. It’s rough to glance at a magazine advert or a dude in a club and think you’ll never look like that. Or he’ll never look at you. Or if you just had a bit more money, you could go under the knife and change your life.
So if you’re grappling with self-hate, or fighting off jealousy, this is my message to you.
All of those physical features – the jaw you hate, the nose you despise, the wide shoulders or hips you resent – are yours. They’re how you are recognised. They’re your heritage.
They’re gifts, and they belong to you.
[Image via JAN Magazine]