I don’t know if it’s all the coffee I didn’t drink this morning or if my brain is still in a state of melt after this weekend, but Jesus, can we stop giving Alex Rodriquez such a hard time?
I kind of understand, after writing about beauty for only a few short months, the neurosis that comes with putting yourself out there to the public as you try to reach some ideal.
No, I’m not consumed in my own vanity, constantly limping around for compliments and obsessed with what others may or may not think about me. But it was kind of weird the other day: Olivia had a particularly unflattering photo of me that she posted to Twitter--*hold up* to say that Olivia and other chicks around the office (Mandy, I think you’ve said this, if you’re reading), have pointed out to me that I’m pretty relaxed about photos that people take and post of me.
I never ask anyone to delete a photo of me or not to post it to their Instagram or wherever if they really want to. And that’s not because I look great in every photo. It’s because I’ve finally, in the past few years, been able to loosen my grip on that paranoia of having an unflattering photo posted; of caring too much about that kind of thing. It’s quite liberating, and I think it’s part of finally moving on from being bulimic.
During high school, two of my closest friends, along with myself, were image-obsessed. One was clearly anorexic. She wasn’t happy about much, but if she looked nice in a photo, it was considered a triumph. She posted a photo to Facebook (who DOES that anymore?) of the two of us together in bikinis, I HUGE compared to her teeny 2007-Nicole-Richie frame.
Long story short, she posted it, I was mortified, and freaked out, our friendship was threatened as she refused to take it down--until she did. I think she cropped me out and reposted it.
It’s hard to change your body image for the better, and even harder to keep it that way. When Olivia Tweeted (god, it was like high school) the photo on Friday, I demanded she take it down. Maybe I was too cool about that kind of thing before--she probably thought I would laugh. Or maybe I’m slipping back? I think I’m becoming a little more sensitive to that kind of thing as it’s kind of my job to look pretty on the Internet every day. To be said with a whiny Cher Horowitz inflection: It's so. Much. Pressure!
My job is also to help people feel better about themselves by way of feeling prettier. WHICH, by the way, I don’t consider a bad thing. I’m of the school of looking hot for yourself. Sure, there’s a path of people that the looking-hot effects--my boyfriend will think I look hot and straight-up tell me I look hot and also we’ll bone; that one dude will say I have a cute skirt on; Instagram homie will ask what kind of shampoo I use; Emily calls me her “gorgeous angel”--but ultimately, all paths lead back to me feeling good about myself, right? Is that totally f#$%ed?
Americans set our athletes up as gods, rock stars, role models, comedians, legends. We want Johnny Carson, Mick Jagger, Michael Jordan and Mother Theresa all rolled into one. And records! They always need to break records. Records that were never supposed to be broken. They must sell us man-panties on billboards.
The differences between being expected to constantly look hot as some sort of beauty inspiration or even just eye candy, and being a professional athlete (who is also expected to look hot now, no?), are that A) beautiful people get to cheat and B) we’ve broadened our horizons (a bit, at least) as to what exactly “beauty” means.
Let’s start with point B. There will be no “horizon broadening” as to what it means to be a good athlete--come on. Are we going to start glorifying guys that come halfway to meeting a record? Like, “Oh, that Jason Kidd! He shot TWELVE three-pointers and made TWO! I really want to buy his jersey and also a 2014 Jason-Kidd-Forgot-To-Wear-Shirts calendar.” Nobody appreciates the work that went into training for the season; they want to see how you perform in a series of games. Not good? BYE, YOU’RE TRADED AS PART OF A PACKAGE DEAL FOR LEBRON. Or whatever.
Moving on to my initial point: even as we start to appreciate a wider set of beauties--literally, even--we’re still totally OK with beautiful people getting injections, tucks, peels, lasers, sucks, whatever, in order to stay beautiful or surpass their current level of beautiful. I promise, if the need for amazing clothing and other expensive things that I must have and be constantly surrounded by doesn’t get in the way, that I will someday drop mad money on some lip injections and anything else a machine or syringe can do to make my body hot that doesn’t involve a scalpel.
And it’s not just the beauty influencers that are doing this: EVERYBODY is cheating at this point. Your kid’s elementary school teacher probably got a little Botox, and your hippie pilates instructor totally has extensions. We’re a culture obsessed with perfection, and once we’ve seen it, we realize we haven’t actually seen it, so bigger, skinnier, shinier, blonder, darker, MORE natural, LESS makeup, LONGER NAILS, NO, NOW SHORTER.
It’s a bit of a game, the way we’re pressured to be beautiful and perfect, until deciding that something else is more beautiful and perfecter. At least we have options and judgment is subsiding. But with athletes, there are no shortcuts, nothing to improve your chances to meet those unattainable-until-YOU-attain-them goals that keep shooting higher out of reach.
Well, not really though. How much money does Nike pour into R&D? What about those fast swimsuits they wear during the Olympics? $30,000 in-home aqua therapy machines.
At what point were we like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, human growth hormone? You’re a monster, get out.” And through Restylane-swollen lips nonetheless. Why can’t we be more honest with ourselves? We’re a society of cheaters! We’re a society that takes shortcuts and gets rich quickly and skinnier even quicker with this new supplement!
I really have a hard time wrapping my mind around the memory of a friend of mine’s mother defending her varsity-baseballer son, gushing, “You know, the boys on OUR team I don’t think would EVER take any sort of performance enhancers!” as they started cracking down on that kind of thing in Texas high schools. She had fake tits, a fake tan, fake lips, and a fake Louis Vuitton handbag, and found a way to get her daughter a prescription to Adderall just before going off to college.
Alex, I don’t know how you do it. I always tend to make fun of people with insane amounts of money, mostly because I can’t really fathom what that would be like and so I try to laugh it off because the thought makes me uncomfortable. Whenever my friends get bummed about their team being knocked out of the playoffs and I hear a, “poor Dirk!” I--well first I’m like OMG I could totally bone Dirk Nowitzski--and then I say, “Yeah, he’s probably going to go home and dry his tears in wads of money.”
But it’s all that money and all those resources that enable dudes like Alex or Lance Armstrong to even do this kind of thing to begin with, right? All that money and all those people wanting you to be all those things I mentioned earlier? CUE QUEEN.
All I’m trying to say is that we demand a lot from our athletes. I’m not advocating that we should turn the collective dial down and lower our standards, but rather to be careful about deitizing one another.
There’s an element of real-human-being-ness that gets lost when we expect too much from celebrities and athletes, and I think that deep down we appreciate seeing them slip back into mortality. Whether an outward appreciation, like HuffPost’s, “Clothes celebs wear that you can ACTUALLY afford!” slideshows, or a more sinister pleasure that we get seeing Reese Witherspoon get a DUI (which, by the way, I thought she handled with hilarity and class).
I’m really going to try to never bitch and moan about the perceived pressure to be pretty, because seeing the imperfect-athlete backlash makes me realize that the pressure to be beautiful is completely self-imposed. Beauty and perfection are two totally separate concepts, and I (weirdly enough) now finally get that. I actually now have a whole new level of appreciation for athletes after witnessing the whole Lance Armstrong thing go down (in Austin!), and now A-Rod’s drama here in New York. We're a society of cheating hypocrites, but at least we're all really pretty. **blots oil from nose, flips hair**