Yesterday, a couple of neighborhood facts walked up to me and sucker punched me right in the feels. My "feels" are buried under so much scar tissue and thickened skin, I didn't expect it to hurt. Boy, I was wrong. The perp of this heinous act of wanton emotional endangerment and assault with a dangerous idea was Dove. You know, the people that make the soap and beauty products.
Since September of 2004, they've been running what they call The Campaign For Real Beauty. At the time, only 2% of women described themselves as beautiful, and Dove was afraid that what we stressed as such was becoming "limiting and unattainable". They've made a real effort to change the idea of what beauty is. I want very badly to think they're succeeding. Their most recent campaign was enough to convince me that it seems to only be working on a superficial level. It would seem that the idea of beauty is being more widely accepted in other people. But, when it comes to embracing our own beauty, we still doubt ourselves. Apparently, Dove wanted to do something about that too. That's why they came up with their commercial entitled "Sketches". It was a real moment to wake up and smell the coffee. And the coffee smelled like beauty.
Dove hired Gil Zamora, a forensic sketch artist and invited women to sit behind a curtain and describe themselves. Zamora never saw them, he merely asked them questions about themselves. When he was done with his sketch, he thanked them and they left, never having seen each other face to face. Then he asked another stranger to come and sit with him as they described the same person. All the stranger was told was to get to know the unwitting model. When the sketches were all done, he hung them side by side and allowed the original women to come in and see the differences. What he found was, in my opinion, unexpected.
Every single woman's portrait where she was the one describing herself was noticeably less flattering than the one where a stranger had been working with Zamora. All of them. And it's not just a slight difference. One woman apparently sees herself as a neanderthal. Her face is so ruddy and her hair so bushy, it looks like an artist's interpretation of Lucy. Another must live on a planet with twice the gravity because her face is very short and fat.
Then, look to the right of the self-described portraits. These same trollish women, they were beautiful when described by someone who knew nothing of them, but had merely spent a few moments making friendly conversation. The difference was eye-opening. Take a look for yourself.
I have long been an advocate of that strange kind of selfishness that allows you to feel comfortable in your own skin. Sure, I got much of my start with Atlas Shrugged. The main characters dogged determination and ability to literally move mountains was inspirational. Later, I found The Invitation, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, and she put into words what I was looking for in a partner. Somewhere in that time, I stumbled into realizing that my dress size, my haircut, my cup size, isn't what makes me valuable. It isn't what makes for the kind of being desirable that I give a shit about. I want someone to want to be around me based on who I am, not how firm my ass cheeks are, or how pouty my lips look. Who I am is a woman who knows that she's not parts. I'm a woman who can make things happen, who isn't stopped by obstacles, and who can be as fierce as a mama-bear, but aspires to be bamboo; strong, but flexible.
But, I stopped and thought about it. How would I describe myself if it were me in that commercial? I'm sure I'd use facts, but are they tainted with emotion? I spend all of my time in my own skin. It's comfortable (unless I've had too much cabbage) but I'm most likely to see my flaws. Even if others don't see them the same way. Would I do the same?
I came to the conclusion that yes, I more than likely would. I know my bangs are longer than I like them to be, that I have dull, faded hair color, and my skin feels like I could solve the world oil crisis today. I know that I have a belly roll that flops over my pants when I sit down, or that I slouch so much it has given me a dowager’s hump. But, not only do others not see that right away, there isn't a reason in the world why that's important. Why do I care? I wish I had an answer other than to relieve discomfort. (My slouching gives me headaches, and when your pants are too tight, it makes formalwear a nightmare.) In general though, if I'm not in physical pain, why is that even something I am aware of, much less care about? I have come up with no good reasons for it. I don't know.
What I do know is that we as women, and probably men too, shouldn't run from these things. In fact, we should do the opposite. Embrace them, love them, make them your own. And then? Exhale, and let them go.