In 2000, Gisele Bundchen’s body prompted nearly 36,000 Brazilian women to get breast enhancement surgeries.
I didn’t check that fact, but it sounds like something we humans would do — that is, see something a beautiful person has and then torture ourselves with the inequity of it all.
Mind you, I’m not judging. Trying to look as good as (or better than) other people is a legitimate pursuit, like mountaineering or building a ship in a bottle. Granted, neither of those particular pastimes will cause you to shake your head in teary defeat because, although you brought in a picture of Brooke Shields from her “Suddenly Susan” heyday, your high-priced hairdresser at a somewhat upscale salon in a kind of exclusive enclave of Boston made your highlights look as though they were done by Big Fredna at the state women’s prison, using her patented technique of mixing toilet water from her cell with Tang and Frito chili pie.
(Sniff. This happened. To a friend. It was me.)
If life has taught us anything about, well, life, it’s that survival of the fairest can be far more grueling and a lot more intense than survival of the fittest. And while I’m sure there are certain challenges involved with gluing together tiny hulls in a glass enclosure or “surviving Mount Everest,” no one has ever cried alone on a cat-fur-covered duvet, clutching her Oprah “Who Am I?” journal because she fell short of either of those things.
Oh, I know. It’s all so glum and isn’t there some “Love Your Inside You!” advice to heed? Or a song about self-actualization we can draw inspiration from? Maybe, but the only real antidote to unattainable beauty seems to be this: cattiness and glee over celebrity inadequacies.
I’m not saying I want our society’s epitaph to be “You look puffy, Ashley Judd. RIP Your original face.” We’re all much better than that, naturally. But occasionally taking pleasure in Kim Kardashian’s psoriasis or Paris Hilton’s wonky eye or Betty White’s irreversible case of natural aging ... well, what can I say? It’s what works.
I’m not alone on this, either. I recently witnessed two very attractive, fit-looking 50-something-year-old women hold up the line at Kroger because they were eagerly flipping through the National Enquirer’s “Extreme Celebrity Flaws” issue. “Oh my goodness! Even I look better than that!,” one of them said — as if seeing a lumpy actress in a bathing suit was the affirmation she needed to know that things are actually OK on her beachfront.
My own schadenfreude came out two weekends ago when watching Episode 2 of this season’s “Mad Men.” Who knew Betty Draper was going to be shoving Bugles into such a portly face? It was a terrific moment in television and a revelation for her character, whose struggles might become a little more relatable with all that extra “real woman” luggage.
But really, it wasn’t so much about Betty as it was about getting to see the perfect-looking actress who plays Betty wearing a fat suit and staring down her food like it was her boyfriend. It had me screaming at the TV.
"Eat that sundae, January Jones! Eat every last bit of it ... you chubbo!"
Liz Farrell is the editor of Lowcountry Current. Follow her at twitter.com/elizfarrell.