I just read Elizabeth Wurtzel’s (author of Prozac Nation) brief article in this month’s Bazaar regarding the writer’s assertion that the ultimate expression of feminism is for us to lavish in our bodies and aspire to beauty ideals. She argues, “Demanding standards of appearance are a piece with everything else. The current state of slovenliness is a sign of a nation in decline and of a despairing distaff population.”
I looked down at myself. Hair unstyled, breakout flaming across my chin, old sports bra and shorts, and legs, abs, and arms that haven’t been toned in months. Am I the “dishelved,” “sloppy” 20-something she’s talking about? I immediately put down the cookie I was about to “enjoy” (rather, the cookie that I was about to mindlessly chew before reaching for another one) and reached for some green tea and a sliced tomato. instead. There, that’s better, I gave myself a mental pat on the back. I looked back down at the article and re-read the headline: “Looking Better at 45 Than 25.” And it made me rethink the standards I’ve set for myself, and the moves I’ve made to achieve them. Perhaps, as Wurtzel insinuates, success begins with appearance. Perhaps, the reason I’m not selling that painting or finishing that story or pursuing that freelance design job is because, at my core, I’ve resigned myself to this state. A state where “comfort” becomes idleness. Where I’d rather sleep that extra 30 minutes than take the time to blow out my hair or apply perfect cat eyes with liquid liner. Where I think that I am and deserve only a certain level of success.
So, how do you do that? How to you recondition yourself and come out of your comfort zone. How do you accept your bumps and bulges while you’re trying to change them? Is that even possible. It goes beyond simply living a healthy lifestyle; it’s taking the position that you need to do whatever it takes to attain a certain standard of appearance. And then translate that into every facet of your life.
I used to be a huge proponent of “natural beauty.” But what has that gotten me? A muffin top, that’s what. I found Wurtzel’s article to be strangely empowering. She talks about a generation of women that were entirely dependent on themselves. When money ran out, they didn’t call their parents. They strapped on some heels and worked the local bar circuit until they earned enough to continue writing/painting/creating. I am the woman with 1,000 excuses. I don’t walk the 1.25 miles to work because “I don’t live in the best neighborhood.” I stay up until 3AM because “I’m a night owl.” I throw on a pair of jeans because “I didn’t have time to shave my legs.” And I don’t exercise much because I’m “too tired.” Those are a lot of excuses. And I know I’m not the only one that makes them.
The feminism of the 1990′s make it okay for woman to want to be entirely f**kable while they were forging ahead in high powered careers. They were disciplined and valued competition. Wurtzel’s article speaks to recreate and reinvigorate this brand of feminism in my generation. I want to join the movement. And the first step, is to get away from my computer and brush my hair.
Photo credit: Roxanne Lowit