Every summer I come home from college, I get an LA Fitness membership. If you’ve ever gotten a membership here, you’ll know it comes with a complementary fitness assessment with a trainer.
Although very educational, the worst part of it is getting a reality check on what I’m doing wrong in terms of health/fitness/weight management. My body’s probably not good evidence for the fact that I do work out 5+ times a week (and thus dread the perhaps slightly skeptical looks the trainers give me when asked about that). The other ‘fun’ part is finding out my (dun dun dun) body fat percentage.
So here goes – I am at slightly less than 25% body fat. It’s average, but if I think about it, that basically means that ¼ of me is fat. And the rest is like muscle, bones, blood, etc. Vital structures and whatnot.
For the rest of the session, Mr. Bodybuilder Dude and I discussed my goals (or what they should be), such as eating more protein (as I keep developing mysterious bruises possibly because of protein deficiency), getting my fat percentage down to 20%, and developing some rock-hard abs (the least likely of these things to happen).
I have no problem with improving some of my health habits. None. But something that’s been weighing (no pun intended) on my mind is this question:
Is it possible to live a full, happy life knowing you aren’t necessarily attractive, or in constant pursuit of trying to be?
The simple answer is yes. But living in a Western culture constantly saturated by consumerist ideology and the “You need X, Y, and Z in order to be happy” mentality challenges this idea.
Sometimes I think I’d like to go on some sort of solo, spiritual nomadic journey where I can shepherd some animals, wear some gaucho pants, and get in touch with my soul outside the confines of shallow society.
But I’d probably get bored pretty quickly in that much isolation.
I once turned on my car radio to hear a Beverly Hills Physicians ad advertise, “Give the gift of plastic surgery or lap band to the loved one in your life!”
If a ‘loved one’ gifted me with this…that’s practically akin to gifting someone a one-way ticket to a vacation spot and ‘neglecting’ to purchase the return ticket.
I once worked in a position where I saw first-hand how one’s looks can be just a little helpful in getting a leg up in the workplace. Haha, no not my editing job and not MY looks, but those of some of the ladies I worked with. Let’s just say I saw how some their charm, perfectly arched eyebrows, enviable facial features and other assets could be more valuable than applicable skills. I didn’t see it a whole lot, but it was there.
Maybe that’s why I like writing so much. I’ve had most if not all of my academic or writing-related achievements recognized by their own merit. There was no need or expectation for me to look a certain way – my worth can be measured by my work without any thought being given to my appearance. I’m like Phantom of the Opera!
OK, so I’m not a semi-psychopathic, musically-gifted and architectural genius, but you get the idea.
On the other hand, I’ve noticed how different people have treated me differently based on whether or not I was wearing makeup or glasses, or whether I’d chosen to wear clothes that didn’t happen to flatter my figure, or even if something as frivolous as lipstick shade seemed to unfortunately have more of a “come hither” effect. I know what I look like. I’m not Emma Watson by a long shot, but I’m not going to cry about it.
That’s why I get frustrated by people who criticize Adele or Kelly Clarkson about their looks. They’re not marketing their looks to the world (although they’re both ridiculously beautiful); their craft is music. Who cares if a celeb ate more than a stalk of celery for dinner?
For people who automatically associate heftier bodies with sloth or lazy lifestyles, I could equally ignorantly make the assumption that someone with a perfectly made-up face or body spent more time on themselves than their intelligence or family lives. Of course I could be wrong, but they could be in their assumptions too, right?
Will I be OK if I never get down to 20% body fat? Probably. What if I got into an accident that left my face permanently scarred? It would obviously not be ideal, but I would survive. What I wouldn’t be able to handle is losing some sort of capacity that left me unable to do the things I’m good at.
There’s a thousand more qualities I’d rather have attributed to me before “attractive.” And there’s a thousand more insults that are far worse than “unattractive.”
And after reading this if you still feel blue, just go onto the missed connections section on Craigslist and look up the sketchiest ad placements. You’ll feel a lot better about yourself knowing you did NOT put those ads in.