Sunday, May 03, 2009

From the flip side

I was listening to a Hack podcast the other day whose topic was beauty. The first segment was a guy called Andrew who nominated himself as ugly. He talked about when he first "realised" he was ugly and mentioned his mother saying something along the lines of "You're not that bad looking" when he was a kid. (Reminded me of my mother telling me that it didn't matter that I wasn't pretty because I was smart :) - but that isn't the point of this.)

Then he talked about how he deals with being ugly - how he doesn't let it get him down. The two main things he focussed on was his professional success and his fitness. To be precise, he said (possibly slightly paraphrased) "I control the things I can control - my fitness and keeping my weight in the healthy weight range since I can't control that I'm ugly."

Which struck a chord. The strong message in fat acceptance is that you can be beautiful despite having little or no control over your weight, and here is a man saying that he can be slim, despite having no control over his beauty. Hmmm. Are there people who are ugly no matter how they present themselves?

I have certainly described people as ugly - but not anyone I know. The more I get to know someone, the more their appearance changes to me. If I like them, I naturally focus on their good points and if I don't - well then someone can be really ugly. But I'm usually too busy bitching about their other flaws to bother mentioning it. I'm pretty sure this is most people's experience.

And of those anonymous (or possibly famous) people I have branded ugly, there's probably not a one who hasn't been labelled as hot by someone else. Granted, there are some for whom the ratios are heavily skewed, but still, if someone finds you beautiful, then you have beauty.

So my money is on Andrew not actually being ugly - but since Hack is a radio show, I'll never know.

I feel I have more control over my beauty than my weight. After listening to Andrew, I wonder what is the objective truth. The fat acceptance line is still valid, challenging stupid norms and weight obssession is a Good Thing.

If objectively we have more control over our weight than they profess - well, that doesn't change personal experience. We should still keep looking for why we don't feel we have that control (be that cause medical, social or psychological), but in the meantime, fat = ugly has got to go.

At the very least, it is plausible that our obsession with skinny is what is making us fat.

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