Saturday, 21 October 2017

My body and I

I'm happy with my physical appearance and always have been. I'm fine with how I look dressed, and fine with how I look naked. I've no desire to change anything or get rid of anything. I am what I am.

Of course that lack of embarrassment or shame or self-criticism is almost entirely because I'm male. Men just don't face the ruthless physical appraisal that women endure endlessly.

We aren't expected to be two stone lighter, or free of body hair, or have flat stomachs and firm buttocks. We aren't expected to have thick glossy hair and no bald patches. We aren't expected to have a perfect nose, perfect lips or perfect skin. As long as we aren't totally unkempt, nobody cares much what we look like.

Or as Elif Shafak puts it* in her latest novel: "Women stared. They scanned, scrutinised and searched, hunting for the flaws in the other women, both manifest and camouflaged. Overdue manicures, newly gained pounds, sagging bellies, botoxed lips, varicose veins, cellulite still visible after liposuction, hair roots in need of dyeing, a pimple or a wrinkle hidden under layers of powder....there was nothing that their penetrating gazes could not detect and decipher."

Luckily men aren't so brutal with each other, being more concerned with making money or talking football than dissecting another man's appearance. Even massive pot bellies and the shaggiest of beards are more quietly admired than criticised.

When I was at boarding school, we boys used to swim naked every morning in the swimming pool, and nobody ever belittled another boy's body. The result being that I have no problem showing my body to anyone.

Even in my twenties, when I was pretty scruffy and probably not too hygienic, I never got comments on my appearance. If I were a woman, I would doubtless have been seen as "letting myself go" or "looking like a tramp".

 No, I just throw on a few clothes and walk out the front door. I don't have to spend an hour agonising over the way I look. How lucky is that?

*Three Daughters of Eve, by Elif Shafak


  1. I am like you, comfortable in my own skin and have never faced criticism for the way I look or dress/ed. My late wife was a rare personality. She was simple and her wardrobe reflected that value. She used to criticised for not wearing jewellery or expensive clothes and she would simply smile it off. I think that I was lucky with her and am lucky with my own being too.

  2. Ramana: A shame that your wife was criticised for not being "flashy" enough, and her simplicity of dress wasn't appreciated. Why don't these nosey-parkers mind their own business?

  3. Luckily men aren't so brutal with each other

    They can be brutal about women though, I have heard them!

    Anyhow, I don't think I agonised that much over my appearance. I had a spotty phase in my teens and early twenties, which drove me nuts, but I was so grateful when my skin cleared up that I stopped being so harsh on myself. I like being clean and tidy; I almost have a uniform so I don't have to bother about what clothes I put on - everything will match! I know, this might sound boring, but I spent so much money on unworn clothes when I was younger that I'm resistant to deviating from my formula. I really don't have angst about my appearance now, it's something I've grown out of.


  4. Scarlet: Absolutely, men can be brutal towards women, especially if the woman rejects their advances or refuses to be a compliant, docile female. I'm all in favour of a personal "uniform", it simplifies life greatly. I guess most men have two personal uniforms - a shirt and jeans at home and a suit and tie at work. There's not much variation on that.

  5. i'm sure younger women are hard on each other. and I think they also tend to dress for each other. as to styles and such.
    one lovely thing about being an old or older woman is that you tend to be invisible. and I love that.
    I also leave the house clean and neat. those are my two priorities now in how I look.
    no makeup except for a little blush on the cheeks to keep from looking like a cadaver!LOL

  6. Tammy: Jenny also enjoys being invisible - except when she's in a meeting and the men ignore her. It must be a great relief to become less visible after years of unwanted male attentions.

  7. I haven't felt like that since high school! I guess my circle of acquaintances has improved since then. I distance myself from that sort of crowd.

  8. Being a plain jane has its advantages....though I remember going to a conference in Switzerland where one of those preserved in ice French women decided that two of, and a German doctor of laws...would be ideal supporters of her beauty.
    We were not impressed.....

  9. I'm one of the lucky ones too. I love the simplicity of buying uniforms --- ones I choose for myself, of course. :)

  10. Men are vicious on women. I've heard older women criticise others for lack of maintenance: read man & ped. I find young women are much freer an cricsk if those who criticise them on appearance. Refreshing. Ageism and porn and endless cosmetic marketing do so much damage.


  11. Bijoux: Very sensible. Who needs so-called friends who're constantly judging you on your appearance?

    Helen: It's sad that some people need endless confirmation of how beautiful they are.

  12. Jean: Life is a lot easier if you can just fling on the same clothes day after day and not fret about what's flattering or work-appropriate.

    www: Men can be totally vicious to women. Where does this entrenched misogyny come from? But yes, younger women seem much more confident about rebutting comments on their appearance.


  13. Hmm... I certainly don't admire pot bellies - I find them most unpleasant.
    Same goes for huge unruly beards.
    While women undoubtedly come under greater pressure than men to conform to certain physical ideals, I feel men should still have enough self respect to take care of themselves.
    There's a big difference between looking after your health and trying to live up to some airbrushed magazine fantasy.

  14. Does seem unfair, doesn’t it, that womens appearance seems to have to meet higher standards than that of males to please who? I expect the experience of being nude with your other young buddies would have influenced your attitude being comfortable in that state. I do wonder if you had ever experienced any body shaming comments if you would have felt the same. I don’t recall ever having any such comments directed toward me clothed or not — of which I was aware. Being taught to be “modest” and keep bodies covered was prevalent as I was growing up — had nothing to do with body flaws or weight, other. Money is to be made by various industries selling products focused on appearance, especially that of women, though I’ve seen increasing efforts during my lifetime to do the same with men. Individuals have to resist that if change is to occur.

  15. Dave: Indeed, men should have more self-respect when it comes to their appearance. How some of them can wander around looking so hideous and dishevelled, I don't know.

  16. Joared: Absolutely, if the other boys had laughed at my scrawniness or my puny muscles or my puny chest, that would surely have undermined my body-confidence. Yes, thankfully that obsession with women's "modesty" has died out, though maybe we're now going too far in the other direction - celebs (and teenage girls) who show us just about everything!

  17. I have always been happy with the way I look so I pay very little attention to it. Things may have been different if I wasn't happy with my looks. I suppose I could have been a lot prettier if I had made more effort, I could have been almost stunning but that would require effort and a level of deception which is not really me.
    I always relied on being attractive through kindness or humour. It doesn't work if I'm having a grumpy day but it is mostly successful, I think.

  18. Kylie: That's good that you've always been happy with your appearance. As you say, an elaborate beautifying regime may produce a stunning result but it's based on deception and hiding the real person.

    Yes, kindness and humour are much more appealing than contrived beauty.

  19. Would you put up a photo of yourself so we can judge?

  20. Hattie: Ha, I'll take you up on that!

  21. Yes, it's so unfair, isn't it? i suffered a lot of body shaming, largely because I have always had a bit of a fat stomach, even when otherwise, I was quite slim.

    The media does have an awful lot to answer for, but I do wonder - seriously - whether it would have had the same effect on boys if magazines for boys and men were the same as the stupid 'boys and make-up' publications girls get, and then 'clothes, make-up, celebrities and men' for women. I'm not sure boys would pore over them in the same way as girls do, comparing themselves to the models on the pages and absorbing all the crap about lotions and potions and what they should be doing, feeling and saying. My boys simply would not have been interested.

    What do you think? Is it more about keeping up with the other lads, or is there pressure from movies, media and fiction?

  22. Jay: I think boys (and men) aren't interested in all that girly stuff because they're told masculinity is all about toughness and resilience and beautifying yourself is strictly for females. But if the media were endlessly telling men they had to be as attractive as women, and telling them they had to wear make-up, remove their body hair etc, they'd probably succumb pretty quickly.