Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mismatched eyelashes and bony elbows

My left eye opens wider than my right eye.


My nose has a bump on it.

I often show too much gum when smiling in photos.

My thumbnails are too square.

My butt has been known to jiggle.

... and so forth.

These are some of the things I contemplate while looking in the mirror.

However, I have enough insight to recognize that the average person tends to be oblivious to the shape of my thumbnails, and is more inclined to notice the colour of my hair or the way in which I laugh.

At least I do most days.

***

Today, as we were flipping through the channels over lunch, we came across a documentary entitled "S&M: Short and Male". This show proceeded to detail the humiliation associated with being a male of the vertically challenged variety. It spoke of shoes with top secret heels. Of short men's stores with secret back entrances. Of the frustration inherent in a tall man's world where mannequins tower over you. And, most frighteningly, of parents putting lifts in the shoes of their seven-year old son, so he would no longer have to look up at his peers.

I am as aware of anyone of the "tall, dark, and handsome" ideal, of the mockery of Tom Cruise (for scientology-unrelated issues), and of my girlfriends' asserting their height restrictions on potential dates. However, I have a bit of a confession for you all-- my boyfriend is short. I also have a second confession for you-- this doesn't bother me at all. In fact, there's many aspects of it that I like. I don't need to stand on my tiptoes to kiss him. We fit together when we hug. What I like even more, though, is that it doesn't bother him. He doesn't bemoan society's mistreatment of him or women's shallowness towards him. In fact, I am the first woman he's dated who has been shorter than him.

Still, there is a perception out there that his genetics should somehow be upsetting to him, that he should be falling victim to "short man syndrome", and thus wielding power in the most petty of realms to make up for his insecurities. And, at least according to this documentary, a more recent addition to these perceptions may be coming from advertisers, in order to create a demand for their products.

The notion of insecurities equalling big bucks is hardly a new concept. In fact, I often wonder if it comes down to a chicken and the egg type question. What comes first-- the insecurity or the product? Did women really stay up late at night worrying about the quality of the pores on their noses until pore strips were created? Were blondes really oppressed by using shampoo intended for brunettes until recently? Were we all convinced that our teeth were frighteningly stained before whitening products became so commonplace?

It seems less likely that companies picked up on a genuine underlying concern so much as inserted this concern into our societal narratives in such a way as to convince us that we really should have known it all along. Commercials display scientific looking diagrams outlining bacteria and layers of skin, and proclaim statistics such as "83% more curls!" and "three shades whiter in one tube!" 

And, as simple as that, *poof*-- another body issue that needs to be remedied.

This is the only way that I can think to explain the fact that we live in a society of 7-year old boys with lifts in their shoes, 12-year old girls getting Brazilian waxes and 30-year old mothers getting vaginal rejuvenation surgery.

39 comments:

Erica said...

Companies always need to some up with new 'problems' so they can sell more drugs. Isn't that how restless leg syndrome was "diagnosed"?

distractedspunk said...

Vaginal rejuvenation therapy?! Jeez.

*waves*

poodlegoose said...

Um, vaginal rejuvenation? Whoa. I really don't even know what to say about that one.

Ant said...

I'm approaching 30 - maybe I should get some vaginal rejuvenation therapy?

Short Man Syndrome I guess is the male equivalent of young women striving to be the perfect hourglass figure etc, because they've seen it in magazines. I maintain that none of this is new - the classic greeks were probably just as bad, we just have more magazines than they did...

New York was an interesting education here actually - so many tall, beautiful glamorous women walking arm in arm with short, well-dressed men, who clearly had no such syndrome. Made me love the town even more...

All Mod Cons said...

I'm VERY happy that I'm not short. Not for any of the reasons that you've mentioned, but because it really helps my job. Reaching those awkward places is SO much easier when you're tall. Other than that, I'm just happy with who I am & bollocks to "society" if it tells me that the way I look needs to be "corrected".

Z said...

I have my share of body issues - who doesn't? - but these days, with all the commercials and magazines and images of what we "should" aspire to, I feel people are acquiring them more and getting unsettled and upset by their own bodies more. But yeah, I think it's a chicken and egg thing - some issues were there, companies picked up on them, marketed to them, and expanded upon them. And now those same issues seem bigger and more important and... blech.

But vaginal rejuvination? Really?

Psych Post Doc said...

Great post.

I agree about the chicken and egg thing. Some things people have always (or at least in recent history) worried about (i.e. weight), but then there's always these new things that crop up that we're supposed to be worried about.

I think one thing that impacts whether people are effected by these things is the amount of their media consumption. But some people are also just more fragile and therefore sensitive to such issues. For someone with low self-esteem or other dispositions like that being bombarded with these messages can be so dangerous.

I'm glad you're boyfriend is perfectly comfortable with his height, as he should be!

Melissa said...

Hey! My left eye opens wider than my right eye too.. I keep tellin my mom that, but she doesn't believe me..
Vaginal rejuvenation? OUCH!

benjibopper said...

too true. (although I have a cat with little man syndrome, constantly attacking my larger cat to prove himself.) the array of 'beauty' products is insane. rooted though, i think, beyond corporate advertisers. they've played their part, but our vanity and obsession with perfection drives it. as john lennon said about women, 'we make her paint her face and dance'. the we being men, i'm pretty sure. then again as ariel levy recently pointed out in her book, 'female chauvinist pigs', women play their part in keeping each other down. ack, complicated stuff. best we love ourselves after all, like in that australian documentary 'naked on the inside'.

Jack said...

Totally agree with the chicken and egg thing. If they don't keep the ideal of beauty as a moving target then everyone might just stop spending.

Side note: short man syndrome drives me crazy. So does anyone that is so obsessed with their insecurity that it completely skews their reality.

sequined said...

Most of the shorter guys I know deal with it without any little-man-syndrome stress, but I know a couple who are clearly insecure about it. Others are insecure in a less-detrimental way. But I see why they would be--we women can be douchebags about a guy's height! I'm totally guilty of it. I should be more equal opportunity.

Half-Past Kissin' Time said...

I think it all just depends on the guy. I had a smoking hot (short) boyfriend all through high school. Other people might not have even found him handsome, but to me, his attitude was what attracted me to him. (He was a "bad boy," but that's beside the point!) There are plenty of idiotic, jerk tall men out there. Fortunately, my tall man is wonderful.

WKC said...

I'm one of the short guys they talk about, and underweight. Funny thing is, when I go home to Taiwan I'm at least as tall as most people I see on the street. It just proves how relative aesthetics are. I violate the "masculine ideal" in almost every way imaginable, but then again I think I take twisted pride in embracing a different aesthetic than most people do.

Anyway, whatever men endure doesn't compare to the expectations society saddles upon women. Body image is bullshit.

Tina Vaziri said...

Totally agree, it's awful how we are being conditioned to freak out about the little things that make us normal and human.

Psychgrad said...

I dated a guy who was my height but prefer taller...just being honest.

What about the explanation of women wanting to be protected, hence prefer a larger male? I know...kind of archaic, but I know many women feel this way.

Paula said...

This post kinda made me think of this scene from Mean Girls . . .

Karen: God. My hips are huge!
Gretchen: Oh please. I hate my calves.
Regina: At least you guys can wear halters. I've got man shoulders.
Cady: [voiceover] I used to think there was just fat and skinny. But apparently there's lots of things that can be wrong on your body.
Gretchen: My hairline is so weird.
Regina: My pores are huge.
Karen: My nail beds suck.
[pause. All look at Cady]
Cady: I have really bad breath in the morning.
Karen: Ew!

lissa said...

great post. i really appreciated the honesty and openness of it. i read two memoirs in the past week that have focused on people's feelings of unworthiness because of their perceived lack of beauty. it's terrible how big of a role beauty plays in life.

Crashdummie said...

That is true many of women prefer to have taller men, who remain taller even when they wear highheels. Even though I’d fancy that, height isn’t I think abt. I’m kinda like you prefer to match….

Most men however are very conscious abt their height. Some studies even show that taller men are more successful and get higher salary too…

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

I see a vaginal makeover reality show lurking menacingly somewhere on the horizon.

It will come.

One day, it will come.

Larissa said...

What parent lets their daughter get Brazilian waxes? Gross.

Surfergrrl said...

along the lines of companies feeding in to our insecurities is them feeding off our fear of things like germs. I swear we are all going to die of bacteria unless buy more product!

brandy said...

A boy in my class has a parent who said next year he can get a belly button ring if his marks don't slip. (She's not joking- we've discussed this).

The child will be in GRADE THREE next year.

I can't decide what horrifies me most:
a)a 9 year old with a belly button ring.
b) a 9 year old boy with a belly button ring.
c) a parent who can talk about such acts with a straight and serious face.

Deutlich said...

seriously awesome post. i'd say more, but i'm still brain dead from the travels

A Margarita said...

12 year olds get brazilian waxes? Have they even reached puberty yet? Wow.

NamesAreHardToPick said...

"I am of the opinion that natural beauty does not exist. If it did, we'd be out of a job." ~ Steel Magnolias

In a nutshell, however, I fully agree that society in general knows that if you were fully confident in yourself, it could never make money off of you. So yeah, there's a reason they exploit it: money.

Still, the two of you sound quite cute.

Katelin said...

what a great post. it's always interesting to see how people perceive themselves and the lengths they'll go to fix things, brazilian waxes for 12 year olds?! that i still don't get, wow.

Matt said...

Very nicely put!!!

Stumbled across your blog- off to read more.

Ashley said...

ive asked myself many of the same questions....great post!

(and the concept of vaginal rejuvenation scares the bejesus out of me)

Yoda said...

I don't know about short men, but please don't stare at me with eyes with varying wideness in a dark room. I will cry.

:-p

Matt said...

Yes being canadian is an exception to the 5280 reference but I expect you to spread this knowledge.

Chelsea Talks Smack said...

OH MAN, THAT LAST PARAGRAPH MADE ME WANT TO GO AND HIDE. I DONT WANT OT FACE THE SAD, SAD FACTTSSSS LOL.

brookem said...

so very true.

the chicken and the egg analogy especially!

Crushed said...

It might be a culture thing.
If I was to stick to women shorter than me- I'd be in REAL trouble.

About the same height isn't uncommon, but at 5ft 7, let's face it- I'm not the tallest around.

The Duke said...

very sociological! :)

Silverstar said...

I saw that show too on shorter men.
I think our image of ourselves is shaped far too much by what the current media deems "attractive" and yeah advertisers definitely take advantage of this. Anybody can be attractive with the right amount of intelligence and attitude, short or tall!

Alexa said...

body issues depress me!!! well actually i only have one issue that bugs me more than others : (

Carrie said...

Here here sista. My brother is 5'5 - pretty short we must admit, but he's smart, handsome, funny and successful. If a woman can't see the entire package (and remember, we all shrink near the end) then... well... too bad for her.

You say it SO well, as usual.

Lady Luck said...

I wish I wasn't so judgemental with dating people. :( Maybe I could end up with a cute fantastic short guy!!!

Jocelyn said...

12-year-old girls getting Brazilians? Really? That's the saddest thing I've read in a long time.

More power to your wonderful bf.