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.