Skinny looks OK, normal looks fat.
What is going on? Is it flashing that flat tummy everywhere this summer that has sparked body image fever all over again – another What You Think About Your Body investigation.
First, there are a lot more obese women/girls than there are skinny ones. Second, those women who actually do have eating disorders have a rather bigger problem than does-my-bum-look-big-in-this syndrome, which is why they are given psychiatric help as opposed to slap-up meals. Third, fashion may currently favour the malnourished, but there has never been a thinner model than Twiggy – and you didn’t catch your 60s girls sitting at home eating soup and waiting for their ovaries to shut down. Right, so enough about the new and insurmountable pressures to be thin. Now let’s deal with what’s really going on here.
The reason skinny is so prevalent in public life is because it looks better in pictures, on celluloid, under the catwalk lights; and average, in turn, looks fat.
So, here’s the point. All you girls out there who are looking forward to a lunch of carrots followed by three litres of water – get over yourselves. If you are Geri or Jennifer or Renée, then it’s conceivably worth it because you are paid to lead a life of denial on account of the fact that if you don’t, you look like a house, and because how you look is everything. It is not out of twisted sickness that editors use ultra-slim models rather than the Monica Lewinskys, but because when they have tried to break the mould it has invariably misfired.
Memorably, after a London fashion show a few years back featuring the then somewhat weightier Sophie Dahl and the size fourteenish Marianne Faithfull, Vogue editor, Alexandra Shulman, came out in print as a supporter of the pared down model, citing the occasion as an example of how normal sized people just didn’t work. In those unforgiving clothes, under those lights, with that 360-degree exposure and no chance of a touch up they looked, frankly, terrible.
What’s happened to us is simply that we have allowed ourselves to confuse the distorted world of celebrities with the real one that we inhabit. And because there are so many of them, because we peer at them day in, day out, and know that the majority have no talents beyond those they are prepared to reveal in a Julien Macdonald dress, we can be forgiven for imagining that with their bony ass and jutting clavicles, we too might get noticed and paid lots of money (the only criteria of modern success).
People make the mistake of focusing on the damage that is done to women by the unattainable body images that surround them, when it’s the message that the only thing worth being is a model or a popstar, and therefore fit, that’s damaging. If being a Geri wasn’t valued way above becoming a teacher or an engineer or a mother then there wouldn’t be a problem, would there?
Meanwhile, the fact that it is shit being a skinny success refuses to sink in. In recent times, we’ve had revelations of desperately low self-esteem from Julia Roberts and Jennifer Aniston. Models are miserable – look at no luck with men, rehab Kate – Geri’s gone the makeover route and she still can’t get Robbie to do it with her.
Keeping a stone below your natural weight, worrying about your smile lines – all these things take their toll and mean that you are permanently miserable.